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LB: Executive Principals and National’s Education Dystopia

Written By: - Date published: 8:34 am, February 27th, 2014 - 18 comments
Categories: education, greens, schools - Tags:

Local Bodies put this post up last week. I see that Dave Kennedy, aka the author bsprout (no relation to The Sprout), has also announced that he is the Green’s candidate for Invercargill. Good luck. With the retirement of the National incumbent, the seat is far more wide open now.

If you asked teachers and school communities what would make the most difference in helping their kids and lifting achievement, especially in lower decile communities, I know what the responses would be. They would ask for greater access to special education services and RTLBs, more teacher aids to provide support for their high needs children and have our once amazing advisory services reinstated. They would ask for more time to organise high interest programmes and less time on data collection and report writing. Teachers would also like to have their professional knowledge respected and greater autonomy to decide themselves how to meet the needs of those in their class. Having nurses and social workers available to deal with the constant health and welfare issues that confront many teachers as they try to teach would also be useful.

When John Key announced the Government’s plan of spending a whopping $359 million on education it was received with a sort of stunned incredulity. For years there was never enough money to pay support staff a living wage or fund our special education services fully and suddenly we were presented with a significant windfall.

Elements of what Key presented were similar to what the profession had been wanting for a number of years, recognition of great teachers, greater collaboration and career pathways, but the government’s version was a little different to the profession’s. This wasn’t a comprehensive policy that also addressed the complexities of teaching and learning across different communities but a model of a new leadership structure and one that gave huge financial rewards to an elite few.

What the National led Government proposes is a shift away from the self managed Tommorrow’s Schools to Ministry led ‘Executive Principals’ selected to do their bidding. These principal’s (most likely drawn from the secondary sector) will oversee clusters of around ten schools and will appoint expert and lead teachers to work in those schools under their direction. Ministry selection panels will be appointing these principals who have a commitment to the Government’s data driven National Standards and as such will be under the same gagging clause as others who work for government ministries. This will effectively shut down much of the professional opposition to future changes and will separate school leadership even more from their teaching colleagues.

There is some vague semblance of consultation with the profession around these new roles but when you consider that it generally takes many years of collaboration, research and trials to develop sound educational change, the ten weeks that the Government has allowed in this case is laughable. I am guessing there will be few changes allowed to the actual roles but some input will be grudgingly accepted to the manner of implementation, as occurred with the introduction of National Standards.

There will be an even greater distinction between public and private education from now on. Private schools will continue to receive even greater funding and support for their elite students and will enjoy a high level of autonomy (as will the newly introduced Charter Schools). Public Schools, on the other hand, will become data driven institutions where their leadership will be expected to deliver Ministry driven programmes centered on literacy and numeracy. I can predict that once the Executive Principals (EPs) are appointed the Government will eventually save money from the initial investment by applying a business model to schooling. The EPs will most likely develop into CEOs and all other principals in their cluster will lose their management roles and become lead teachers. The many school boards will probably become merged into one governance body that will oversee all the schools in the cluster. The savings will be considerable but each school will lose their identity as they will have to conform to the vision of each EP, a little like franchised businesses.

You may think that this is a cynical exaggeration of what the government has presented but we only need to look at how National Standards and Charter Schools were introduced, with the total disregard of professional advice, to see the logic of what I have described. This Government clearly supports the GERM agenda that has corrupted public education in Australia, England and the US and we are only experiencing what has already happened there.

Few conservative governments understand education and the value of professional knowledge and the treatment of the Christchurch schools revealed a total disregard of the importance of communities. The complexities of natural human development and the flexibility necessary to meet the individual needs of children is also completely beyond them. They do understand inputs and outputs, spreadsheets of data and commercial competition. Applying this thinking and understanding to education is a logical outcome and the proliferation of ‘one size fits all’ models. Sadly, once again, our most vulnerable children will not receive the sort of support they really need and inequalities will continue to grow.

18 comments on “LB: Executive Principals and National’s Education Dystopia”

  1. One Anonymous Bloke 1

    National’s standards? Gone by lunchtime.

    Charter schools – closed or compulsorily acquired without compensation. No compromise. Promise to do this every single time the right tries to privatise or otherwise interfere in education. For the children.

    Let teachers teach.

    • miravox 1.1

      National’s standards? Gone by lunchtime Yes

      Charter schools – closed or compulsorily acquired without compensation. No compromise. Promise to do this every single time the right tries to privatise or otherwise interfere in education. Yes

      For the children, Let teachers teach Yes

  2. One Anonymous Bloke 2

    The new management structure looks like a tool for direct political interference in public education (Uncle Joe Stalin would be proud) while funding private schools where privilege can be nurtured, entrenching an “us and them” mentality.


  3. ianmac 3

    Well written and captures the essence of the problems confronting the sector.

