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LB: Rich Schools, Poor Schools

Written By: - Date published: 3:33 pm, February 14th, 2014 - 6 comments
Categories: education, schools - Tags: ,

Local bodies makes points about the changes in the school system over the years. The nett effect over decades has been to force the inter-generational inequality that a good school system is meant to prevent. The type of school system that this government favours appears to be designed to remove the opportunities for those whose parents aren’t lucky. Time to start again?

I am a strong advocate for public schools and the philosophy behind quality public education. It should be a basic right of any child, in any affluent first world country, to have ready access to a good education, no matter their social economic status or culture. All public schools should be funded equitably so that, as much as possible, a child’s local school can be expected to deliver teaching and learning of a high standard.

When I started teaching in 1980 the system wasn’t perfect but there was little noticeable difference between schools in resourcing and professional support. We had inspectors and advisors who had a good idea of the needs of individual schools and took a fairly paternalistic approach to ensuring their support went where it was needed most. I also remember a clear career pathway where one was expected to build experience in different roles before taking on leadership positions. Beginning teachers were not employed in small rural schools, for example, because it was recognised that they needed the professional guidance provided by larger teaching communities. In two or three teacher schools, where children would have the same teacher for several years, they needed experienced professionals in those jobs.

The sense of equitability has largely left education now and we appear to have abandoned the idea that all schools should be supported in a similar way. We now have winners and losers. Private schools now capture a much greater level of public funding despite the fact they teach a small minority of our students. Private Secondary Schools also grab a greater share of special needs funding because low decile parents cannot afford the assessments to access the support. Small private schools are saved with public money, at great expense, while similar sized state schools are closed.

While the Government claims parents now have choice, this isn’t actually true in reality. Despite the fact that schools can’t impose fees, most high decile schools now expect large donations that are beyond struggling families and those who can’t pay them can be publicly shamed. Struggling parents are having their children excluded from some schools because it is too embarrassing to be not able to pay the ‘donation’. Even in the public system we have ‘rich’ schools and ‘poor’ schools and despite the decile weighting that provides greater funding for lower deciles there can be as much as $1,000 a year difference in available funds per pupil between high and low decile schools.

Into this mix we have the new Charter (or Partnership) Schools where the concept of a level playing field has again been thrown out the window. These schools are being funded at a rate well above a similar sized public schools and teachers are being grabbed from previous positions with the attraction of much higher salaries. It will be hardly fair to compare the success of the Charter Schools against the public schools when the level of public funding per student can be around $3500 greater. What is even more obscene is that the Charter schools don’t even have to use the state funding for educational purposes and can filter some off for profit or other purposes.

The Government’s latest plan to pay some principals and teachers much higher salaries, based partly on their National Standards results, will likely destroy what little collegiately is left in the profession. Teachers and principals will be pitted against each other for an increase in salary of up to $50,000 and the temptation to fudge results and narrow teaching to access the money will be strong. This is the experience of other education systems using similar policies.

The once level playing field for New Zealand schools is but a memory and for many school communities it is like playing up hill into a strong wind with no half time or change of sides possible (and the score difference is growing rapidly).


6 comments on “LB: Rich Schools, Poor Schools”

  1. ianmac 1

    Since politicians started used education to win points we have lost the innovative world leading reputation that once we had. We are poorly funded on the World comparisons but in spite of this we were world leaders. Innovations occurred by ideas being tested and developed from the classrooms upwards. Via the Inspectorate good ideas were expanded and exchanged.
    But now politicians believe that if they impose a business model that schools will improve and they will claim progress. This top down imposition diminishes the previous innovative cooperative model. Sadly the insanity of the Competitive model destroys that which made us famous around the world. By the time this is recognised, Key, Parata, Joyce and Tolley will be long gone. Sigh!

  2. Bill 2

    I guess in a western world where the poor have been discarded (all that ‘off-shoring’) in preference of profit, then there is little need to have a generally well educated population. But what to do with ‘the discards’? Why! Make profit from them through a privatised education system!

    At least then, in the eyes of the money grabbers, discards continue to make a contribution, aye?

    • Murray Olsen 2.1

      And once they’ve made profits for private education, they can move on to private prisons. Wonderful world these pricks have made for us. And, collectively, we have let them.

      • bad12 2.1.1

        Murray, in between attending the private profit making schools and being incarcerated in the private profit making prisons the target demographic, the children of the bottom 20% of the economic equation will provide further profit to the privateers having inserted themselves in to the welfare system where such privateers will be paid ten times the amount a beneficiary is able to wrest from the State to ‘mentor’ them into unstable employment situations run by other private profiteers receiving Government subsidies for employing such people,

        The Tory tangled web, they cannot be seen to openly destroy the welfare state so they will simply suck it dry from within…

  3. Chooky 3

    +1000 great post!

    there needs to be a revolution in education back to the free, egalitarian, high quality, secular, state education system that was first established in New Zealand in the 1800s……and an education system which once led the world, as Finland does today.

    Lets hope the Left parties jump up and down and make a meal out of this one ….

  4. tricledrown 4

    Partnehipship schools in the UK and Charter schools in the US have been a failure.
    Wrote learnining for passing exams make their stats look good.
    But when these children leave shool and Go on to tertiary education they fail because they may be able to pass exams but they can’t think for themselves.
    IThat is how the right wing behaves so they can’t see this as a problem.

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