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Amendments to the Education Act

Amendments to the Education Act

Tēnā koe

You will be aware that a public discussion document has recently been released which constitutes consultation on a new set of amendments to the Education Act. The timeframe for making submissions is intolerably short and I can assure you that I have strenuously opposed this process which requests that submissions are received by December 14 2015.

I have pointed out that the second half of term four is always the most challenging for us with so many important, time-consuming tasks to be completed. Whilst Ministry staff appreciate these concerns, the Minister will not compromise on the submission date.

My intention is to put together a NZPF submission and share that with you by the end of November. You can use our submission as you please to construct your own.

Other documents that will be useful to you include the report on education regulations of 30 May 2014. This report, authored by Murray Jack, forms the basis of the public discussion document.

Effective Governance working in partnership and Effective Governance How Boards Work are also helpful when considering the section of the discussion paper on supporting Boards to focus on what’s important (p.7). I hope you will have the opportunity to discuss these documents and the issues that arise from them with your local principals before the submission date so that you can construct strong arguments that are supported by rich local evidence.

Of note is that a number of critical issues have been excluded from the review discussion. These are the IES, charter schools, EDUCANZ and national standards. The Minister has also indicated that there will be no extra money applied to the education budget to implement any of the changes that are made.

In her introduction to the discussion document, the Minister says there have been no changes to the Education Act in 26 years. We disagree. There have been many changes to the Act, several of them occurring in the past five or six years to enshrine national standards, charter schools and EDUCANZ, to name a few.

Below are listed topics covered by the discussion document together with some comments and questions. These are our initial thoughts on the topics although we will hold a full debate on the discussion paper at our national executive meeting on November 20 – 21. Our submission will be constructed from the collective views of the meeting and sent out to you :

1. Achievement comes first. NZPF agrees that achievement is a priority and should be defined broadly to include academic, social and emotional achievement. It should not be narrowly focused on reading, writing and maths.

2. The best whole-of-community education outcomes. NZPF believes that every school should be a great school. We also believe that all schools should be adequately supported by principal leadership advisors and we are working on a proposal to achieve a nation-wide system of leadership support. We support the notion of true collaboration where networks of schools support each other and share resources and expertise as appropriate.

3. Creating a set of goals. NZPF believes that we need an agreed statement of purpose for education, a clear vision and strategy. There is a perfectly useful set of goals already outlined in the NZ Curriculum

4. Rewarding high performing schools with extra freedom and decision-making and closure of under-performing schools. It is unclear what the measures of performance for judging high performing and under-performing schools would be. NZPF would oppose narrow measures such as national standards results. There are dangers in using achievement measures and smaller roll size to close schools. This would greatly disadvantage low decile schools which have the highest proportion of struggling children. They would become a target for closure, which would open the door for further privatization of public schooling in the form of charter schools NZPF opposes proliferation of charter schools.

5. Clarifying Boards’ responsibilities including planning and reporting. NZPF believes the role of BoTs is strictly governance, not management. Responsibilities for planning and reporting are all outlined in the NAGs and NZPF would support retaining the NAGs in the Act as they are now.

6. Possibility of a single Board governing multiple schools and single principal managing multiple schools. There are examples already of one principal leading more than one school where it is appropriate and supported by the community. The Trinity Schools in Southland are such an example where three smaller schools, with a common (Catholic) character,purpose, aspiration and community are led by one principal. NZPF believes there is no need to change legislation when it is possible to achieve this goal now. Changing legislation could create the risk of introducing the notion of the ‘Super-Principal’.

7. Cohort entry. It is already possible for children to start school on their fifth birthday or any time before they are six years old, including in a cohort if a school and community desires that. NZPF believes that children’s school starting date should be left to the discretion of the parents and school.

8. Additional support to address problems that arise in schools. NZPF is working on developing a system of nation-wide principal leadership support to address this issue. The Māori Achievement Collaborations (MACs) are a good example that work well for supporting principals to make their schools more bicultural. The Statutory Intervention review recommends a collaborative approach to supporting schools.

9. Principles for opening, merging and closing schools. NZPF would not support using narrow achievement measures for closure or merger of schools. There is research underway examining this issue which could be helpful in forming principles. NZPF would support the establishment of a respectful set of principles for closures, mergers and new schools, that involved the sector and the Ministry collaborating.

10. Area strategies and making best use of local education provision. There is a danger of ending up with a dysfunctional ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach with area strategies. NZPF supports the notion that all schools should be well-resourced and all children should attend their local school. We believe all schools should be great schools and it should not be an issue to attend the nearest school.

Noho ora mai ra

Denise Torrey

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