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Maharey: Waitakere Area Principals Association

Waitakere Area Principals Association

A speech to the Waitakere Area Principals Association about the government's vision for transforming New Zealand, and the role education has in this challenge.

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Kia ora tatou. Good day to you all I am delighted to be here.

I want to particularly thank your former secretary, Ray Clarke, for inviting me to speak today. I wish him well in his retirement. I also want to acknowledge your new president, Bruce Dale.

Setting the scene
I want to take this opportunity to set out government's vision for transforming New Zealand, and to talk about the role education has in this challenge.

In particular, I want to outline our investments for education in Budget 2006, and discuss how these are linked with government's key theme of Families - Young and Old. I also want to talk about my priorities for the education portfolio.

I know Waitakere schools are doing a lot of fine work with students who are struggling in school - so I want to look at government's initiatives in this area and especially how these link to our education priorities.

Transforming New Zealand
Government's vision is to transform New Zealand from a country producing and selling commodities to a country producing high value goods and services for sale around the world.

We want to ensure every New Zealander has a stake in the future. And we want to achieve this transformation in a New Zealand way - by using and building on our values of being fair, inclusive, creative, innovative, and proud; and by focusing on New Zealand issues.

To achieve this we've set three overarching priorities for the next 10 years.

The first is economic transformation - creating a knowledge-led, innovative economy driven by creative and entrepreneurial business, underpinned by a world-class infrastructure, and conducted in an environmentally sustainable way.

Achieving economic transformation requires social and economic development.

Social development creates the healthy, educated, confident workforce a thriving economy needs. Economic development creates the resources and the opportunities necessary for this.

The second families - young and old brings the essential relationship between social and economic development together.

This priority is about safety, health, and security for all members of every family.

It's about creating economic and work opportunities for working-age people, and providing good education for children and young people. It's about protecting vulnerable family members from violence, abuse, and neglect. It's about supporting families who are experiencing difficulties, making our communities safe, and making sure everyone has access to the services they need.

The third priority national identity is about who we are as New Zealanders, what we do, where we live, and how we see ourselves and are seen by the world.

It is also all about innovation,
fairness and inclusiveness that all New Zealanders share.

Celebrating our national identity will help us strengthen our work towards our other two priorities - and they, in turn, will boost and nurture our national identity.


Education's role in this transformation

So, where is education in all of this?

I don't need to tell you that education is integral to the development of a strong, thriving economy and society, and a vibrant sense of national identify.

Education contributes to each of our priority areas and in particular to Families - Young and Old.

The first step towards building a positive and productive society is ensuring the education system, both supporting and supported by parents, whanau and communities, develops all youngsters into healthy confident kids.

Healthy confident kids, recognised as individuals for who they are and where they come from, will be able to take an active role in society and achieve to their full potential.

We are building an education system to support these kids to do their very best, a system where their individual aspirations and achievements are acknowledged.

A system giving them a love of learning that stays with them for life, and a system equipping them with the skills required to participate fully in our transformed, modern world.

Priorities for Education
To steer New Zealand's education system onto the transformation path we need to make these goals part of our business as usual expectations:

·ensuring all students have a firm foundation for learning
·expecting high levels of achievement from all school leavers, and
·encouraging lifelong learning.

We need to work closer with communities and social service providers to encourage parents to get involved in their children's education. These solutions are not all about money. They require innovative ideas developed through collaboration between government, schools and parents.

As you all know many students do extremely well in our schools.

However, the real excitement and challenge now lies in lifting this achievement across the board, getting a step-up in achievement for every kid.

To focus on this change, I have identified the following priorities for the early childhood education and school sectors:
1.Setting Boundaries (Discipline)
2.Effective Teaching
3.Foundations and Knowledge
4.Parents and Families/ Whanau
5.Resourcing
6.Strong Professional Leadership
7.Staying at School, and
8.Teaching and Learning in Secondary Schools.

Schooling Strategy
Sitting alongside my priorities is the Schooling Strategy which you helped to develop. Its goal for all students to achieve to their full potential is central to my priorities for education.

It is now crucial to ensure the strategy is firmly embedded in all of our work. We want to achieve this through the 150 national workshops currently underway. The Ministry of Education is also working to ensure the schooling strategy guides all policy development and its work with the sector.

Budget 2006
Looking at these priorities for education the largest proportion of the new investment in Budget 2006 is directed towards:

·investment in early foundations by lowering the barriers to participation and supply in early childhood education; and
·increased resourcing for schools.

Early Childhood Education funding

Budget 2006 includes commitments totalling over $162 million in early childhood education. This investment helps make our vision of giving every New Zealand child a solid foundation through quality and affordable early childhood education a reality.

By providing up to 20 hours of free early childhood education weekly for three and four year-olds in all teacher-led services from July 2007, we are ensuring all children are set on the course for lifelong learning.

The total investment in early childhood education will be $625 million next year, more than twice as much as the 1999/2000 investment of $289 million.

Consolidating and extending funding for schools
Budget 2006 sees commitments totalling over $480 million for schooling, with $307 million operating and $173 million of capital funding.

Most of this funding addresses resourcing issues for schools - with a rise in the annual adjustment to schools' operational funding, staff numbers are increased for primary and special schools, and there is more money for new and existing property.

·Operational funding for all schools increases by an additional $37 a year for every student, with a total commitment of $96 million over the next four years.
·Extra teaching staff follows through on government's manifesto commitment to get more teachers into all our schools. This initiative sees an extra 455 teachers over and above what is needed to cover roll growth. This is a total commitment of $95 million - $89 million in operating and $6 million in capital funding - over four years bringing the total investment in school staffing since 2001 to $199 million annually.
·Budget 2006 sees an investment in school property of $190 million with $27 million operating and $163 million in capital funding. This will provide for building new schools and classrooms and maintaining existing buildings. As well there's funding to install computer networks in approximately 136 schools.

