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Mallard: Keeping the finger on the pulse

28 September 2005 Speech Notes

Mallard: Keeping the finger on the pulse in quality education

Speech to the NZEI annual conference, Town Hall, Wellington

Good morning everyone. Thank you for inviting me.

This is the sixth occasion on which I have had the privilege of addressing you as Minister of Education, and I'm tremendously proud to be here today as a representative of what looks to be a third-term Labour-led government.

Looking back over those past six years, I'm really proud of what we have been able to achieve together.

I've enjoyed a good working relationship with the NZEI throughout my time as Minister, and there can be absolutely no doubting that we achieve far more when we work together than when we are at each others throats.

For the sake of our kids, constructive engagement between government and teacher unions is the only way forward. People who attack the unions seem to overlook that they are actually attacking teachers – the very heart of our education system.

I want to acknowledge your hard work and continued commitment to education.

I'd like to briefly recap some of my highlights as Minister of Education, and note the important role that you have played in helping me to deliver.

The development of the Early Childhood Strategic Plan was one of my first priorities as Minister, and I'm pleased to say that the plan is now really starting to take off.

Of all the things that I have achieved as Minister, one that I am most proud of has been the introduction of 20 hours free early childhood education for all three and four year olds from 2007. Coupled with teacher registration requirements, I believe that this initiative will give our kids a great start, something we will see the benefits of as they move through the education system.

I'm proud to have been part of a government that has placed a strong emphasis on the 'education' part of early childhood education. It's so much more than childcare. Anyone who views early childhood education as simply a way of getting kids out of their parents hair or as just another tax deductible 'expense' ignores the vitally important role quality early childhood education can play in a child's development.

I'd like to thank you for the constructive work that you have done with me over the past six years to really lock in the gains in the early childhood education sector. I think it will be fifteen years or more before we see the real benefits, but it will be worth the wait.

We've also worked well together to deal with issues around teacher workload and class sizes.

Through constructive engagement, we have been able to put over 1,000 extra teachers in primary classrooms, over and above those required for roll growth. And that doesn't include the extra teachers we're employing to meet the non-contact time you negotiated in the last collective negotiation round.

During our next term in government, I look forward to seeing our pledge to lower class sizes for new entrants also become a reality.

As you will be aware, Labour made employing 1,300 extra primary teachers to lower the teacher: pupil ratios in new entrant classes to no more than 1:15 a key election pledge.

I know that the NZEI will have an important role in helping us work through the implementation details of this policy and making it become a reality.

Other highlights have included the development of the Schooling Strategy, the work on career paths for teachers and the Best Evidence Syntheses work.

Looking back, we have achieved so much, but looking ahead there is even more to be done.

Over the next three years, restoring public confidence in our education system must be one of our highest priorities.

We have a great education system. Internationally our kids are doing really well, and we need to celebrate our successes more.

One of the things I value about the education sector is that we are all our greatest critics. We are always looking at where we can improve and where we need to do better – I hope that will always be the case.

But we also need to spend a bit more time giving credit where it is due.

I want to thank you for the hard work, dedication and passion that you put into your jobs. Don't let the knocks the education sector has taken in the past few months deter you – you're doing a vitally important job for the future wellbeing of our society and our country.

We need to look to the future with a new sense of optimism.

Every New Zealander is entitled to access quality education of the highest standard throughout their lives, and we have a common goal to ensure that they can get it.

Quality education requires effective teachers and effective teaching.

We want a system where our top students continue to do well and our underachievers improve significantly.

To achieve this, we have to strive for an excellent education system.

For excellence to flourish in the early childhood and schooling sector, I believe there are three key ingredients.

First, we need effective teachers who keep refining their teaching practice to achieve the best possible outcomes for their students.

Secondly, we need schools with the leadership and resources to make that focus on excellence possible.

The third ingredient is to have families and communities fully and actively involved in their children’s education.

The Schooling Strategy - Making a bigger difference for all students- recognises that teaching is a complex and challenging professional role.

I want to thank everyone for their involvement in the strategy’s development.

The strategy creates the basis for teachers, government and communities to work together to make the greatest difference for all our students.

It gives us the opportunity to build agreement on the priorities we need to set to achieve our goals.

Individually each of us can make a difference, but collectively we can make a greater difference.

School leaders, especially principals, will be pivotal in ensuring we meet the strategy’s objectives.

Principals need to see themselves as leaders, leaders of teaching and learning in order to raise the bar for student achievement.

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

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

Learning is fundamental to our new strategy and it needs to be happening at all levels, in the classroom, in professional learning communities and at a system level.

Effective teaching requires ongoing learning.

Defining or describing effective teaching is not easy.

Despite the Best Evidence Syntheses on effective teaching, these definitions are still being debated.

However, I think we all agree a ‘one size fits all’ approach will not work.

One of the biggest challenges for all of us, especially because of the size and diversity of primary schools across the country, is to develop effective teaching responses for every student.

We must continue to build a collective understanding of what effective teaching is and what effective teachers do.

This requires a collaborative approach between education agencies, teacher unions and the New Zealand Teachers Council.

It is our shared responsibility to develop effective teaching and learning in schools.

To achieve ongoing improvements in teaching effectiveness, everyone in education needs to work together with a focus on continual professional learning.

The system must provide the right kind of support and opportunities.

In that environment a professional culture of continuous improvement will flourish.

As part of the partnership we have established in the Schooling Strategy, the government is determined to ensure our investment in professional development supports and sustains such a culture.

Effective initial teacher education is a prerequisite for any teacher wanting to achieve positive outcomes with their students.

I have has asked the Ministry of Education to work with the New Zealand Teachers Council on a research programme to see if we can get some real evidence about what is happening in initial teacher education.

NZEI representatives have been involved in the reference group advising the Ministry on this research. Many thanks for your valuable contribution here.

I know NZEI is also working with the council to write graduating standards for initial teacher education programmes.

This is a really important project for the council to get right.

I want these standards to raise the bar on expectations for entry standards and programme delivery.

The standards should reflect the kind of teachers our students and this country needs.

Primary schools have a proud history of supporting student teachers and inducting new teachers into the profession.

The tutor teacher allowance and the 0.1 allowance for second year teachers will give even more weight to this.

I am really excited by the positive work that so many people have been doing around effective teaching.

Learning is the pulse of the education sector.

Sustaining learning and improvement is not a simple formula. We do have an ambitious task ahead of us.

We need to continue to build on improving initial teacher education and ongoing professional learning and combine this to support teachers to be effective in their job.

I am confident this will lead to raising achievement and reducing disparity for every student.

I am sure you will carry the optimism of your annual meeting's objectives with you into your work in schools.

Thank you again for your contribution to education. Your role is fundamental. Our students are the benefactors.

We have many things to be proud of in our schooling system, not least the quality of people who are all working to make a difference for every young kiwi.

ENDS

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