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Change the Government to Change NCEA - English

Bill English - Change the Government to Change NCEA

National has two priorities for changing NCEA - fix assessment so it's fair, and reduce teacher workloads. Assessment is too variable and statistically unreliable. Administrative workloads are forcing teachers to spend more and more time out of the classroom to run an oversized system. We want to bring it down to size so teachers can teach.

Rumour has it the Martin report into the NCEA and NZQA will be delivered to the Minister this week and that it is strongly critical of the way NCEA is run. But whatever the Martin report says won't matter one bit until NCEA fundamentalism is rooted out of NZQA. NZQA statements on scholarship and other matters still reek of "we know best" and "you are stupid". In a token gesture to intellectual rigour NZQA have appointed people with assessment expertise to advisory committees. It's small change.

For some reason Labour think they have invested so much in mindlessly defending NCEA they can't be seen to change it much. So a re-elected Labour government would hang in and hope a few more pamphlets for stupid parents will fix it. National is willing to make pragmatic changes that reflect the wide range of purposes a secondary school qualification now has to meet. Only a change at the top with very clear political direction will shift NZQA in line with this pragmatism.

The World Has Changed

Some changes happen slowly enough that you don't notice them. Compared to 10 years ago there are many more staff with a wider range of expertise in our schools. More and more school activity is carried out as part of team with a mix of skills, especially in primary schools. Just try getting a car park outside a school these days.

Principals and teachers who are attempting to meet the diverse needs of their students are increasingly involved in decisions about the mix of skills required for successful learning. Even Labour recognised this by allowing schools to hire teachers over and above the formula, by introducing staff banking and creating more pools of expertise like RTLB's, Special Needs coordinators and IT contracts.

The benefit of bulk funding is that it allows these professional decisions about the skills mix required for learning to be made with more room in the straitjacket of national resource formulae. A funding formula can build in more for extra need, and incentives, like the new ECE formula, endorsed by NZEI, which encourages more qualified teachers to spend all the time they can actually teaching.

Bulk funding is not about financial windfalls - it's about more scope for professionalism in a high trust model.

Bull... and Jelly Beans

National will use a no loser formula for bulk funding if it becomes the government. The PPTA have written to every school bagging bulk funding on the basis that National would use an average salary formula so half the schools would be losers. This is false and misleading. The NZEI are telling support staff they "have to vote Labour to protect their salaries" This is rubbish. Support staff are paid out of operational grants and there is no plan from Labour to change that. Under National support staff would continue to be paid the same way - from a bulk grant managed by the schools.

Or maybe the NZEI campaign reveals a secret agenda. Labour know that school boards value very much flexible use of support staff, and they know that a centralised formula with all the usual union complexity and interference will be very unpopular. I'm willing to bet the NZEI and Labour have a deal to take on and beat the school boards after the election if Labour win. It does seem odd that the NZEI is not pushing its support staff campaign at MP's in the run up to the election.

The Scare Tactics Don't Change.

Both unions are running vigorous scare campaigns about cuts to salaries and conditions for teachers. National is bound by industrial agreements settled by Labour, and any changes have to be negotiated. Labour have had money running out their ears for 6 years and regardless of who the government is, it can't keep going. Increases in funding will be more modest and more targeted on value for money.

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