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'A New Deal' will be a 'Better Deal' for Children

'A New Deal' will be a 'Better Deal' for Children

Early Childhood Council CEO Sue Thorne today endorsed the Education Forum Report 'A New Deal' saying "The document provides some simple but powerful strategies to reform schools and redress declining educational performance."

"For any Government of New Zealand to not seriously consider these very well researched and sound policy reforms would be close to criminal neglect of our children. I think it is time for the closet socialists who hold back school reform to admit that they are putting their prejudices and interests before the interests of children. They need to listen to the growing chorus of parents, students and educators who know that the system is failing all stakeholders."

We don¹t have to look overseas to see that school choice for parents and transferable funding works. The preschool sector in New Zealand has worked like that for years. If a parent isn't happy, they move on to a service that better meets their child's needs, funding follows the child 'within the hour' the parents vote with their feet. Now that's parent power! And it makes services so highly responsive to needs that parents don¹t need to move. It can happen and it should happen for schools. How silly it is that parents can choose an educational facility (and have funding follow the child) up until the age of 5 years, but then they can't."

Probably the biggest impact on improving educational outcomes will come from the simple strategy of paying better teachers more. This is the way the real world works. The Education Forum's suggestion is hardly revolutionary, so why does it seem so scary for teacher unions? Their usual initial excuse is that 'it is not possible to assess the performance of teachers'. What a shocking indictment on a principal's role as manager. The follow-up excuse is, 'it wouldn¹t be fair', but how can it be fair that the best teachers are paid the same as the worst?"

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Once again the preschool sector gives a lead on how it could work in the compulsory sector. Most employers of early childhood teachers work through individual agreements and adjust pay rates based on job role and job performance. Years of service and higher qualifications are only relevant if they significantly improve performance. There is commonly up to a 25% performance differential within pay rates of similarly qualified and experienced people.

The Education Forum's 'New Deal' contains a lot of good practical ideas that will lead to a better deal for New Zealand's children. Two of the best are the strategies for school choice and performance pay for teachers. Do we have some politicians and officials who have the courage to make this a reality?


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