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The education debate

Written By: - Date published: 8:00 pm, July 7th, 2014 - 58 comments
Categories: david cunliffe, education, election 2014, Hekia parata, john key, labour, national, same old national, schools - Tags: ,

David Cunliffe Congress

This issue has already had comment by Karol and Rob Salmond but it is so important that I thought it deserved more discussion.

I spent the weekend at the Labour 2014 Congress.  The event was very well run and very enjoyable.

David Cunliffe’s speech was superb, just about the best that I have seen him give.  He was obviously enjoying himself and the speech was very well received by the large crowd.  Yesterday we saw a more natural David Cunliffe.  If he campaigns in a similar mode this election will be Labour’s for the taking.

I must compliment the back room work that went into this.  David’s helpers are highly professional intelligent people who put their heart and soul into the job.  They occasionally get blamed when things go wrong even though they have no control over events but do not get credit when they do their job well.  Keep it up guys and gals.

The emphasis in David’s speech was on education policy and Labour’s announcement of 2,000 new teaching positions in an effort to reduce class numbers is crisp clean policy which will have an immediate effect.  Clearly the policy presents an alternative to National’s promise of $360 million for increased salaries for the selected few.  That policy was clearly an attempt to wedge Labour on education policy.  It is not normal tory behaviour to put more resources into education.  The area is traditionally one of Labour’s strengths and National was clearly wanting to dampen this strength.

My thoughts on National’s policy was that it had no detail or substance.  It was a large amount of money set aside to pay to preferred teachers without any thought being given into how they were going to be picked or what the expectations were for those teachers.  The scheme was likely to fracture a profession which relies on collegiality and cooperation to function properly and maybe that was the idea.

Labour’s response is well thought through.  Using the same money that was set aside plus a bit more Labour will employ more teachers, 2,000 of them, and reduce average class sizes.  National has claimed that this is not a good spend of limited resources.  But John Key’s words have come back to haunt him.  If this is the case then why do private schools advertise smaller class size as an advantage?  Allowing a teacher to spend more time on each of their pupils must have a beneficial effect on that pupil’s eduction.

John Key Private Schools small classes

Of course there are other things that can be done to improve education standards and alleviating child poverty is the most important.  National is saying that class size only has a minor effect but when you look at Hattie’s list you have to think that smaller class sizes will have a significant beneficial effect.

For instance the following factors (ranked in importance) are considered to be amongst the most effective things you can do to improve education.  And as pointed out by dv they are all beneficially affected by smaller class sizes.

The list includes:

3.  Providing formative evaluation
4.  Micro teaching
5.  Acceleration
6.  Classroom behavioural
7.  Comprehensive interventions for learning disabled students
8.  Teacher clarity
9.  Reciprocal teaching
10.  Feedback
11.  Teacher-Student relationships

Smaller class sizes will help of each of these.

And the cracks are starting to show.  Campbell Live this evening invited Hekia Parata to debate education issues with Chris Hipkins but she declined to show up.  This is not a novel proposal.  Our politicians should front up and debate, in a respectful way, the issues that our country faces.

Labour now has 75 days until the next election.  I believe its chances have been greatly enhanced by what has happened over the past four days.

Bring it on!

58 comments on “The education debate”

  1. Clemgeopin 1

    What! The education minister of the country does not show up to discuss one of the most important educational issues on Campbell live this evening? Why not, I am wondering! Strange attitude!

  2. DJ 2

    Forgive me if I am wrong, but are there not more than 2500 schools in NZ? So 2000 teachers is not even one more per school. How is that going to reduce the average class size?

    And by “an immediate effect”, you of course mean in 4 years time once these new students qualify?

    I’ll tell you why Cunners looked so comfortable, it’s because he had no one there questioning his every word. He is a lame duck.

    • mickysavage 2.1

      It is a bit messy DJ but you fund extra teachers and the positions will open up. Some schools will get two or more new teachers, some will get none, but overall class sizes will reduce.

      By “immediate effect” I was referring to kiwis appreciating that Labour had stated its position. Of course the educational benefits will flow through as more teachers are employed and as professional training is instituted.

      Of course the alternative is to do nothing apart from pick a few winners and pay them more money. And then hope that trickle down is working …

    • Te Reo Putake 2.2

      2500 schools, 25000 teachers. Average 10 per school. Add 2000 more teachers, the average drops by 7 or 8%, which matches the drop in class sizes the policy promises.

      “And by “an immediate effect”, you of course mean in 4 years time once these new students qualify?”

