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Speech: Tolley - NZEI Annual Conference

Hon Anne Tolley
Minister of Education

20 August 2011 Speech

NZEI Annual Conference, Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington

E ngā mana, e ngā reo, e ngā hau e whā. Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.

Good afternoon everyone – and thank you Frances for your introduction.

Firstly, I want to acknowledge all those affected by the earthquakes in Christchurch.

It was extremely important that we got children back into education routines as soon as possible. So, I was very impressed by how incredibly hard schools and early childhood education services worked to re-open – bringing some certainty and normality to children and their families – despite personal grief and adversity.

You all have a vital role to play in delivering the Government’s vision for education.

There is no doubt that we have a very good education system. This is a credit to you, our teachers, schools and early childhood education services, and I thank you for your hard work.

But this Government has made the decision to ensure that it becomes a great education system.

There is still much work to do, however, and the Government’s biggest concern is the glaring gap between our top performers and those who are failing.

The 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment results that were released at the end of last year showed that our top five percent of students are up with the best in the world. As a matter of fact, they showed that our top 25 percent of students are up with the best in the world.

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But the gap between our top five percent and our bottom five percent is the worst of the top-performing countries. And the gap between our top 25 percent and our bottom 25 percent is also the worst of those top-performing countries.

Worse, still, the reading achievements of our 15-year-olds have not increased over the last 10 years – 10 years! And, they actually show a slight decrease.

Maths achievement has remained unchanged for 6 years.

And this is all at a time when there is an increasing requirement of our school leavers for more complex and demanding skills.

We will not tolerate one in five children leaving school unable to read, write, or do maths anywhere near the level they need to succeed, both as individuals and in employment. This is simply unacceptable.

Those one in five children deserve better, and we are determined that they have every chance to reach their potential.

So, this is why we are focusing on raising achievement in reading, writing and maths, and on increasing participation in early childhood education. This Government makes no apology for wanting every one of our young people to do better.

During my visits to schools, parents, teachers and principals all over the country have been fulsome in their praise for National Standards.

One principal wrote to me to say:

“We have a large staff who now collectively feel confident that our assessment data and information on students is accurate and reliable.

“Being able to professionally discuss student achievement and plan for their progress has lifted the whole school’s professionalism and accountability to each other and to our parents and students.

“We are going to be in a stronger position to allocate resources to where they are really needed in our school.”

And a parent told me National Standards have already made a big difference for her son.

She says:

“He seems more interested now because he understands what he has to do to get better at school. I am more interested in his school work now because I understand it more.

“At last I understand the school report….and it’s honest. The teachers in our school are really keen to help me understand more about where my child is at. I think there is a better connection between home and school. It feels great.”

We are now midway through the three year roll out of the standards – and I thank you for the huge effort that has been put into the implementation. Training continues, and I urge you to take advantage of it.

While most schools have set targets against the standards in their charters, the ministry continues to work with schools that have sent charters that don’t comply with the law to support them to make the necessary changes.

As of yesterday, 184 schools had resubmitted their charters. Most of them were originally not compliant because of reasons other than National Standards.

For the ones that did not set targets against the standards, about 96 per cent are now compliant.

The ministry uses the information in charters to help target resources and support for students and schools which need it most.

So without the data, schools will miss out on valuable resources to help support students who are struggling and not progressing, while their teachers won't be able to access the targeted professional development. These schools will have to answer to parents and their communities.

We are investing $16.7 million over the next four years to support teachers to use National Standards effectively.

We are developing a framework to establish a nationally consistent approach to teachers’ overall judgments of students’ progress and achievement against the standards.

This will provide more support for teachers when making judgments, and make it easier to report to parents and boards. It will also give you greater assurance that your judgments are consistent and comparable with other teachers across the country.
In addition, we’re setting up an online moderation environment for teachers to share assessment judgment and practice. We are also setting up leadership networks, so schools can share knowledge and best practice.

Many of you will be aware that the Ministry, working with schools, has been piloting new initiatives to assist student achievement. We’re investing $36 million to develop new programmes and resources for students needing additional support in reading, writing and maths

One programme to accelerate maths learning has seen students achieve 80 per cent of a year’s progress after just 10 weeks of intensive teaching, with some children making over a year’s improvements.

Most of the students were enjoying maths more, which will lead to better results. We’re continuing this programme in 180 schools this year.

Fifty student achievement practitioners are now starting to work with boards, principals and teachers to develop and carry out a plan to accelerate student achievement in their schools.

