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Questions and answers on school network reviews

Questions and answers on school network reviews

What is a network review?

A network review is a process undertaken by the Ministry of Education and directed by the Education Minister. A review assesses the way education is currently being provided in a particular area and what re-organisation is needed to make sure a high quality of education can be provided for the next 10-15 years.

Why are they needed?

The Education Minister wants the Ministry to ensure all children have access to a quality education whatever their background and wherever they live. The size and make-up of communities changes which means schools must also change to meet their students' needs. A review allows the community to assess this information, to reflect on its implications and to assist in deciding how to address the local issues.

How do review areas get chosen?

The reasons for choosing to review a particular cluster of schools will vary, depending on the local situation. Any issue that presents a risk to providing quality education for which a reorganisation is likely to be a solution, or part of a solution, could indicate the need for a review. Situations that may generate a network review are:Suggestions for change from one or more schoolsResources not being fully utilisedFalling rollsA significant number of small schools in close proximityConcerns over the quality of education being providedA desire to find more effective ways of meeting the diversity of student needs including those of Maori and PasifikaIn some instances growing rolls could generate a network review, to decide which combination of schools best meets the needs of a growing population.

What effect do population trends have on education?

The population changes that are happening mean that we need to act now to ensure that schools are in a position where they will be able to continue to operate and focus their resources on their children into the future.

Across many parts of New Zealand the number of primary aged children is expected to decline (national population projections show a drop of 60,000 primary school-age students over the next 15 years). This impacts on the way education is provided and what resources are required and will also flow through into the secondary sector.

Where does the Ministry get this information?

Statistics New Zealand has produced a set of population projections that look at the next 50 years and estimate what the population of different age groups will be in the future. They consider all of the important factors that impact on the number of people in New Zealand.

We use these projections as a guide to how the population is changing, with the most important aspect of these projections being the long-term trends that they show.

However these broad national projections are not the sole basis of decision making in individual review areas.

Information such as the very latest roll data from each school, local authority information, local birth rates and any other information (such as local regional developments or new subdivisions of housing) that may impact on the population of the review area is also used to help determine future needs. The community has a chance to discuss this information and its impact through the reference group.

What schools are involved?

State schools, kura and wharekura can be part of a network review. Integrated schools may involve themselves in network reviews but it is not possible to make changes to integrated schools through reviews because of the legislation under which they are created. Private schools are not included.

What can result from a network review?

The issues that led to a review can't be ignored so usually no change isn't an option. A review could mean fewer schools (through closures and/or mergers), more schools, new schools or different types of schools.

How are they run?

The form of a review will be adapted to the particular area being covered. All will have two extensive consultation periods and are likely to work through these stages: Ministry identifies need for a network review and contacts schools to be involved, reference group is formed and the group's facilitator is named. Facilitator presents data and information and one or more potential schooling models for the future. Facilitator consults with individual boards and facilitator and/or Boards then consult with communities.Facilitator produces report summarising all the discussions and setting out possible options. Boards consult with their own communities on report. Facilitator consults with boards. Facilitator summarises all the discussion in a report to the reference group.Ministry produces a submission to the Education Minister that asks him to decide on a proposal to make to schools. Minister makes a proposal and communicates this to Boards.Boards consult their own communities and facilitator consults with Boards. Ministry produces further submission to the Minister presenting the results of consultation and any changed recommendations.Minister considers all feedback and makes final decision then communicates this to Boards. Schools that may close then have a final opportunity to comment.

How are they funded?

The Education Development Initiative (EDI) policy has been developed to manage school closure and merger funding. The funding to be returned to the schools is based on a formula according to roll size and its use is negotiated with the Ministry. All schools are treated equitably. The funding is made up of a cash grant for individual schools, funding for future shared school education projects (in most cases) and property entitlements.

How much do they cost?

Any savings that result from final review decisions (such as property savings and operational savings) are reinvested in local education, through the EDI policy as outlined above. This means the costs of reviews (i.e. the reinvestment monies) are offset by the savings.

Who gets a say in them?

The process of a network review involves a significant component of community consultation.

A community reference group is set up to provide a platform for discussion, oversee the process of a review and to present the community perspective on education provision. Membership of the reference group is shaped by community needs. The composition of the reference group will include school trustees and principals, NZSTA, NZEI, PPTA and iwi and may include local Pasifika groups, early childhood groups, local government representatives and community organisations.

Every school involved in the process must be represented. When proposals are put to the Minister of Education, there are legislated requirements for consultation, depending on the changes proposed. Boards may also do their own consultation with their parents and communities. Ultimately the Education Minister has the responsibility for making decisions about education provision after considering the views of those consulted.