      Nope, an immediate effect on the election campaign.

      DJ, I’ll tell you why Cunners (sic) looked so comfortable. It’s because he’s going to be PM in a couple of months.

  3. Jester 3

    But won’t the 2000 extra teachers only cover the expected increase in students coming into the school system?

    • Te Reo Putake 3.1

      Well, shit, it’s a good thing Labour’s planning for that, coz National aren’t. Any other ineffective talking points you wanna roll out?

  4. Jester 4

    Not sure why you believe it’s a ineffective talking point TRP.

    If the 2000 teachers don’t adequately cover the number of new students then class sizes won’t change at all. Unless of course the 2000 are on top of what’s needed by increase in student numbers.

    • mickysavage 4.1

      It is on top Jester. It is a new spend.

      • Jester 4.1.1

        Ok thanks for that, so we’re now talking 4200 new teachers by 2018?

        • Te Reo Putake 4.1.1.1

          How many are National promising? Honestly, is this the best you guys can come up with?

          • Jester 4.1.1.1.1

            Don’t be a arse TRP. I’m asking a valid question.

            • Te Reo Putake 4.1.1.1.1.1

              No, you’re not. Perhaps you might like to show us your workings as to why 2200 more teachers are needed in the next 3 and a half years just to keep up with demand. That suggests over 60000 more kids are going to be in education in that time. Do you want to take some time to check the email again?

              • Jester

                I was actually basing it on a population growth of approx 50000 between 2007-12. Giving you the benefit of doubt that we will have 23 per class then let’s say 2100 teachers need.

                Not even taking into account of a possible attrition rate of say 10% per year that’s still a lot don’t you think.

                • One Anonymous Bloke

                  Why are you basing it on what you reckon when real stats are available?

                  Lazy wingnuts can’t use Google or something? Reality-check associated trauma?

                  In fact the trend is 4,000 or so extra teachers over eight years. In some years it went down.

                  Pfft.

                  • Jester

                    So true I’ll refrain from taking dodgy stats as gospel in future. 🙂

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      Shorter Jester: ‘Government policy costs money. Waah waah waah. Rio Tinto good, education bad! Waah waah waah!’

                      Or have I mistaken your vacuities for substance?

                • McFlock

                  really?
                  759,878 to 759,960 is school roll growth of approximately 50,000?
                  #planetkey

                  • Jester

                    Well your data provided certainly doesn’t show that growth I admit. But I’d expect a population bubble that commenced in 2007 wouldn’t have any impact on school numbers until the child becomes school age. So starting 2012.

                    Based on the info we are still looking at 10k child per year increase which does seem unrealistic. And I believe it was quoted as an additional 2500 teachers needed to manage that growth.

                    Perhaps the data wasn’t as reputable as I originally believed.

                    • McFlock

                      lol if you look up infoshare, the birth rates and numbers have been falling or static. Tends to happen in a recession and “brighter future”.

                      Where did you get your stats from? A greasy cetacean perchance?

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      10k per child, by a farcical coincidence, is roughly the difference in public money between a registered teacher education and a fundamentalist right wing loony brought to you with no public debate and rammed through under urgency education.

            • McFlock 4.1.1.1.1.2

              Ya reckon? It’s pretty simple: previously planned new teachers + 2000.

              Whether that’s a thousand new grads a year or using qualified teachers who currently can’t get work in NZ, who gives a shit?

              • Jester

                A greasy cetacean? No of course not. 🙂

                It on page 7/8 of this document.

                https://www.labour.org.nz/sites/default/files/issues/21st-century-policy_0.pdf

                • dv

                  The number was 2500 BY 2020

                  • Jester

                    Yes I noticed that. 2020 being the year the child reaches high school, however i would expect that children would need a teacher well before that considering the primary years are the formative years.

                    Anyway gotta dash. It’s getting late and I’ve got school tomorrow.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      Learn some New Zealand history while you’re there: pay attention to per capita GDP trends and public debt levels. You might get a clue as to on which side of the political divide the economic competence resides.

                    • dv

                      Anyway gotta dash. It’s getting late and I’ve got school tomorrow.
                      Thats a bit odd because it is the school holidays .

                • McFlock

                  bit of a bubble I guess if you go from 2003 or so, but I’m not sure where they got 50,000 from. Cumulatively it seems to fall pretty short of 50,000.
                  But that just makes the increase in teachers even better for class sizes.

                • One Anonymous Bloke

                  Page 7/8 you say? Stick with National: their entire policy package is two pages of graphics and bullet points.

