National Education - Comments from Bill English
National Education - Comments from Bill English, National's Education Spokesman
The Strange Case of David Benson
No matter what he does, David Benson-Pope
can’t shake the impression he was involved in behaviour
inconsistent with his professional obligations, and that he
has been economical with the truth in Parliament. Helen
Clark and Steve Maharey have staunchly supported him to the
point where his credibility may be permanently damaged. Each
time he denies allegations, students have appeared in public
to confirm them. This week a further complaint about
bullying another teacher surfaced. He is now caught in a
pattern of aggressive behaviour, which is consistent with
Parliament’s perception of him. Remember that Helen Clark
took the initial allegations so seriously that he was
effectively removed from the Education portfolio. It’s hard
to see why his continued tenure in Social Development is any
Government Smarts over
You get a feel in Parliament for how a story line will run in public, and it didn’t feel right as the Government scrambled to defend “SchoolSmart”, its secret website rating for schools.
Trevor Mallard, answering on behalf of Steve Maharey, said the website was secret because the Government had made undertakings when the data was collected. So let’s find out what those undertakings are. Can any school tell me if they have an agreement with the Ministry of Education to keep their roll numbers, suspension numbers and proportion of first year teachers secret?
Mallard also confirmed that some of the information is publicly available. In fact, most of it is public information. You can view the data collected here. It doesn’t look dangerous.
If Mallard is right, the
Government has an agreement to keep public information about
schools secret. I suspect Labour’s fear is not the
information itself, but its use to compare schools, even
anonymously. Inevitably, the Government will have to open up
the website to parents. Schools should look at the validity
of the information they are providing to the Ministry so
they can be sure it is valid when the website is opened.
The Stranger Case of Paul McElroy
McElroy is CEO of UCOL, the polytechnic in Palmerston North.
His council agreed before Christmas to appoint a joint CEO
to run the polytech in order to allow Mr McElroy to spend
more time in Wellington influencing Government policy. He
appears to represent the larger polytechnics who have
designs to take over the running of small regional poytechs.
I asked Tertiary Education Minister, Dr Cullen, about this
and the recent capital injection for UCOL. Cullen told the
House he doesn’t know Mr McElroy and hasn’t met him. After
five months in the job, the polytechnic sector chief peddler
of influence hasn’t met the Minister? So UCOL and the
Tertiary Alliance might not be getting value for the second
Plumbers Go Ocker
time when there is high public interest in trades, the
plumbing trade is about to dump New Zealand trades
qualifications in favour of the Australian qualification.
There’s bad blood between the Plumbing and Gasfitters Board
and the newly established Plumbing ITO. What does it mean
for confidence in the industry training system when a large
traditional trade wants to dump it? There are grounds for
concern. Official figures show that as at 1 July 2005 (even
allowing for four years for apprentices to finish), only
about 25% of modern apprentices complete their
Control Cheaper than Pay
Two events in the past fortnight show how the NZEI and PPTA working with the Labour Government are extending their reach into the daily operation of education. The Government and the PPTA have agreed to a formula where teachers can now claim back from schools transport and childcare costs for compulsory teacher-only days. So schools are going to have to pay the bill when they weren’t party to the collective contract.
The NZEI and the Ministry of Education have agreed that kindergartens will only be able to diversify with NZEI’s agreement. The Government’s new funding system in early childhood education is forcing kindergartens to look more like full day-care operators. For the next 12 months NZEI can effectively veto kindergarten association operating decisions.
Dr Cullen has told the
civil service to lower their expectations about pay rises.
Expect to see the Ministry of Education in its industrial
negotiations to trade off lower pay for more control. It’s
an insidious trend. Schools and early childhood providers
already get the bill for pay negotiations they aren’t party
to. Increasingly they will also be paying the bill for
operational authority negotiated between the ministry and
There’s No Such Thing as Independent
Research – is there?
A breeze of fresh air is about to blow through the highly political education research community, which is traditionally constrained by ministry power, union ideology and institutional fear. Multiserve makes money from payroll services and overseas consultancy. They are a trust obliged to return their surpluses to education in New Zealand so they are setting up the first ever research fund completely independent of government. Within a few years the trust, called Cognition Education Research Trust (CERT), will be spending several million dollars annually commissioning independent education research. Miraculously and uniquely this new body is free of the dead hand of Wellington. The board at CERT has no NZEI, PPTA or Ministry people on it.