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Tolley ignores mistreatment of kids at private schools

Written By: - Date published: 10:58 am, November 18th, 2010 - 17 comments
Categories: education - Tags:

Following my last guest post which received over 100 comments, here’s an update with proof that Hon Anne Tolley has made complaints about what amounts to child-abuse disappear to avoid obeying the Human Rights Act and legislating for children’s welfare in this sector.

With a whopping 91% of surveyed parents agreeing with the Law Commission that private schools should be required by law to provide “a safe and supportive environment“, (R14, page 4) the Government’s statement that “no evidence exists of any problems” (Parliamentary question for written answer 10761 (2010)) as their entire rationale for not correcting the situation needs some analysis at the very least;  especially given all the ubiquitous rhetoric on choice and parent power.

Unsurprisingly the “no evidence” assertion doesn’t stand up to the slightest scrutiny. Well it was a pretty rich claim to make in the first place. Given that the Government didn’t even check with the Ministry (question for written answer 23668 (2010)), the arrogance of that statement is truly stellar. Clearly Anne Tolley does not want to know whether or not there are any problems at private schools or she might have to make some changes.

So what happened when Parliamentary questions prompted her to have a look?

The Minister admitted first to two complaints (QWA 18143 (2010)) and then, when challenged about that number, came up with first one (QWA 26428), and then another two more, (26362 (2010)).  Even though that makes five, she will now still only admit to four complaints in the last two years.  Perhaps Anne Tolley should test herself against the National Standards!  Clearly five (or four) complaints is not “no evidence” of any problems.  Unfortunately, it is easy to prove that this number is again completely misleading.

One particular “problem”, the expulsion of three small children from a private school in West Auckland, has magically morphed into an issue about the school failing to look after one child sufficiently with no mention of the fact that the October 2009 complaint (QWA 26362 (2010)) was actually about three children being expelled.

Somewhere between the office of Mr Bruce Adin, manager of the Northern Branch of the Ministry, and Anne Tolley’s office, two of the children involved in this complaint have completely disappeared. When the situation surfaced through Parliamentary questions Anne Tolley said “The October 2009 complaint relates to a parent complaining about a private school failing to meet standards of care for their child.”  (QWA 26362 (2010))Child, singular.  No mention of expulsions, exclusions, or enrolments.

Yet Bruce Adin’s correspondence with the family clearly shows the true nature of the October complaint.  Writing by email to the parents of the children on the 5th of February, 2010 at 11.33 am he said (see attached image):

“The Ministry is not empowered to undertake a judicial or review process and cannot review nor amend the decisions of The Rudolph Steiner School, Titirangi  regarding the enrolments of your children…..The Education Act does not require private schools to follow any particular practices when ending an enrolment.”

This cynical “interpretation” of complaints demonstrates a complete lack of interest in the actual effect of private school’s damaging actions towards children.  How many other complaints have been similarly obfuscated?

As Anne Tolley has admitted that two out of the four acknowledged complaints were about children being unfairly excluded from private schools (QWA 26362 (2010)), the real tally should be five complaints about expulsions alone.  Surely 5 complaints is sufficient reason to require schools to inform parents about their policies and procedures at the very least, as recommended by the Law Commission and desired by 93% of surveyed parents.  After all, even that legislation would only amount to a sort of disclaimer to alert and inform parents.  What is choice without information?

When the Education Minister is faced with facts that don’t fit with the agenda, apparently the facts have to change and sadly, given the provable reality of this cover-up, the real tally of  “problems” may be much higher.

What is cynical and really scary is the recognition that the Government would have done this with whatever information it encountered, to follow it’s own agenda.  Presumably any misery inflicted on a child by a private school, even to the extent of that child losing the will to live, would be sanitised in the same way to present the desired picture.

So what is the Government’s agenda on private education?   Given that when this Bill becomes law (and it is about to be rushed through), private schools will still be completely free of any obligation to even inform parents about the lack of legal protection, or indeed give them any proper contracts, even though the Minister has opined that contract law will suffice to sort out any problems (QWA 10775 (2010)), what will Education Amendment Bill 2 do to the law on private schools?

Instead of securing the welfare of children, the Bill makes provision for “conditional or unconditional grants” to be made to private schools from the public purse.  The amounts of such grants will be “at the Minister’s discretion“. (Section 35 O)

What the redirection of public money into such an unregulated sector means is that when these schools continue to hurt children, they will be doing it with Government sanction, and using your money.

Anne Tolley is pretty confident that you’re ok with that.

Angel Garden

17 comments on “Tolley ignores mistreatment of kids at private schools ”

  1. joe bloggs 1

    four (or five) complaints in two years? Hardly a smoking gun.

    Unfairly excluded from private schools ??? Are you serious?????? Oh spare me!

  2. ianmac 2

    One of the complaints from many parents of children at private schools, is that they are denied the obligation to take part in the brilliant National Standards Program. Given that they pay big money to the schools, they expect that their children would be measured by the very exact NS criteria. This way it would show the extent that given their big socio-economic advantage, many are below the National Standards being enthusiastically embraced by 98.34% of parents in the State sector.

    When asked Minister of Ed Ann Tolley denied all knowledge of National Standards.

    • joe bloggs 2.1

      great threadjack but a little off topic doncha think?

      in case you didn’t read beyond the first line Guest is making a spurious claim bout “what amounts to child abuse” in private schools and uses complaints about unfair exclusions from private schools to back up that hokum.

