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Class size backdown

Written By: - Date published: 9:07 am, May 29th, 2012 - 32 comments
Categories: education, national, schools - Tags: , ,

The impact of class size on educational outcomes is a political issue, and that influences and clouds much of the research on the topic. (I regard this, and other examples of the politicisation of science, as an absolute condemnation of our society, but that’s an aside for another day). None the less the balance of the evidence is clear – and blindingly obvious to common sense – smaller classes lead to better educational outcomes. And perhaps the government is coming to its senses on the topic:

Govt rethinks move to bigger class sizes

The Government has agreed to set up a working party to look at the effect of new class ratio formulas on intermediate and middle schools – effectively an admission it blundered on that aspect of the policy.

About 215 schools providing technology subjects (cooking, sewing, art, ICT, woodwork and metalwork) for other schools could be affected more adversely than the Government expected. …

But senior government sources are pointing the finger at the Ministry of Education for advising Ms Parata wrongly on the effect on schools with a large number of Year 7 and 8 pupils (form one and two). … She expected 90 per cent of schools to lose or gain one full-time equivalent teacher and 10 per cent more than one. But some intermediate principals have calculated they could lose as many as five and that has come as a surprise to the Government.

“What has become really clear in that is that the Year 7 and 8 have had a 10-year provision for technology, the provision of which was not fully modelled,” Ms Parata said. …

No points for making up policy on the back of an envelope. Credit where it’s due, however, for recognising that a mistake has been made, and starting the backdown process. Now if only the same mental flexibility could be applied to the government’s other educational bungles, like national standards, and charter schools.


32 comments on “Class size backdown”

  1. Colonial Viper 1

    Watch out for the classic ‘bait and switch’. To look reasonable and attentive, National might indeed backpedal on class sizes either wholly or partially – but you can be sure that they have another sucker punch planned as a follow up.

    • Bunji 1.1

      They’ll backpedal only slightly, to look ‘reasonable’.

      It’ll be some tinkering around the calculations on Technology teachers, some guarantees that schools will transfer some of their funding to technology schools etc etc, but the lots of schools losing 1 or 2 teachers won’t change, the larger class sizes won’t change, and the loss of unfundable subjects will only be slightly mitigated.

      Children are the big losers from this budget, and will continue to be.

    • Enough is Enough 1.2

      I agree CV. The same bottom line objective will still be achieved by these thieving fuckers.

      Like most things this illegitimate government does, this is all about transferring wealth to the private sector. With class sizes swelling to sizes where every single student will be disadvantaged, what options do parents have to ensure their kids get a decent education. They will part with more of their limited cash and send them to private educators. you know those ones who educate for a profit.

      This is the privatisation of our education system and is as objectionable as the privatisation of our assets.

  2. Blue 2

    “…that has come as a surprise to the Government.”

    “…the provision of which was not fully modelled.”

    In other words “we are fucking idiots who make changes to schools based on absolutely no understanding of the situation, with our eyes only on the bottom line.”

    • bbfloyd 2.1

      in other words “we are fucking incompetents who are paying consultants to formulate policy for us”… which will be why they were caught out on this bit of stupidity….ministers like “beachball” bennett, and perata don’t even make their own policy decisions, let alone try to understand them…

      the spin lines are provided by their media trainers, so understanding is unnecessary when all that is required is repeated misdirection, and complicit media outlets…

  3. Dv 3

    AND the head of the Ministry is from England, with no experience of the NZ system.

    I wonder if they have modeled and costed the provision of larger classrooms to take the 30 to 37 kids?

    Parata didn’t front on Morning report, because the task force is not set up!!!

    The composition of that task force will be interesting. I wonder if they will have anyone from the schools?

  4. Newt 4

    Looks to me like another case of setting up a working group to pay a small number of unqualified people a large amount of money to take up a lot of time and ease the pressure on the piss-poor policies that they are supposed to be ‘reviewing’ while coming out with even more ridiculous claims to make these policies look good by comparison!

  5. stever 5

    What is it with all these task forces?

     Surely it’s the ministry’s job to do research and report on it, and possibilities and probably results of possible decisions. The pros and cons so the minister can make a decision.

    What is a task force going to do that the Ministry hasn’t (or shouldn’t) already have done? And if the Ministry hasn’t done something, then why not get them to do it? Why the task force????

    And, of course, we have yet another whiff of a minister refusing to take the blame for the organisation that they head.  

    • Draco T Bastard 5.1

      Surely it’s the ministry’s job to do research and report on it, and possibilities and probably results of possible decisions. The pros and cons so the minister can make a decision.

      That’s what you would think, yes, but we’re talking NACT here and they have to give their mates jobs so that they can have “research” that matches their ideology

      • prism 5.1.1

        and they have to give their mates jobs so that they can have “research” that matches their ideology
        or ' they have to have "research" that matches their ideology which gives their fellow-traveller mates' jobs.' It's the same either way isn't it. The rightist-thinking mates blob out their honey dew and the pollies eat it all up, it's their lifeblood, the insects.

  6. ianmac 6

    From the Primary Contributing Schools point of view this has a sad twist. Full attention is being given (rightly so) to the Intermediate Technology losses which will overshadow the losses to Primary Schools.
    The local school only lose one or two teachers? That’s not too bad then, is it?