    I suspect that this new model would fit the Secondary Schools better but is fraught with problems especially in deciding what a good teacher is. A Mr Tom Parsons Principal Queen Charlotte College was one of the party who visited Hong Kong and Singapore to suss out their approaches to the Leadership program that then became ours. He is a vigorous supporter of the plan but again it is from the Secondary sector where subjects taught are sharply defined.
    And $359,000,000 to spend? What a waste!!!

  4. KJT 4

    I doubt if there will be savings.

    These “executive principals” will, no doubt have to have “executive” salaries, and like similar executives elsewhere, will require a well paid administrative staff of lesser “executives” to do their work for them.

    The “savings” will be as illusory as Bradfords “lower power prices”.

    The “great man” executive model does not even work well in the private sector.
    “Many corporations and State or private enterprises run despite management, not because of them. In fact the constant parade of new brooms trying to make a name for themselves, with rapid changes and cost cutting, cause competent staff to resign and demoralise the rest”.

    Meanwhile. Teaching initiatives that have been proven to work, such as remedial reading, Teacher aids, and support staff will be starved of funding as usual, while the well researched student centred, new curriculum, will continue to be sidelined by idealogical failures, copied from the USA and UK.

  5. KJT 5

    Just what Teaching needs. More supervision, managing, “executives” and bureaucrats.

  6. greywarbler 6

    The future is in providing services we have been told. Our education system is to be limited by National Standards programs planned as suitable for service workers no doubt.

    And employment opportunities are to be looked for in supplying call centre workers. Well educated, low salaries, English speaking make NZ an attractive world centre for northern hemisphere businesses particularly.

    Whoopee. That is what we have to hope for. A battery hen existence, virtually chained to your seat and your output constantly monitored. Experience of an acquaintance of French conditions for software programmers had them lined up facing two long walls facing their computers in a cell-like room with a window at one end a door at the other, where you could escape! But they would still be receiving reasonable pay. Call centre workers have the attraction of low wages as part of their allure. So sexy being poor and stuffed!

    And catch this heard on Radionz – an excoriating rant on poverty (in NZ?) and ‘judge me’. The Houso Kid. Laurie May an Oz performance poet. Poetry slams in NZ are being run here by Laurie, one already in Hamilton and one to come in Wellington so look out for it!!!
    Laurie May at Poetry in Motion
    Heaven Pizza, Wellington
    Wed 5 Mar 7:00pm
    10.05 Feature: Laurie May – Alice Springs slam poet

  7. dv 7

    AND has anyone seen any cost for covering the teachers out for 2 days a week?

  8. captain hook 8

    Half the trouble in New Zealand education would be fixed by raising teachers pay and attracting more intelligent people and stopping the brain drain.
    Its that simple.
    throwing money away on establishments for religious nutbars and idiotes who think they know everything is a complete waste of time and effort and typical of a party who get by on native cunning and leave it up to the rest to fix up their blunders and depredations..

  9. ianmac 9

    Teachers in my family do it for the satisfaction and barely notice the salary. Ask a teacher what is their net salary and they are unsure. Ask them what the reading age of a child is and they know. Money is nice to have but it is not the only reason.

  10. greywarbler 10

    Your family are clearly the reason why Joyce has been able to get away with mismanaging the mismanagement of the provision of the software for Novopay’s mismanaged salary payment system. If they weren’t so dedicated to the job they would have been jumping up and down and going on strike and picketing parliament and so on. This old-fashioned dedication to work and service over emolument is disadvantaging them in today’s thrusting, competitive society.

  11. kiwigunner 11

    As a principal I am disgusted by these proposals on so many levels. But mostly by the reaction of the NZ Principals Federation and the PPTA who saw money and asked how high do you want me to jump/ The NZPF foolishly believing that despite this govt ignoring them for the last five years and treating them and all their members with disdain that getting around the table was eer going to be successful and the PPTA who have selfishly seen that most of these positions will go to their members and so they can shit on primary schools and education in general.

    Congratulations on summing up the issues so well. National have all but stuffed public education in our country this is the beginning of the end if it happens no one in leadership in education understands it as well as this poster. In some ways we deserve what we get.


    I don’t see how the proposed incentives could be a bad thing. They will encourage a section of the work force who did not previously consider the teaching profession an option worth considering. As for charter schools give them a go let the market decide, the parents will be the first to judge ( as they should be), the funding should follow the children that is their right as citizens, it is their money.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 12.1

      Nah. Close them all. Offer no compensation to the investors. Make clear this will happen every single time the National Party tries to privatise or otherwise interfere in education.

      • felix 12.1.1

        +1. What do we gain by letting them even half-fuck it?

        • One Anonymous Bloke

          Same for health, prisons, welfare, police, justice, military, ACC, regulatory authorities etc.

          Left and Right, we all agree: we need these services. Delivering them isn’t a money-making scheme, it’s what government does.

    • KJT 12.2

      If, the market, was deciding, charter schools would not be getting many times more money than State schools.

  13. captain hook 13

    let the market decide. what planet did that guy come from. does the market train teachers? can the market discern a religious nutter. all the market can do is offer false promise to the fools who are standing in line waiting to be fleeced.

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