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Maharey: PPTA Annual Conference

26 September 2006

PPTA Annual Conference

E nga mana, e nga reo, e nga hau e wha
Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.

Thank you for inviting me here today, I’d like to acknowledge your president, Debbie te Whaiti, Kevin Bunker your General Secretary and all of the delegates and observers who have given up some of your holiday time to be here for this conference. And I’d also like to acknowledge Janice Campbell who will be retiring next year after 26 years as the Principal of Wellington East Girls College. Janice has been a committed and strong member of the PPTA for her whole teaching career, and very involved with the executive of the PPTA over many years. (Bill English and Pansy Wong may also be present)

This is the first time I have been here at your annual conference, although I hope it’s just the first of many such occasions.

Right at the start I’d like to mention that although we do not always agree, I have appreciated the positive working relationship with the PPTA executive and members that I have experienced over the last year. I am committed to maintaining that relationship and to see it develop further over the time ahead.

I am also particularly pleased by the climate of collaboration that has developed out of the three year collective agreement which has given us a period of industrial harmony and allowed us to focus on the professional lives of teachers and what can be done to make improvements.

This collaboration is highlighted by the work on the Long Term Work Plan (LTWP). This involves the PPTA, along with the School Trustees Association and the government, working together on a long term approach to designing and implementing improvements. It is a programme of work that stems from the recommendations of the 2003 Ministerial Task Force.

The LTWP aims to improve the learning outcomes for students by raising the overall professional capability of the secondary teaching workforce and optimising recruitment and retention of highly capable and effective secondary teachers.

The initial results of this process are beginning to emerge and government has provided funding for a number of initiatives to get underway.

The medical retirement initiative trial enables teachers who are too ill to continue teaching to retire with dignity.

The workload relief initiative will be targeted to those middle managers with responsibility for professional support of first year teachers.

The Senior Subject Advisors initiative aims to build the capability of a group of current practising teachers to advise and support other teachers on teaching and assessment practise. A pilot programme with 24 full time teachers is planned for next year.

And finally, the specialist classroom teacher pilot scheme piloted this year and continuing next year is a positive move that will provide mentoring and support for teachers and acknowledges the importance of specialist classroom experience as a career pathway for teachers.

These are all exciting and positive initiatives which I know have taken a good deal of hard work and commitment to get to this stage. I’d like to thank all of you who have been involved and who will continue to be involved over the next stages.

I have met with many of you as I travel around the country and I have been impressed with the dedication, commitment and creativity that you show as we talk about teaching and learning and the goals that this government has for New Zealand in general and in education in particular.

And I want to talk with you today about some of the issues that I know are of mutual interest and where I see education heading now and into the future.

But before I do so I would like to put education into the context of this government’s commitment to transforming New Zealand over the next decade.


Transformation
We want New Zealand to become a much smarter kind of country; a knowledge-based country that generates its wealth by adding value to everything it does.

A strong public education system is the key to achieving this transformation.

Our current education system has its roots in an industrial age and is, what Jane Gilbert from NZCER describes as a “production-line model of schooling” that sorts students using the ability to learn ‘things’. This produces some students who do very well, many who achieve to a reasonable level, and a number of students who do not achieve much at all.

The first step towards creating a knowledge based society is to realise that the industrial society is no longer with us and we need more from education that this type of sorting function.

A knowledge based society will be more complex, the pace of change more rapid, communication more immediate, information more detailed and the future less easy to predict.

Our students therefore need to be prepared, not for pre-determined, existing pathways, but for virtually anything. They need the capacity, and the intellectual nimbleness to be able to take up any one of a number of different pathways. While they may need many of the same skills, and a lot of the same knowledge that students learn today they need them for different reasons.

And our education goals have had to change. While Beeby’s goal of equity of outcome is still valid we now need additional goals for this century.

Our goals are now about high achievement, high standards and lifelong learning for all students.

These aren’t new ideas of course but they are the outcome of the direction that I think New Zealand education has been moving towards since Tomorrow’s Schools.