    • millsy 4.2

      So do you think we should have class sizes of 50-100 then?

      Why are smaller classes good for private schools, but not good for public schools.

      • Clemgeopin 4.2.1

        Because the rich and the inheritors of huge wealth are very special human beings who are a privileged class who deserve and can afford the expensive private schools with small class sizes and great resources, unlike the children of ordinary people and the ‘under class’?

        • Tautoko Viper 4.2.1.1

          The students at private schools also have parents with the means to pay for additional coaching for exams if necessary and/or the money to pay for a report from an educational psychologist to prove their children have special needs.
          In 2012″ the school that received the most taxpayer support for its students was King’s College in Auckland – 24.4 per cent of its 180 students sitting NCEA exams got funding for special help.” http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/8830344/Private-schools-snare-special-needs-cash

          Of course “NZQA have completed a revamp of the Special Assessment Conditions application procedure, which has simplified the alternative evidence aspect that schools may previously have found a bit cumbersome.” http://www.edgazette.govt.nz/Articles/Article.aspx?ArticleId=8921

          It is pleasing to see that Labour’s policy on Education is designed to strengthen the public education system particularly for those in lower decile areas. What is more, Labour has an understanding of the collegiality of teachers that is simply not understood by many people who have only been involved in the dog-eat-dog business world.

  5. Olwyn 5

    I thought David Cunliffe’s speech was brilliant, and I hope people grasp the import of this move on education.

    Remember how we got charter schools? No one at all campaigned for them, but according to legend, John Banks twisted Key’s arm as part of a coalition deal. National’s policy is without detail or substance because it is simply following a corporatist agenda on every front. The super-teachers are nothing more than another bunch of overpaid CEO’s.

    What is important about this move of Labour’s is that it involves actually taking hold of a lever and using it to change direction – for the better. We should all take heart from this.

    • ianmac 5.1

      And we are still waiting for National to show the research on effectiveness of National Strandards, Charter Schools, League Tables, or Taking expert teachers out of the schools or paying huge amounts for a few to “mentor” other schools. (The Secondary approval is mostly for the money and promotion avenues.)

  6. ianmac 6

    There are many qualified teachers available now some of whom are recently trained but waiting their first job.

  7. dv 7

    ALSO remember how we got Nat stds.
    One line in a document some where and then rammed thru under urgency.

    • Jester 7.1

      “dv …
      8 July 2014 at 9:15 am
      Thats a bit odd because it is the school holidays .”

      What’s so odd about working in a school holiday programme? This is our busiest time of the year.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 7.1.1

        There’ll be no time for Remedial NZ Economic History then 🙁

        • Jester 7.1.1.1

          No, no lessons for you today OAB, I think you have received enough schooling for the time being 🙂

          • dv 7.1.1.1.1

            10 and not in the program yet?
            What time does it start then?
            A what happened yesterday – no program?

          • One Anonymous Bloke 7.1.1.1.2

            Today, I learnt that Jester can make lots of vacuous comments, and still fail to make a single substantive argument.

  8. Chris 8

    As a teacher of English to increasing numbers of new migrants and refugee students, ( these children are never welcomed into private schools), the education policy outlined by Cunliffe shows real insight into helping teachers of state schools cope with hugely diverse classrooms. We already have expert teachers in our schools but they need extra help to address all the needs that present, especially in Auckland. How many refugee students does Kings allow in as pupils Mr Key?

  9. Weepu's beard 9

    I’ve got two kids at a decile 5 school in Auckland. National Standards have just bitten and I’ve got no idea what their interim reports are saying. They are supposed to be plain language but instead it’s acronyms galore.

    The older one is eight and in a class of 33 kids. She’s now starting to fall behind where she should be. Her teacher is a disinterested, immigrant Pom bent on testing as opposed to teaching. All she discussed in the parent teacher meeting was this test and that test, but not the child. She’s not a kiwi and I don’t think she knows what kiwi kids are about. She’s bought Grange Hill to Auckland and that’s what Hekia Pariah and the rest of this experimental govt is all about.