This significant resourcing investment is complemented by a range of more sharply focussed initiatives to improve student achievement through:
·effective teaching - with $15 million to expand the Te Kotahitanga programme and to pilot a senior subject advisory service
·improving curriculum access and resourcing - $18 million for environmental education, digital resources through the Le@rning Federation and opportunities for remote schools through the Virtual Learning Network
·students staying in school - $9 million to improve career advice in schools and help parents and whânau become more involved in their kids learning through extending the Books in Homes programme
·keeping struggling students at school - $10.5 million, $6 million operating and $4.5 million of capital funding, for the development and implementation of the enrolment management system
·setting boundaries - $9.5 million to help schools better manage disruptive behaviour in the classroom.

I want to now talk in more detail about what we're doing through the Budget, and through our other work, to make progress on a couple of the priority areas you are particularly interested in - setting boundaries, and getting kids to stay at school for longer.


Staying at school

Keeping students at schools and engaged in their learning helps them become self-confident and more adept at learning.

This has to be good for them and our society and economy as a whole.

We know the students who stay engaged in learning the longest are the most likely to go on to have better health, more stable employment and higher earnings when they move into the workforce.

Unfortunately, we also know that large numbers of our students choose to leave school before completing their full secondary education. The most recent figures for Waitakere city tell us that in 2005, 74 per cent of students had stayed until age 16 and 52 per cent stayed until age 17.

These statistics are an improvement on 2002 data, but compared with many OECD countries we still have a way to go.

Many of our students are leaving even earlier, at age 15. You may be surprised to learn that over the past four years the number of students aged between 15 and 16 who leave school has been increasing. I want to turn this around.

With the help of teachers and principals I need every mother and every father and every student to understand the importance of staying at school. This applies especially to students who may be struggling at school.

There is a lot we can do to encourage students to stay at school. I know there is a lot is being done throughout Waitakere to get young people engaged in their learning.

Efforts by schools such as Green Bay High are fantastic. Green Bay High's suspension rate has decreased from 45 cases in 2004 to only eight in 2005 - an outstanding result.

Waitakere City's School Attendance Programme is also turning young lives around. The programme carried out over 1,000 home visits in 2005 to identify the causes of non-attendance and to work with students' families to address these.

Building and supporting activities such as these is essential to improving the support network for struggling students.

I am working with the Ministry of Education to improve this support network.

District Truancy Service changes
One of the initiatives currently helping you and many other schools succeed is the District Truancy Service.

I am highlighting this service as I want to assure you that the policy changes currently being considered are aimed at providing a more consistent nationwide approach to dealing with non-attendance.

By increasing effectiveness in areas where there is room for improvement and by reassessing current coverage options we will improve the service.

I also want to assure you that the changes do not mean a reduction in the number of District Truancy Service officers or a reduction in funding. On the contrary, the new policies will better target areas of need with above average levels of truancy.

Opportunities for second chance learners
Another important way to keep students engaged in learning is the development of second chance' learning opportunities.

In 2005, the Waitakere City Alternative Education Programme achieved real gains for the 220 13, 14 and 15 year-old students it supports - exceeding both its attendance and achievement targets, with very few students earning less than 13 credits in NCEA.

I'd like to share with you the story of one of these students, Kelly Saunders.

Kelly entered alternative education in 2004 as a 15 year-old with a history of poor engagement in schooling. She had all but given up on school, but went on to thrive in this new environment that offered her a second chance at education and the opportunity for personalised learning.

Kelly is still involved with alternative education today, but she has moved from being a student to being employed as a teacher aide. She is also planning to take a diploma this year in Youth Work so that she can go on to help other young people.

Despite a shaky start, Kelly has emerged as a responsible, driven young person firmly focused on continuing her education and on helping other young people who are in the same position she was once in herself.

This is a fantastic outcome for a student who may otherwise have opted out of school and further education altogether.

Helping schools to manage disruptive student behaviour
I want to end by telling you about the $9 million funding commitment to providing additional support to all schools to help them better manage students with behavioural problems.

This funding is to:

·develop nationally consistent guidelines on how to improve behaviour and reduce bullying
·create a new behaviour screening tool - this will give us a more consistent way of identifying students who are at risk of developing severe behaviour problems, before that behaviour becomes entrenched, and
·provide support and emergency funding for schools to help students with severe behaviour difficulties, allowing them to stay at school, without putting themselves or others at risk.

This represents a new level of support for one group of students who are struggling at school and who currently aren't getting specialist support or funding.

The funding enables us to build on the substantial programme of work in this area, including the Student Engagement Initiative and specialist teachers in schools. We will be consulting the sector over about next steps.

Our aim is to ensure all New Zealand schools have the support they need to maintain and foster a positive environment for students, free from disruptive behaviour.

Conclusion
We have covered a lot of ground today.

The challenges and opportunities that lie in working together have the potential to make a positive difference for every student.

There are steep hills to climb, but on balance we have a great education system in New Zealand. In surveys of school achievement our students consistently score in the top half of the OECD, with many students in the top 25 per cent.

The OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA 2003) puts New Zealand 15 year-olds in the second highest performing group of countries for maths, science, reading and problem-solving.

Our challenge today is to make this great system an excellent one where every student has the support they need to achieve to the best of their ability in a system that recognises, and provides specifically for them.

Waitakere is an area with a strong commitment to the inclusive vision of education this government wishes to build on and I look forward to working alongside you in this over the coming years.

I also look forward to hearing some of your responses to the points I have raised today.

Thank you.

ENDS

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