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Q+A -Panel Discussion in response to Parata

Q+A – March 25, 2012

Panel Discussion in response to HEKIA PARATA interview


PAUL Well, I think we all agree that this is an education minister who will not be taken lightly.

Absolutely not, no.

PAUL And neither, as Michael Williams said with David Shearer – was it last week or the week before? Won’t make policy on the hoof.

JOHN TAMIHERE – Former Labour Minister
Yeah, but just going back to the main conversation, which is this huge problem that we have in our education system – it’s a big, big industry. It’s very complex. It’s all over the shop.

PAUL Decile five back to decile one.

JOHN Well, that’s where I target, right.

PAUL The long tail, yep.

JOHN That’s my community. Cos 80% of our schools out west are in that bracket. And so we’ve got the Education Review Office supposed to audit – hopeless in the northern region. So if parents aren’t able, by default the teachers and the principal become the everything for their kids’ education. So, a lot of our parents love their kids, get them to school dressed and fed and everything, but, gosh, they struggle to help them on the campus, and they’re just hoping like hell that it’s working for them. By the time we get to secondary schools out there, we’ve got major problems on kids connecting with the secondary curricula. Now, we’ve got to sort that. So it’s not about an employment agency for teachers any more. It’s about really concentrating on outcomes for the kids.

PAUL Yes, well, what about performance pay? I mean, I think the thing is she’s talking about it, of course – reward the better teachers and so forth. But then you might say that’s dangerous for her. The unions will just take her apart. But then you’ve got David Shearer talking the same kind of stuff.

DEBORAH Yeah, yeah. I mean, I think they’ve just... The unions have just got to stop fighting that battle. You see, Robin Duff keeps insisting that it’s not all about teachers, cos they like to blame the parents. But in Los Angeles, you know, they did this survey over seven years of comparing exam results over maths and English, and it was a controlled result which took allowance for poverty, background, ethnicity, etc, and what it showed, that Hekia Parata is absolutely right – it comes down to teachers. It’s nothing to do with class size. Schools, whether it’s charter, private, whatever – they’re just in the end bricks and mortar, and it all depends on the teacher.

PAUL If the teacher can inspire you, you will go ahead.

DEBORAH We all know about a teacher who inspired us, and we have to identify those teachers, and we don’t have anything external in New Zealand. We lag behind the rest of the world in terms of identifying our best, our excellent teachers and rewarding them with performance pay. They have to move out of the classroom to get better pay.

DR RAYMOND MILLER – Political Analyst
Having taught in decile-one schools in South Auckland, I know there are things you can’t control – child poverty, dysfunctional families or whatever. But within the environs of the school, there are things you can do, and teaching competence is incredibly important, and all the research tends to back this up. She didn’t go too far with the performance pay, but performance pay has to be part of the formula.

PAUL That’s right. I think she feels we have no real criteria to assess performance at the moment.

RAYMOND That’s right, and that is a problem.

DEBORAH No external...

RAYMOND That’s right, and of course the unions keep talking about individual performance pay, but you can, as the universities in New Zealand do, you can actually reward people in groups for their performance. You don’t have to reward individuals.

PAUL And of course, you see, the self-interest of the PPTA again – Shane mentioning that quote from, oh, one of the big wallahs in the PPTA that if you do this with your class sizes, 2000 teachers will be gone.

JOHN You see, there's a whole bunch of tools that are gonna be needed to have this conversation open, and one of them is charter schools, one of them are national standards, one of them is performance. So it’s not one tool, it’s a whole bunch of tools. See, Lange’s Tomorrow’s Schools are now today’s bloody catastrophes. They are a generation out. So we really need to refocus them. Schools used to be the hub of our communities. We’re locked out of them up till 8.30am. We’re locked out of them from 4.30pm. They’ve got huge theatres. They’ve got huge swimming pools. Yet the ratepayer’s gotta double-pay and build other... So we’ve got to get these principals and these schools reconnected to their communities as well, and that’s all part of it.

DEBORAH But, see, people like John Hattie, who’s gone to Melbourne, he was at Auckland University; Russell Bishop at Waikato – these aren’t raving right-wingers. Patrick Walsh, president of the Secondary Principals Association. I mean, they all talk about performance pay. Russell Bishop at Waikato had the Te Kotahitanga – the teacher expectation, especially with Maori pupils. Spectacular success.

PAUL Having said this, though, things with kids don’t... I know in my experience things with kids don’t happen overnight. There are wonderful things... If you go to the schools, there are wonderful things being done in them. There are dedicated teachers.

JOHN That’s the problem with the conversation. When you have a go at education, all the hard-working teachers, all the outstanding principals feel you’re getting at them. And that’s not the issue.

RAYMOND And we do have in New Zealand an extremely good educational system, and we tend to...

PAUL We’re in the top 10 in the world.

RAYMOND Yeah, that’s right.

DEBORAH Look at the youth unemployment rate at the moment.

RAYMOND Yeah, I know there are problems, but nevertheless there are lots of positives. We do know that educational performance is absolutely critical to social mobility and to economic prosperity, and I’m sure that’s why Treasury has weighed in on this particular debate.

JOHN Yeah, but it’s not working if you’re brown, and...

PAUL I’ll leave it there. Can I just leave it there? Strong point.

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