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Stronger focus on teaching and learning

23 February 2004 Media Statement

Stronger focus on teaching and learning

Education Minister Trevor Mallard announced today that a moratorium on new school network reviews would be put in place for the next five years to enable the government to strengthen its focus on quality teaching and learning for all students.

"I have listened to feedback about the current rate of change, and I've decided there should be a moratorium for five years to enable consolidation in the sector and a smooth implementation of the current round of reviews," Trevor Mallard said.

"A considerable amount of energy and hard work has been taken up by the sector and the government on the network review process and I have decided to strengthen the focus on quality teaching and learning across the education system as the proposed changes are bedded in.

"Research will also be carried out on the implementation and educational outcomes of the recent network reviews, as they take effect, to ensure that we remain on track to fulfil our goal of improving the quality of education for students through creating strong school networks.

"The exception to this moratorium will be where concerns about educational quality are raised as a result of adverse Education Review Office (ERO) reports, where two or more schools themselves ask to be reviewed with the aim of strengthening the quality of education provided to local students, and where schools apply for a change in structure. Under these circumstances savings from any closures or mergers will be returned to local education, as with the current review process.

"I believe that mergers make good financial and educational sense in areas where populations are declining to the extent that schools are becoming unviable, and valuable education money is being wasted on un-used bricks and mortar.

"This moratorium will not affect the schools which are currently under review in 11 areas around the country. These schools are nearly at the end of the process, and in many cases are already looking ahead to their stronger school network.

"I have been listening very carefully to feedback from the current consultation round. I expect the final decisions about these areas will be made in April so any changes are in place in time for the 2005 school year.

"There are ongoing discussions on details for staff involved and on the shape of the system structure especially around transition points.

"This round of reviews has been a stressful time for all involved and I want to make sure that nothing puts the success of these reviews at risk as we move into implementation. I want the Ministry of Education to fully concentrate on this job at hand so we get the best results educationally for the students concerned.

"This year also marks other milestones in education which also require energy and focus. It is the final year of implementation of the NCEA (National Certificate of Educational Achievement) with the introduction of Level 3 and it's important this goes smoothly after the success of last year.

"Secondary and primary schools are also for the first time this year fulfilling the requirements of the new planning and reporting system. This system provides important benchmarks for student outcomes so schools can measure improvements and the progress they are making in lifting student achievement.

"I must stress that school closures and mergers have been happening for years, under previous governments as well, as population changes take place. On average over the past ten years around 20 schools have closed or merged annually.

"I note that National has said recently it will review any school with 30 per cent spare capacity, any school with an adverse (ERO) report, and any school with sole charge teachers," Trevor Mallard said.


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