Tomorrow’s Schools established the basis of a framework for school, home and community partnerships linked through Boards of Trustees. The changes established a system of education characterised by de-centralised responsibility within a framework of centrally determined goals, policies, standards and accountabilities.

There was a strong emphasis on management and accountability systems based on the assumption that getting these right would improve student outcomes.

Since 2000 we have seen the development of a different framework, one that is a much more collaborative approach geared to student success. We have moved towards a focus on national qualifications, effective teaching, high standards for every student and assessment for learning.

I think that the real benefits of this new framework will occur when:

 we have an education system tailored to fit the individual student not the other way round;
and
 all New Zealanders have the skills to identify their learning requirements and to know how to meet them.

And I can do no better than to quote Beeby here, who in 1986 wrote, when expressing his hope for education in the future, that it would contain “a school system from which all students will emerge with a sense of achievement, with a feeling of their own worth and with respect for others”.

I think we are on the cusp of that change.

Personalising learning
Those of you who have heard me talk before will know that I have been using the term personalising learning to describe this new framework.

I see personalising learning as the logical progression from the standards and accountability reform strategies implemented in the 1980 and 1990s.

Jane Gilbert, who I quoted before, in her book Catching the Knowledge Wave? talks about looking at a different way of learning.

She says, for example, that instead of seeing knowledge as something we have to master, we need to see it as a process, something that happens in particular contexts and relationships and we need to build people’s ability to work with others to produce new knowledge that solves real world problems.

Jane talks about how students now need to be prepared, as never before, for a life of constant change and adaptation and the responsibility of schools is to ensure that students have the skills to use and create the knowledge they need in a rapidly changing world.

This is personalising learning.

None of this is new to teachers. Good teachers have always worked with students to engage them in learning.

What I think is different in this concept is that personalising learning involves everyone; policy makers, education agencies, schools, teachers, parents and communities working together in partnership to focus on the diverse needs of individual students.

And when this works well, students should become informed and active participants in their own learning, contributing to decisions about where and how learning can work best for them, knowing how they are progressing and understanding how the school can best provide for their learning.

Parents and families should be much more involved in their children’s learning. They should be able to receive information to understand what their children can do, how they are progressing and how their learning can be supported at home.

The Ministry of Education should be active involved in helping schools to build capacity to meet student needs. Resources, practices and policy should be focused on allowing schools to develop as learning communities and be supported as they develop more flexible forms of organisation.

I think this is the natural outcome of the direction that education thinkers and practitioners have been moving towards over the last few years, fuelled by the strong evidence base; that the biggest impact on learning comes from effective teaching.

And it’s already happening around New Zealand.

As I’ve visited schools and met with many of you I have seen some exciting and innovative examples of teachers who are tailoring their teaching to the learning needs of their students.

For example

1. As part of the Secondary School Literacy project, a school in the Bay of Plenty has been working with students on how to write reports. They planned their approach together and used the Effective Literacy Strategies material to promote independent thinking.

The teachers provided clear frameworks for student learning and the students have responded. Here are some of the things the students are now saying:

“When I look at a piece of writing now, I can understand what I have to do – before we didn’t get it; it’s a bit easier now.”

“The who, what, when, where, why are questions I can now ask.”

“You get better results … my answers are better… I’m writing longer pieces and writing more with less mistakes.”

2. Students at a North Island High School can revise for NCEA English using their cell phones.

They are able to text a number and receive a reply with notes on Shakespeare in a matter of seconds.

Their teacher says:

"It's not just what is in the message, but it is encouraging students to own their learning and to learn in groups.

"The messages are not only chunks of Shakespeare, but hints on learning with content focused toward the exams."


3. Another school has its students hold conferences to update parents and teachers about their work.
Students lead conversations about their learning goals and aspirations for the future during parent-teacher interviews.

The conferences enable students to take more responsibility for their own work and strengthen their leadership and communication skills.

4. And another school with a diverse population of students has come up with a novel approach to respond to the flexibility the NCEA offers.

Teachers have developed a course, which starts in Year 10 and runs through Year 11, called ‘Crime Scene Investigation’ - CSI. It sets the students up as detectives investigating particular ‘scenes’ and uses a combination of science and social studies achievement standards to assess learning.