    • cricklewood 9.1

      I think thats a case of a disengaged teacher than a fault of National standards. My daughter’s teachers to date have both been wonderful. During parent teacher interviews they both made reference to the standards and to where my daughter sits only in passing and spent the vast majority talking about her improvement through the year and her strengths and weaknesses. We went home practical advice about how we can help her at home with things like maths where she was struggling a little.
      I

  10. Whatever next? 10

    David’s speach inspired me because of it’s simple message, all kiwis can have a decent lif, and this starts with education.It is no coincidence that education has become a survival race for young children, mere preparation for when they have zero hours contracts when they leave school.
    The masses will know no better, with media in corporate hands, cheap alcohol and TV which brings on a coma.nice work National, your mother’s would be so proud

  11. McGrath 11

    I like National’s policy of paying more for quality teachers. I also like Labour’s policy of more teachers. It’s wishful thinking but it would be nice if they did both.

    • freedom 11.1

      Anything in particular you like about the Elite Teacher policy?

      • McGrath 11.1.1

        Having better performing teachers go to other schools to help and pass on their skills. This will improve the overall standard of teaching. Combine this with more teachers and you should see a winning education system.

        • freedom 11.1.1.1

          My apologies for the tardy reply McGrath. Unexpected interruption, so I expanded a little on what I originally was going to say.

          On the surface, having good teachers grow more good teachers sounds great. Underneath the cracked veneer of the seedling box however, is the borer ridden truth of the policy. Taking good teachers away from their kids, leaves kids without their good teachers.

          I have heard the Minister say it could be ten days a month for some of the teachers. That is a big chunk of time. Even if only ten days a term, that is time away from their current responsibilities. Responsibilities to the kids, to the kids’ parents, the schools, the communities. I would like to ask the Minister which, of the many varied demands on a teacher’s diminishing time, do we pass off to another overworked teacher?

          Have you bothered to picture it? An overworked teacher, asked to accept the Government which trained them, simply does not rate them as good enough to teach the students. At least not without some supervision or assistance or special training but is still relied upon, nay, expected to pick up all the slack created by the absence of other better teachers and to do it all for a lot less money than the other teachers get. To top it all off, they will have strangers come into their classrooms and their community and fix it all up!

          Then there is the bigger issue of how a good teacher is most likely an integral part of a healthy school. Healthy schools make better communities, better communities provide stronger leadership yadda yadda yadda. Plants need water soil and sun, take one away and things die.

          This policy is an unqualified disruption to the school’s ongoing functionality and to the stable development and education of the students. This is compounded by however many days a month a school loses its principal. Even if only ten days a term, this again is in addition to their current responsibilities and principals have made it known they already spend too much time away from their schools. There will naturally be days when the ‘teaching’ principal and the ‘being taught’ principal will effectively be leaving two schools without any principal. Some might say this occurs frequently enough with their existing responsibilities and on going training. So what is National going to change to accommodate these significant requirements of the new policy? Where is the detail?

          There are the travel and accommodation costs to consider, the relieving costs, the quality of the relievers etc. The costings and mechanisms of the new layer of bureaucracy has to be detailed. There are no doubt several legal issues to work out regarding insurance implications, employment contracts, ACC, Boards of Trustees and of course how all these people are going to communicate and who is accountable to whom? Then how is all of this going to be recorded and reported and quantified? National are still incredibly light on detail for any of this.

          I could understand training seminars being held a few times a year where teachers help other teachers and principals help other principals and vice versa. Events where intensive programmes are developed and shared and pretty sure they already happen, so maybe a few more resources there wouldn’t be a bad idea? Too obvious I guess.

          The policy appears designed to benefit a cartel of hand picked National Standards’ talking heads with a core focus, to germinate ‘Teach to Test’ harvests. The policy will be a slow scythe, hacking at the essential individuality that propagates the quality teaching National’s entire Education policy is working so hard to eradicate from our Schools. Nothing I have seen about the policy persuades me otherwise.

          • freedom 11.1.1.1.1

            [Fixed for you – MS]

          • McGrath 11.1.1.1.2

            You’ve raised some good points, and thanks for the detailed response.

            If its a bad policy, why is the New Zealand Principals’ Federation “pretty damned impressed” (just quoting their own words). I assume they’d be in the know if anything. My understanding is that its creating four new roles. Like any new role, only those that want it will apply for it.

            Yes it will take some teachers away from some classes. It doesn’t mean that those who replace them are rubbish. If anything, the expert/lead teachers will be in with the classes helping to raise the standard of the teachers that are already there.

            The policy (to me anyway) is essentially performance pay for the better teachers. I don’t see any harm in that, though I’m sure many others do. Improved pay for skilled teachers teaching and raising standards to also mirrors some private sector goals (6-sigma, best practices, Kaizen) for raising standards. My own experiences in the company I work for has shown that taking those outside their roles who have excelled and turning them into “teachers” and “mentors” has worked very well.

