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National Education - 21 August 2006

National Education - 21 August 2006

Pot Calls Kettle Black

A few months ago Murupara School principal Genevieve Doherty was convicted in court for manipulating school rolls. Porirua College had to repay $90,000 because the Ministry said they had overstated their school roll. This kind of accountability is vital so that every one knows that the rules will be applied.

So it's a bit rich to watch Helen Clark trying to get away with breaking the rules for spending half a million dollars of parliamentary funding, for party political purposes and breaching the rules which set limits on election campaign spending.

Why should schools be saddled with debt from historical overspending, or principals be taken to court for inflating student numbers, when the Prime Minister can pass retrospective legislation to validate her own misdemeanours. Coming on top of Phillip Field's exploitation of illegal immigrants for personal benefit, it's a sorry picture. Standards of public probity will drop because of these bad examples at the top.

Don't mention the money

Government papers on the Operations Grant Review state clearly that the review will not cover the adequacy of operational funding. An internal email says the Minister expects the consultation group to sell the government's message to the schools that there is enough money in the system. But everyone else thinks that the review is about whether operational funding covers IT costs, support staff and other rising costs. So which is it? The credibility of the review relies on the union and board representatives on the Reference Group supporting the process and the result. They should be asking themselves why have they co-operated with a Minister who refuses to deal with the issue of adequacy of funding. How long can the Reference Group and the Minister pretend they are talking about the same thing when they aren't?

Sharks in Foundation Education funding pool

Cabinet papers on tertiary reform set out three functions for polytechnics including foundation education. Now this is curious. The government defines foundation education as Level 1 to 3 provided outside a school. However, our research shows that currently only 6 per cent of total polytechnic revenue is attributable to foundation education (when the two biggest providers Te Wananga o Aotearoa and the Open Polytechnic are omitted).

So if most polytechnics aren't providing it now, why is it proposed as a core function. There are two possible reasons both rooted in the fact that there is no more money in the tertiary pool for these reforms. It could be a grab for the Level 1 to 3 courses provided by the PTEs and ITOs. The vehicle for this will be the regional planning process to be run by the polytechnics.

The other reason is to allow polytechnics to strip mine ACE - Adult and Community Education. Labour is destroying a flexible, cheap and socially effective system and replacing it with a bizarre expensive system which schools will desert leaving the cash for polytechnics who have got the time and money to show up for the meetings. So the new focus on Foundation Education will see polytechnics pick up most of the ACE pool ($35 million) initially, and increasingly ITO and PTE cash as the new planning process takes grip. Remember polytechnics and universities expect to be better off.

Good news is no news

The gap between girls and boys numeracy in last years NCEA Level 1 results is negligible at two percentage points, with the girls just in front. The message of maths awareness week, should be that maths is a door to science and commerce careers, and students with good maths have more choices. The pass rates for numeracy credits are also significantly higher than for literacy credits which raises questions NZQA should be able to answer.

Are students "better" at numeracy than literacy? Are teachers better at teaching numeracy than literacy? How are these standards set? Isn't it an odd result when the numeracy project has shown numeracy teaching in primary and lower secondary years is weak and we pride ourselves on our reading teachers. I'm keen to hear some answers.


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