These experts have a particular focus on Māori and Pasifika and students with special education needs, too many of whom we know don’t have their learning needs met

Budget 2011 provided an extra $1.4 billion in education over the next four years – with spending rising to a record $12.2 billion this year.

This will mean the Government has allocated an extra $4.4 billion to education since 2009, which is a massive total in a difficult economic environment, and shows we’re serious about education as an investment.

And the Government will invest an extra $550.3 million in early childhood education over the next four years, to allow as many families as possible to access quality services where they are needed the most.

The Government is investing $1.4 billion in early childhood education this year – about the same amount as the entire police budget – and 38 per cent more than the previous Government in 2008.

Last year I set up an independent Taskforce to review the effectiveness of ECE spending and to make recommendations on proposed improvements.

Consultation has recently finished and there has been an encouraging response – with more than 3000 submissions received. Thanks to all of you who took the time to respond.

I will now carefully consider all the feedback, and develop a plan to address the issues raised. We’re already made it clear there is a big work programme ahead – we need to work with the sector to lift quality, retain diversity, minimise bureaucracy and increase participation.

This Government continues to invest in the areas that will make the biggest difference in ECE.

Boosting participation in communities where some of our most vulnerable families live remains one of our top priorities.

Last year I spoke to you about our $91.8 million participation programme, which will create places for an additional 3500 children in areas of low participation.

Already, this programme is starting to make a real difference.

The most recent data shows participation in ECE has increased noticeably in target areas in Auckland over the last three years.

We are continuing to work with communities in Waitakere, Northland and Tamaki to find flexible solutions for families for whom early childhood education is neither a choice nor a priority.

Panmure Bridge Childcare Centre in Tamaki is a great example of the innovation that’s possible when you work alongside communities. This all-day centre is in an area of low participation, and families from the surrounding neighbourhood were not enrolling their children.

The Ministry worked with the service to find out what they needed to do to get the children to the centre and discovered many of the families only wanted their children to attend for part days.

So they are now offering sessional enrolments, which has brought in more children and provided more spaces for extra children.

Finally, I want to talk about another issue that I know is very important to you - dealing with bullying and other forms of disruptive behaviour.

We are investing $60 million in the Positive Behaviour for Learning Action Plan, developed by the Ministry and eight education sector groups including NZEI.

During the next three years, more than 7000 teachers will receive additional training in effective classroom management. Staff from 400 schools will receive training in how to promote positive behaviour and lift student engagement as part of the school-wide programme.

And some of the feedback I’ve received from schools and teachers involved with this initiative has been extremely heartening.

But be assured, we all understand this is a long-term project, and we must continue to support and monitor it and evaluate the results.

Other support for schools includes a new rapid response service following the most extreme behaviour incidents, and an Intensive Behaviour Service to target the most complex and challenging students.

Families also have a very important role to play. More than 15,000 parents in at-risk families will be supported to build more positive relationships with their children.

Here’s just one example of how parents from a community are taking the lead to make a positive change to their families’ lives.

Tapawera Area School, a small rural school in the Tasman district, is delivering the Incredible Years parent programme by involving the whole community.

Eighteen parents attend while their children go to a crèche that is overseen by senior students from the school. It is run in the early evening to ensure fathers are able to attend, and a local community group then caters an evening meal for participants and their children.

Participants’ feedback is very positive with many of the ideas discussed at the course having a positive impact on dealing with the behaviour issues.

In 2010 all the teachers from the junior department at Tapawera Area School attended the Incredible Years Teacher programme, showing the school has a real commitment to the programme.

And here’s what a student says about the Positive Behaviour for Learning initiative at her school:

“Before we started using the programme we were asked to write down what we thought the school rules were.

“We all thought of the rules, and there were heaps of them starting with ‘no’. For example: no running, no shouting, no swearing, no fighting.

“Now we only have three rules which we call expectations. They are: be safe, be respectful, be a positive learner.

“I think this programme is changing the behaviour in all of us.”

With fantastic results like this, over time we will see more engaged children, more confident staff and stronger parenting – ultimately reducing the incidence of bullying.

This Government is giving all young New Zealanders the chance to reach their potential.

You are all part of this – and I thank you for your hard work and commitment to some of our most at risk young people.

This is a Government that believes in education – and the fundamental difference it can make to the lives of our children. We are delivering on our promise to make a very good education system even better.

Thank you and all the best for the rest of your conference.

© Scoop Media

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