    • ghostwhowalksnz 6.1

      Thats not going to be true either.

      Guess what, they havent taken into account zoning.

      Some schools will be able to raise their roll to keep all their teachers

      Other schools will have their roll drop which will increase the fall in teachers

    • Hayden 6.2

      Our local school (year 1 to 8, so including intermediate years) is looking at losing six technology teachers and closing the whole technology centre. I think they serve a few other schools too.

      My eldest is currently in year 2, and the youngest turns 5 in October, so hopefully the next government can start undoing this damage in 2014.

  7. Kath 7

    Is this the United States government?

    Can’t be! They never listen to common sense or teachers when it comes to education.

  8. Kath 8

    Never mind. I see it is the Ministry of Education. Not the US. At first, I thought this had to be an article from The Onion because the US government never does anything that makes sense.

  9. Ed 9

    I had seen the decision to cut the technology budget as related, but separate to, the decision on class sizes. This makes it a blunder by the politicians which the government is now spinning to try and blame the Department of Education. Any cut to other allowances would have had a flow on effect on class sizes, and they should have known that. This is ministerial incompetence – which the media appear to be swallowing as ‘inadequate advice’ – with no proof of any such thing.

  10. Uturn 10

    An basic question about larger class sizes:

    When I was at school, the size of the basic desks allowed for some fairly restricted aisles. Once you moved on to technical drawing, science or art classes the use of space became even more obvious. Since my old school hasn’t been knocked down and replaced lately, how will they fit an extra ten to twelve desks in the physical classroom space without having students unable to reach them unless they clamber over the top? Standing room only?

    • prism 10.1

      Uturn What the Dept has in mind? is for students to bring their own cushion and sit cross legged on the floor. Obvious really. So practical – and the desks can be sold off and the classrooms will be so spacious.

  11. First question in Parliament should be:

    To the Minister of Education:

    According to the Ministry’s modelling which Primary Schools will have an increase in the number of teachers following the implementation of the Government’s budget?

  12. The backdown begins:

    “Education Minister Hekia Parata says no school will lose more than two full-time teachers (FTTEs) as a result of the policy changes in Budget 2012.
    “As we’ve previously said, about 90% of schools will either gain, or have a net loss of less than one FTTE as a result of the combined effect of the ratio changes and projected roll growth,’’ Ms Parata says.
    “We have examined the effect on the other 10 per cent of schools, and some would be affected more than we would accept.
    “Schools will be given a guarantee that their staffing entitlement will not be reduced by more than two FTTEs over the next three years as a result of the policy changes.
    “It is also not the intention of the policy to undermine the specialist technology provision at Levels 7 and 8. The Ministry of Education, together with the sector working group to be established by the Ministry, will ensure that technology provision continues.
    “Either way no school will end up with more than two FTTEs fewer than they currently have, because of these policy changes.”
    Any additional cost from these changes will be met from a contingency set aside by the Ministry of Education to manage the transition to the new ratios, Ms Parata says.

    • Georgecom 12.1

      “staffing entitlement will not be reduced by more than 2 teachers over the next THREE YEARS”.

      After those 3 years, what then. No guarantees about the effects of staffing reductions and bigger class sizes after that.

      If the government seriously wants to sort out this issue, reinstate the funding.

  13. Dv 13

    Bang goes the surplus in 2014!!

  14. Draco T Bastard 14

    Now if only the same mental flexibility could be applied to the government’s other fuckups, like national standards, charter schools, Roads of National Significance, selling state assets…


    Of course, none of that will happen as they’re implementing them through blind faith rather than than through considered positions.

  15. Mel 15

    Breaking News
    Minister of Education announces the ‘good news’ that schools will now lose up to two teachers only. How dumb does this govt think New Zealanders are?

    • prism 15.1

      Mel Is there a reward for guessing (calculating) the right answer to how calculating this NACT pact is?

  16. Draco T Bastard 16

    Excellent post over at the Dimpost on class sizes and why the accountants have got it all wrong.

  17. Dv 17

    From stuff

    Intermediate school teachers are considering strike action in response to the increased class sizes.

  18. B.A.Debt 18

    If I owned a childcare company, I’d be putting up my prices right now. Big classes = low-confidence for kids stuck in the crowd, and teachers with microphones like they have in China yelling out the model answers. You could get test results higher this way, through rote learning and forceful drilling.

    But the big question is, “is our ‘new way’ really working?” Is NCEA making more children incompetent than the previous system? Why does it seem that kids are getting dumber every year by doing all these ‘static images’ and ‘group-work tasks’ that amount to teachers not marking their work that often, especially their writing?

    In those rich children’s schools the teacher expects work often and they are expected to mark writing and mathematics more carefully. Kids in the worst schools are not writing at all and doing only the most basic maths. Of course science and technology is important for these kids with no educational background who will go on to be tradesmen, or unemployable.

    Teachers working hard? Yeah, but they’re all too often the lowest level graduates. People who either don’t or couldn’t make it in more highly competitive fields. This is all about salaries and status. We could have far better teachers if we literally tripled entry level salaries without bringing in degrading and wasteful government regulations and monitors. This would make education a more attractive field for the kind of people who are busily destroying the world as bankers.

    There is one solution. Teachers and parents strike together! Parents say, if the teachers won’t teach, then we won’t work!

    Nationwide strikes!

    Sack Parata!

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