            Maybe I am alone in my opinion, but like I said right at the beginning: I wish the parties would do both policies rather than one or the other.

            • freedom 11.1.1.1.2.1

              Initially it was well received from The Principal’s Federation, as expressed in that quote you reference which is from January of this year. Since January they have softened their support as the lack of Policy detail from National has been discovered.

              Here are provisions which the PF see as necessary, as outlined in their April media release.

              they made a list of provisions that would need to be embedded in the policy for it to work. These provisions include:

              • That this policy development process must be evidence based and supported and informed by the advice and
              input of recognised academic experts as it is developed and then implemented

              • That the policy is explicit in its detail that a wide range of success indicators may be used by Communities of
              School to set and evaluate achievement statements, and not be reliant upon National Standards and NCEA
              results as the only indicators of teacher and school performance

              • That the full detail of this policy is consulted with clarity and transparency to principals, teachers, parents,
              and Boards

              • That this policy development must be allocated the time and process it needs to be wisely crafted, jointly
              owned, and successfully implemented

              • That this policy is sufficiently flexible to allow true collaboration within a wide variety of different contexts
              and settings

              http://www.nzpf.ac.nz/list/releases/2014/school_pincipals_set_conditions_following_Wellington_meeting-7_April_2014

              If their ideas are actually listened to then perhaps some good from the Policy might eventuate, which aligns with what I perceive your interpretation of the Policy goal is, namely the mentoring side of things for the ever welcome improvement in the quality of education given to New Zealand’s kids.

              Sadly though McGrath, Planet Key has never been a shining beacon of illuminated togetherness where those that make the rules bother to listen to the boots on the ground.

              Principals’ comments on what the policy needs suggest similar levels of confidence as The PF would have in claims of a fixed Novapay. Thankfully The Principals are being very pro-active and that is always a good thing for schools to be. As soon as National gets kicked to the curb in a few months, the Principals can go back to rebuilding the excellent systems that were being constantly developed, many would say steadily improved, before the 2008 detour into normalization and privatization infected our not perfect systems.

              In closing, here is The Principal’s Federation President just last month

              NZ Principals’ Federation President Philip Harding said school leaders were not convinced that this policy was the best use of the extra $359m investment in education and did not believe it would raise student achievement.

              http://www.nzpf.ac.nz/list/releases/2014/thumbs_down_from_school_leaders_for_Government%E2%80%99s_education_plan-10_June_2014

    • Clemgeopin 11.2

      McGrath, There are heaps of problems with trying to pay for quality teachers.

      Let me list a few genuine issues:

      1. Would you want the government to pay extra for a quality nurse or a doctor or a policeman or a soldier or a office assistant or a garbage collector or an MP? The big problem is one of being objective in measurement of ‘merit’ in an unbiased fair manner.
      2. Using the NCEA results or the suspect National standards or any other ‘tests’ has innumerable built in problems because the standards can easily be manipulated by the teacher, the school or principle when extra pay and rewards enter the scene. Also, different teachers could assess a piece of work differently, unless it is just one word or one number answers like in a quiz.
      3. How would you decide who is a better teacher in primary school? Is that to be subjective or objective and how will you guarantee its supervision for authenticity and integrity?
      4. What if 99% of the teachers are good? Will you give extra pay and special rewards to all? If not, isn’t that unfair?
      5. Isn’t it better to train teacher better in order to improve quality? Also we have qualifications, training, professional developments, teacher registration board, the BOT, ERO etc monitoring schools and teachers anyway.
      6. Teaching is a cooperative collegial area. I think making it competitive, setting one teacher against another is not a great idea,
      7. There are other factors unconnected with teachers that affect the performance or shortcomings of students. I am sure you can figure those out yourself.

      I will stop here as the list is much wider and bigger.

      • McGrath 11.2.1

        You’re paying for quality anyway. A school principal must’ve shown some quality schools in order to get to the position. Nurses at Starship Children’s Hospital are rated in four different grades. The key as you say is merit. Any grading must be based on clear and precise measuring.

        I just don’t see any harm in those teachers who are well above the bell curve going to other schools to pass on their expertise.

        • felix 11.2.1.1

          “The key as you say is merit. Any grading must be based on clear and precise measuring.”

          And Clem went to some length to explain a few of the real world problems with the simplistic bumper-sticker idea of measuring “merit”.

          Isn’t there even a single one of Clem’s examples of these problems that you think you could have a go at addressing?

          Gee, it sure gets tricky beyond the slogan.

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