These are just a few examples of innovative activities and approaches and I am sure you have lots of other examples you can bring to mind.

The challenge is now to bring all of this together into a learning framework where all students are informed and active participants in their own learning. I want to build on best practice, learn from it, ensure that everything is in place to support it and develop the concept so that every student can reach their potential.

You will be hearing a lot more about personalising learning from me in the future. And I am very keen to hear from you about what you think of it and how we can make it work.

It’s within that context that I would like now to discuss some of the issues that I know are concerning you at this conference.

Your issues

NQF and NCEA
Secondary School Qualifications

The National Qualifications Framework (NQF), of which the three National Certificates of Educational Achievement are a part, is a success story for NZ education.

The development of the senior secondary qualifications is a product of the consensus that has emerged from the debate around secondary school assessment. It is an acknowledgement of the importance of assessment as a tool for informing and improving learning as well as telling us what students know.

The NCEA gives students a strong sense of involvement in their own learning and it recognises that when assessment is better integrated with learning, teachers and students get the high quality information about outcomes that they need.

I am aware how hard you and your colleagues have worked to make this qualification a success for the students of New Zealand.

I acknowledge that workload continues to be an issue around NCEA and am conscious of addressing workload issues as part of the programme of further improvements and refinement of NCEA.

I know Dr Poutasi addressed your conference yesterday and outlined some of the design improvements and suggestions currently on the table. I want to particularly acknowledge the important role of PPTA members in many of the working groups and your contribution to the debate about school assessment including feeding your ideas into the Leaders’ Forum. There is still room for improvement and I am encouraged by the professional discussion that is occurring at this conference.

I want to highlight some of the concrete improvements made this year and for the upcoming exam season:

 Students will access their internal assessment results online a month earlier
 Teachers have had longer to carry out internal assessment
 The improved marking processes and profiles of expected performance introduced last year will continue and have been refined based on last year’s results
 The first set of improvements to the record of learning and results notice will be rolled out to make the results easier to understand

I am also pleased with the progress the New Zealand Qualifications Authority has made as an organisation over the last 18 months in changing the way it operates and how it relates with the sector. NZQA have made great strides and are committed to maintaining the open and transparent dialog with you.

Recent research by Victoria University and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority into student perceptions of the NCEA shows us there's a lot about the qualification that students like - particularly internal assessment and the flexibility it offers.

I believe strongly that the national qualifications system is a real enabler for personalising learning. It is inclusive and places student learning at the centre. It gives students choices of pathways and allows schools to develop programmes and assessments that suit their students.

It also allows for various modes of assessment to "suit the purpose". It means that fewer students now leave school without recognition of their learning.

Initial Teacher Education review
When I began as Minister of Education I asked the Ministry to undertake a review of initial teacher education policy to determine what we can do to ensure that newly qualified teachers come out of training ready to hit the ground running.

I want to make sure that the way we prepare teachers is relevant and valid.

It’s not acceptable for anyone to be able to question whether a newly qualified teacher has the knowledge, or skills to perform effectively in the classroom.

It’s not acceptable for any newly qualified teachers, however good they are, to be left to their own devices in the vital period of their induction.

So I have asked the ministry to ensure that the review addresses these kinds of issues.

I’ve have also asked that the ministry consult widely in finding solutions so that when we do make changes we will do so with the full support of all key stakeholders.

I want to feel confident that every newly qualified teacher is effectively prepared and supported in their early years so they will make a difference for every one of the learners they work with.

I want to see research into teacher education to build up a robust evidence base about what works in initial teacher education.

And I want to see some shared responsibility between the profession and the government for attracting high quality applicants.

I expect the ministry to report back to me early in the New Year with a plan to take draft proposals to the sector. When we do this I am hoping to get wide and considered engagement from the profession as a whole.

This is important. It is about the standards of new people entering your profession.

Maori-medium teacher education
The initial teacher education policy review indicates that Māori-medium teacher education is extremely vulnerable and we will need to find new and radical solutions to provide a supply of fluent te reo Māori graduates who also have sound knowledge and skills for effective teaching.