Why do them now?

If change is necessary the best time to address the issues and to plan for the future is now. It is better to begin planning early on rather than delaying until issues have become so difficult to deal with that options are limited. This doesn't mean that all change has to be immediate. A decision could be that some things remain as they are for now but that future changes are needed and must be planned for. If we are unsure about whether change is necessary or desirable, a review can help to clarify that question.

What benefits does a review aim to achieve?

That planning takes account of demographic change and its impact on schooling requirementsEducational resources are used wisely and wellThat unused and underused school resources are released and ploughed back into the school communitiesMore money available to invest in better teaching and learning resourcesSchools that will have workable rolls for many yearsMore co-operation between schools is encouragedTeachers have a more viable and supportive professional community to enhance their development and benefit their studentsCommunity involvement in educational debate and decision-making is increasedThat new models for the delivery of education are considered.

Is there an optimum size for schools?

There is no Ministry minimum or maximum school size. The Education Review Office has found that smaller schools in general are more fragile in terms of good governance and ability to keep good teachers and that they cannot provide the wider range of subjects and curriculum choice that larger schools can. However the circumstances of each school as part of the whole network and local conditions are taken into account throughout the review consultation process.

Does the Ministry have a national plan for review areas? There is no national plan for which areas need a review or how many schools New Zealand needs. The consultation process considers the viewpoints of all parties before recommendations are made to the Minister and he makes his decisions with this feedback in mind.

How many school reviews are being undertaken?

There are currently 11 areas under review involving 164 schools. About 70 per cent of the students in schools under review live in urban areas (population greater than 10,000). No more reviews will be announced before at least July 2004.

Will a review mean children have to travel further to get to school?

Transport times and routes are one of the issues discussed during the consultation process. The Minister is very keen to ensure that children do not face excessive travelling times. Will special needs education be considered in a review?

Yes. Reviews consider every type of education relevant to the local area. They attempt to ensure that the needs of all the area's students are adequately catered for and will continue to provide a quality education sustainable well into the future. The views of parents and caregivers will be taken into account as part of the review consultation process and Learning Support Networks will be part of the planning for the implementation phase.

Do reviews target rural schools for closure?

No. About 70 per cent of the students in schools under the current reviews live in urban areas (population greater than 10,000). Reviews do not target a particular type of school but consider educational needs of the local area

What do reviews mean for Maori?

Reviews consider every type of education relevant to the local area. They attempt to ensure that the needs of all the area's students are adequately catered for The place of Maori immersion teaching in an area, the needs of Maori students, the role of iwi and their relationship with local schools are all considered as part of the review consultation process.

What changes in the review process have happened as a result of the ERO report on the Wainuiomata network review?

As a result of the ERO report into the Wainuiomata review a number of new initiatives have been added to the network review process. It is anticipated that further reports commissioned on reviews (18-24 months after implementation) will form the basis of an ongoing assessment and refinement of the review process. The new initiatives include:A 'Baseline Education Stocktake' will be undertaken before a review to assess the needs of the clusterImplementation Facilitators and/or School Mentors will be available. They will be able to help Boards of Trustees implement the educational aspects of reorganisation in a particular cluster, ensure maximum co-operation, ensure that planning objectives feed into cluster-wide goals for the use of Joint School Initiative funding and to identify the sorts of educational planning and developmental opportunities thrown up during the implementation phase of a network review.The Ministry is developing a new Effective Practice Guide to be used as a resource for school mentors as they work with Boards and Principals to identify and seize developmental and planning opportunities during the implementation phase of a review.The Ministry has developed new Guidelines for Educational Development Initiative (EDI) funding explaining what it covers and encouraging Boards to match their EDI spending to overarching planning.The Ministry has developed new Guidelines on Joint School Initiative Funding (JSIF) to help focus attention on what individual expenditure decisions are trying to achieve in terms of improving educational attainment across the cluster and to set overarching objectives.

Why are schools with good ERO reports included in reviews?

Reviews don't consider the performance of individual schools but what's best for the area as a whole if they are to remain well performed for the next 10-15 years.

Schools may be performing well now but may be adversely affected by future population trends. Providing for a positive future, rather than reflecting on the past, is vital if quality education for local students is to continue. Schools have always opened and closed, in the past in an ad-hoc manner, but now in a planned structured way with room for community input.

A school re-organisation is an opportunity to combine the very best from the merged schools, creating an even stronger foundation for schooling in the future.

How can I find out more about reviews?

Information, processes and timeframes specific to a network review are provided at community meetings and discussed in detail with schools and Boards. Local Ministry of Education offices also have information on reviews in their area. Information is also available on the Ministry's Website


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