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Plain English Tackles Text Bullying

17 March 2006

Text Bullying in Schools

Let's not load more responsibility onto schools and teachers for text bullying. It's another means of bullying, and only zero tolerance from everyone will deal with it. Some parents don't know their children are bullies, and some won't believe it when they are told. It was refreshing to hear school leaders this week pointing out that parents and telecom companies, and maybe even students, can stop text bullying.

Confusion at the Ministry

Steve Maharey has withdrawn his offer of a seminar on NCEA because I have been too critical. So, I have been trying to find official papers on changes (sorry, officially there have been no changes) to NCEA since last year's controversy so I can understand what has happened. In response to an OIA request from me, the Ministry of Education responded: "No substantive information as outlined by you [on NCEA] has been produced by the Ministry of Education in the six months to 14 November 2005."

But answers to parliamentary questions show that in six months the Ministry attended five Joint Officials meetings, four two-day Leader's Forum meetings, and six Leaders Forum Qualifications group meetings on NCEA.

So the Ministry went to 15 meetings on NCEA and produced nothing "substantive" - not an email, a report, or a briefing for anyone. Dishonesty or incompetence? Complaints will follow.

Good Things Trevor Did

In the interests of bi-partisan agreement, National Education will have an occasional go at assessing just which bits of the Mallard legacy are worth building on. Today it's Early Childhood Education.

Trevor introduced the world's most advanced education voucher system and he did it with the overwhelming support of the ECE sector. In the new system, funding follows each child, and the amount paid adjusts by the hour according to the qualifications of the adults present. Trevor and the Ministry won the argument by focussing on the teachers, not the child -upgrading status, pay and quality. Even kindergarten teachers, who can only lose from the new formula, staunchly support it. National has some quibbles with differential payment based on costs, but the principle is sound. So, Trevor, a bouquet.

Bad Things in the Auditor-General's Patch

Schools get their annual accounts signed off by June after the year's end. The accounts of Te Wananga o Aotearoa for the year ended 31 December 2004 have not yet been signed off. Why not? Wearing his parliamentary watchdog hat, the Auditor-General found the wananga had systems that were "unacceptable in a public entity".

But the Auditor-General is also the statutory auditor for the wananga, so he signs off the annual accounts as true and fair. It turns out that the job was delegated to Deloittes - at the same time that a senior partner in Deloittes was pulling a hefty daily rate as the Government's man sorting out the wananga's financial systems. In the ethical vacuum surrounding tertiary institutions, no one noticed the conflict of interest.

When this was discovered, the Deloittes man dropped out as Crown Advisor, and Deloittes have "agreed to withdraw" from the wananga audit. And the Auditor-General has admitted to a select committee that he didn't notice the conflict, either. And now he has raised doubts about the validity of the 2003 audited accounts of the wananga because of problems over asset ownership and transactions that might not be legal. Government officials went to sleep under Steve Maharey 's watch and they need a good wake-up from Dr Cullen.


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