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Making a Bigger Difference for all Students

Hon Trevor Mallard
Minister of Education


28 July 2005 Speech Notes

Launch of the schooling strategy – Making a Bigger Difference for all Students


Good afternoon everyone. I am thrilled to be here today to launch the first schooling strategy – Making a Bigger Difference for all Students.

This strategy has been 18 months in the making with a lot of hard work and commitment from many people.

I want to thank everyone for their involvement because what we have now is a template for New Zealand schooling for the next five years.

A quality education system is essential so all our students can achieve to their full potential and make the most of every opportunity.

We have a great schooling system in New Zealand, our students on average do well and dedicated people work at all levels to ensure they do.

But we want a system where our top students continue to do well and our underachievers are up there with them.

We have seen big changes in education since the 90s when the focus was on increasing participation, implementing Tomorrow’s Schools, the National Qualification Framework, a new Curriculum Framework and developing a new secondary qualification.

Good systems and structures are very necessary, but focusing on these things draws our attention away from what schooling is all about.

Government’s priority is to return the focus onto what really matters – student learning.

Raising student achievement is at the heart of our new schooling strategy.

We aim to do this through effective teaching, involving parents and whânau in their children’s learning and building and using the evidence about what makes a difference to student’ learning.

I want attention and support focused on student learning in classrooms, in homes and beyond.

I want the best evidence about what works to support students to be common practice and I want us to continue building on the many strengths that already exist.

While the strategy sets out our overarching goals for education we will not be neglecting those essential skills all students need to get the most from the curriculum – literacy and numeracy.

They also need really strong skills in problem solving, creativity and information management. And to participate effectively in a modern society they need good social and interpersonal skills, and values.

I want school leavers to view themselves as successful learners with a commitment to learning through out their lives.

This requires effective teaching.

And effective teaching requires ongoing learning.

Initial teacher education, ongoing professional learning and experience all combine to support teachers to be effective in their job.

We are also learning more about how and what teaching practice best supports student’ learning; students who come from many different backgrounds and with many different interests.

Increasingly we no longer assume that because a student comes from a poor background, or is a particular ethnicity, or has special needs they are unlikely to succeed.

The numeracy project is just one example of how teacher professional development is resulting in real improvements in student learning. Students up and down the country regardless of their gender and ethnicity and the school they go to are making significant progress with their maths.

This project is being further modified as a result of what we have found is making the difference in the classroom. Knowledge gained in Te Kotahitanga about how effective teaching is improving outcomes for Mâori students is also being incorporated.

As part of the literacy project Helen Timperley, from Auckland University, has done detailed research to identify how teacher professional learning communities can improve student learning,

Increasing our understanding of what really works means we can readily share this with other teachers and schools.

One of the best things about my job is that I get to see and hear about what goes on in schools in terms of effective practice.

I am particularly pleased Newlands Intermediate is hosting this launch today because Wendy has been keeping me up-to-date with some very exciting professional learning work happening here.

Teachers are using evidence from – the Quality Teaching Best Evidence Synthesis, student surveys, and assessment information – to work on their professional practice. And student enjoyment and achievement is rising as a result.

I am sure Wendy will talk a bit more about this in a minute.

We also want to do more to ensure parents and whânau understand how much the ordinary everyday things they do with their children support their learning.

I am very excited about the new parent information programme currently being developed. Team-Up, fronted by Tana Umaga, is all about helping parents and whânau to get more involved in their children’s learning.

We want to show them just how easy it is to add positive learning experiences into their kids’ everyday lives. We know parents and whânau are hungry for this type of information and support. You will start seeing TV ads from October.

Learning is the key to our new strategy.

Student learning, learning among all the professionals and board members who work in and with schools, and system learning.

We need a strong knowledge and evidence base to support such learning.

This means having better links between research and practice and better access to information, research, and examples of effective practice.

It means helping teachers and schools to effectively monitor their students’ learning to inform their practice and decision making.

It means making sure that teachers have high level expertise available to them to support their learning.

The Best Evidence Synthesis project, the Teaching and Learning Research initiative and the new assessment tools are having and will continue to have, powerful beneficial effects on teaching and learning in this country.

This wouldn’t be an education speech if I didn’t refer to resourcing. Resourcing is always on the education agenda.

The important thing is to base resourcing decisions – like all decisions – on the best evidence about what works for student learning.

Resourcing is not just about how much, but about where and how resourcing is used.

I want schooling investment to result in improved outcomes for students. I don’t think this is an unreasonable desire.

The schooling strategy will help us focus our thinking on resourcing and prioritise investment whether this is direct school funding, or in teaching and learning resources, or in teacher professional development.

Looking at the strategy goal and our priorities, it is tempting to think well so what – this is almost too simple, too obvious.

But learning isn’t simple – not for children and not for adults. And sustaining learning and improvement is not simple either.

The encouraging thing is that learning is happening – in the classroom, within schools, and at the system level. We just can’t afford to drop this ball.

We need to build a schooling system centred on effective teaching, parents and whânau nurturing learning, and evidence-based practice.

This is an ambitious task, but I think it is doable when we work as a team at every level.

By investing time and effort in the schooling strategy we can ensure all students achieve their potential.

This has to be good for them and it has to be good for New Zealand as a whole.

ENDS

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