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Mallard Address to the New Zealand Principals' Fed

Ministerial Address to the New Zealand Principals' Federation Conference

Dunedin Conference Centre, Moray Place, Dunedin.
Good morning everyone.

Your conference theme – Education: the wind beneath your wings is a great one. It captures the growing ambitions all of us here have for all the kids in the system, and develops the Peter Fraser view, shared by the current government.

Labour's vision is that every New Zealander, no matter who they are or where they live, will have access to the educational opportunities they need to achieve their potential.

Results by our students consistently place New Zealand schools among the top in the world. Our education system is quite frankly not only world class but also world leading – we need to acknowledge, celebrate and thank you for that more often.

In fact, today I am releasing an Education Review Office report that contains case studies of effective teaching of music, reading and speaking, and technology – the curriculum areas ERO has been looking at in your schools over the last year. Looking at this report shows me examples of the great leadership and teaching going on in our primary schools, as well as the development of strong, professional learning communities.

And in New Zealand 96 per cent of parents send their children to state schools. This figure is unrivalled internationally and is an enormous vote of confidence.

Recent research clarifies how school leadership influences student learning.

In most schools this is through the principal’s work as a cultural leader; someone who encourages the growth of teamwork and collaboration amongst teachers.

The literature calls this teamwork to improve learning outcomes the: creation of effective learning communities.

While the literature is seldom so colourful, effective learning communities are genuinely the wind beneath the wings of effective teachers.

So if collaboration, the sharing of effective practice, the development of education clusters and communities, and the breaking down of silos is the secret of success, what then are we to make of those advocating the opposite.

Rather than focus on how to recruit and retain better teachers and principals, and increase their professional development opportunities, especially using the modern methods that are so successful. Some offer ideologically focused on creating a 'free market' in the education sector, where schools, principals, teachers and students are forced to compete.

National want to abdicate state responsibility for education. Don Brash has said, "I don't care who owns the schools."

And the trust model is designed – like energy trusts – as a vehicle for privatisation.

Can I now ask for a show of hands - could all of you whose teachers are more experienced or have higher qualifications than the average please raise their hands. Thank you. Hands down.

Now can I ask those who think it would be fair for those schools to take the difference between the average salary nationwide and the salaries in their schools out of an unchanged operations grant, to please raise your hand.

Experienced teachers will be forced out of the teaching profession, and poorer schools would have no choice but to employ less experienced, less qualified teachers to save money.

It is unavoidable that this will impact on teacher quality and student achievement.

We know that the last time bulk funding was tried, one of the first things to be dropped, as schools tried to balance their books, was staff professional development. The Labour-led government is committed to having quality principals and teachers in our schools to raise education standards for our children. This year the government will spend over $93 million on teacher professional development initiatives. This includes literacy, numeracy, principal induction and principal development. It is described by my opponent as Ministry bureaucracy and a waste of time.

We are committed to continually raising the quality of education.

Which is an appropriate point to turn to principalship and leadership.

So how do we get and maintain a coherent and comprehensive system lift in principal and leadership effectiveness?

You have asked for a review of the professional standards the Ministry of Education negotiated with your representatives some years ago. They are appended to the principals’ collective agreement, and are currently used by boards of trustees in principals’ appraisals.

I am not inviting principals to develop professional standards for other people to measure you against – supplying the stick with which you will be beaten.

I am talking about your working together to develop your own standards and devising your own system for accounting to your professional colleagues for upholding those standards.

I want to be clear. I am not envisaging a change to the fundamental employment arrangements in schools.

Principals must account to their board of trustees for their performance in managing the resources of the school; for implementing the strategic plan and for the progress the school is making in meeting its achievement targets.

But I want you to think about how the profession itself could take a much more leading and demanding role in relation to principals’ professionalism.

When principals are serious and demanding about their professional standing, important messages are given not only to teachers, but also to the board and the community.

I would like to hear from you about whether as an organisation of principals, you would be prepared to explore ways that these kinds of professional standards could be managed by your profession in a system where principals account to their colleagues.

I have asked the Ministry of Education to liaise with Principals’ Reference Group on which NZPF is represented with SPANZ, NZEI, PPTA, and the School Trustees Association, to investigate how this process might be facilitated.

I want to spend a moment or two focused on resourcing of the schools sector.

It is no accident that New Zealand is now the third highest spender on State schooling in the OECD – this reflects a strong, sustained investment from this government in the elements of education that are making a difference for our students.

We have concentrated on getting the basics of good education right.

I will give you brief outline of what we have achieved using funding as a guide:

Since 1999 we have increased the number of teachers over and above those needed to match roll growth by 3040 and we have increased teacher salaries by, on average, 23 percent. This has arrested the teacher shortage crisis we faced when we came to office. We have increased the operations grant by 15 per cent per student over and above the rate of inflation. In actual funding the operations grant has gone up by $265 million or 39 per cent. This year we will fund school transport to the tune of $113 million – a 28 per cent increase over 1999. We will offer $47 million worth of curriculum support to schools this year. This is a 128 per cent increase. ICT programmes and initiatives, including laptops for teachers and principals, and free software licences to schools, will receive $52 million in funding – from virtually zero. The five-year property programme has already injected $892 million into creating modern up-to-date learning environments and in the next five years another $1.2 billion will be invested. These are staggering figures.

When these, and many other areas, are added up, we have increased the resourcing to schools from roughly $4 billion to 5.3 billion – schools have had a massive increase of $1.3 billion dollars, since 1999.

Our Labour-led government is committed to education, and we've made good progress. Quality education is vital to the future of our country; the decisions we make today will impact on New Zealanders for decades to come.

So in conclusion, I hope you will respond positively to my invitation to take on some of the responsibility for growing and sustaining your profession through developing meaningful and inspirational standards.

I hope you will carry the optimism of this conference’s theme and objectives with you into your work in schools, and that you continue to provide the kind of leadership that does enable all our students to achieve.

Thank you for the opportunity to share these ideas with you today.

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