One of the key concerns about Māori-medium teacher education is the extent to which a three year programme can prepare someone with Māori-language fluency as well as effective teaching knowledge and skills.

One of the options we may need to consider is for the government and the profession to work in partnership with Māori organisations to better specify requirements of teachers needed in the diversity of Māori-medium teaching.

I am hopeful that a strategic direction for quality Māori-medium teacher education available to prospective teachers throughout New Zealand will result from the initial teacher education policy review.

Teachers Council
I see the work the Teachers Council leading on draft graduating standards and the review of the Satisfactory Teacher Dimensions as being very much tied up with this initial teacher education work.

The standards development work being led by the Teachers Council and the initial teacher education review being lead by the Ministry plus the tertiary education reforms being led by TEC will also have considerable impact on initial teacher education provision.

It is important for the future of education that education agencies work together and ensure that efforts are aligned so that each of our student teachers gets access to the most professional teaching possible.

I see the key job of the Teachers Council is to provide professional leadership to the teaching profession and to be the body that promotes and upholds the status and standards of the profession.

Managing challenging behaviour
I read your paper on managing challenging behaviour with interest – Setting Boundaries and Staying at School are key priorities for this government.

In the context of the media commentary on this issue I want to be very clear - I expect schools to be schools, not social agencies.

I acknowledge, however, that there are times when students can and do place themselves and others at risk of harm. In these circumstances schools can and should use the existing powers to suspend and exclude students when this level of intervention is required. Managing this type of behaviour is not an easy task. The solutions require a partnership approach between schools, teachers, parents, communities and government.

However I do believe that the behaviour of children and young people in the classroom, corridor or playground is not something that can be managed separately from the business of teaching and learning.

This is why as part of Budget 2006 we have made new funding available to enable a fast and flexible response when students behave in a way that puts themselves, other students or teachers in harmful situations.

From 1 February next year guidance and funding will be in place to support schools to address the issues that arise from challenging behaviour by students. This will provide immediate respite for a short period while longer-term solutions are developed. We will also provide resources and guidance on how to promote a positive school culture, support student wellbeing, tackle bullying and reinforce boundaries.

The Ministry is currently establishing a group of expert practitioners to meet before the end of the year, drawing on expertise in; teacher training, school leadership and management, teaching, learning, behaviour management, and classroom management. This group will consider how we can make the best use of the considerable resources – over $90 million – that we currently devote to this area.

In addition, the Ministry has begun to examine the effectiveness of alternative learning situations with a review of Teen Parent Units. The Education Review Office has recently completed a review of Activity Centres and local ministry offices are working with schools where ERO has made recommendations that require urgent attention. We intend to continue to monitor and improve the provision of Alternative Education.

The goal is to keep children at school. We know that children who stay at school will achieve better life outcomes.

The Correspondence School
As you are aware the government has had a significant level of engagement with the Correspondence School over the last five years.

The school has been in a difficult financial position partly because of the significant roll decline and partly because the current funding model for the school is based solely on per student funding.

To move the school onto a more financially sustainable basis, the Correspondence School and the ministry have been working together to develop a new funding model which is hoped to have in place for the 2007 school year.

The board and management of the school have led a sustained period of change and restructuring over the last two years. The Board has prepared a five year strategic plan and two year business recovery plan. Some aspects of these plans have been implemented and the board and the school’s management team have made good progress in implementing policies to make the school more effective and more financially sustainable.

Finally
I have enjoyed and learnt a good deal from my first ten months as Minister of Education and I have no doubt that the months ahead will be as interesting and challenging.

We have a world class public education system, it didn’t get that way without a lot of hard work and dedication from everyone working in the sector. I’d like to thank you all for your contribution to that success.

I started my speech acknowledging the work we have done together over the last year. You are helping to shape the future of secondary schooling in New Zealand - a future in which all students can achieve their potential.

Every student deserves the best from their time in school. We need the whole system to focus on this and making a difference for students.

This government is committed to supporting schools in this endeavour.
I wish you well for the rest of your conference.

ENDS

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