      Almost as funny as Colonial Viper claiming NZers are living in poverty because they can’t get a 20Mbps 250GB internet plan

      Can we afford poverty?

      Very entertaining. Laughed and laughed and laughed til I pissed myself

      [lprent: A weeks ban. The poster did not use “what amounts to child abuse” or anything like it. Therefore you’re putting words into the mouth of an author which I barely tolerate between commentators and don’t tolerate at all for authors.

      The only reason you’re getting this little is because of your past generally acceptable behavior on site.

      Incidentally if you hadn’t been so hypocritical as to accuse ianmac of thread-jacking I probably wouldn’t have looked at this comment. Which ianmac clearly wasn’t – the post was about complaints about private schools. His comment was just slightly off-topic. ]

      • ianmac 2.1.1

        You might be right joe though I wasn’t quite sure what a thread-jack was. My intention was to show that Private Schools seem exempt from scrutiny on many matters. Parents and Schools both have a vested interest in hushing complaints. (A few years ago I was indirectly connected to 4 North Island Schools and was dismayed at what goes on there at least a while ago now.)

      • Angel Garden 2.1.2

        Excuse me, Mr Bloggs, what exactly was it you found so funny? Are you making a point that because most private schools are full of extremely wealthy people that the fact that NZ law allows small poor rogue schools to operate with impunity, provably causing damage to children doesn’t matter?

        Is the basis for your hilarity therefore that some children are more important than others? Or that if it’s only a small number of children who are left psychologically scarred for example, that they don’t really count? Compared to what? Compared to who? That sounds like Anne Tolley’s line.

        Maybe they don’t count simply because other children go to more expensive, or better run private schools, so you’d rather just think of them all like that and not know the grim reality.

        Or is it that, given that rich private schools exist at all, the fact that information has been tampered with by officers of the Crown is irrelevant? I’m not quite getting it.

        Sounds like prejudice though.

      • Angel Garden 2.1.3

        Ahem, I certainly did use that phrase in my posting. The current law, this Bill and the amended Act have do and will sanction and support potentially corrupt institutions that can misuse children, for example as fodder for extreme bullying, expel them (and their siblings) if their parents complain, and then deny that they have done so.

        If anyone thinks such treatment of children is not abusive, I’d like to know what dictionary they are using. Of course, traumatic experiences can happen anywhere, but the point is that the potential for private schools to dish it out is being actually re-built in to the law. If you think it’s funny, that’s because you have not witnessed the results. If you insist that my claim is “spurious” then where’s your evidence?

        The Uk’s new Free schools, publicly funded but completely self-governing, will be run on similar lines and David Cameron enthused that they are to be so unregulated that no-one will ever know what goes on in them. New Zealand could show them a thing or two.

        All we have argued for is what would amount to a disclaimer to inform parents (information – the basis of choice) who overwhelmingly appear to believe that their children’s welfare is protected the same as other children’s, under the Education Act. Why are so many harbouring such illusions? Well apart from schools not being obliged to tell them, perhaps it’s because it is so ridiculous that something called a school is not required by law to look after the welfare of children, that it just wouldn’t occur to most people.

        Anne Tolley has said no to a disclaimer. No warning.

        High Trust = Buyer beware. QED

        [lprent: bugger – you’re correct. First paragraph. I must have screwed the search. Removing the ban from bloggs, and apologizing. ]

  3. If the rich , the snobs , and the few disillusioned working people wish to send their little darlings to a private school well let them. However dont lets be sucked into being concerned about them or financing them. Stop all taxpayer money that’s paid to these snoby schools and let the parents be their own watchdogs . Personally I could not care less how private schools run their buusiness, If they are ill treating their pupils well that the job of the police.There is nothing wrong with state schools except the need of more money . The $35 million plus that is pumped into private schools by this government is a disgrace. The expensive equipment and sports grounds our local private school has compaired the the local state high school is mind bogling . Let these rich tax dodgers pay their own way
    let them “pull their belt in” they are quick enough to tell working people just that!

    • Private education isn’t going anywhere – it’s very much on the agenda of all Right Wing governments. And it will be paid for by tax-payers. These issues, I agree, need attention. What you are suggesting, however, is not a solution to any of that, but a recipe for disaster.
      Whether or not public money is pumped into the private system, children’s welfare has to be a consideration. Your suggestion to basically allow a totally unregulated education system to run unchecked, simply because you dislike rich parents, belies any concern you profess for children at any schools!
      Is there some visceral delight to be had at the idea of the children getting hurt, if their parents have fallen for a version of choice rhetoric, and have the money to pay for it?
      What kind of socialism is that?

  4. Jeremy Harris 4

    My problem with the $35,000,000 is that it is going to directly to the schools rather than as a tax credit to the parents…

    or indeed give them any proper contracts, even though the Minister has opined that contract law will suffice to sort out any problems

    Unless there are provision in the new Act (or any Acts post the Contracts Act) that absolve private schools of the provisions in the Contracts Act then the Contract Act applies…

    • except that private schools are under no legal obligation to provide any contracts. The Law Commission recommendation that schools should be required to state what their welfare obligations are to children, have been ignored, too expensive apparently to produce a piece of paper.

      Good luck trying to sort that out with contract law! It’d simply be “he said” “she said” with the judge probably on a private school board anyway. I reckon you’d have better luck sorting out a problem with a faulty hoover!

      And it’s not just the $35,000,000. The “unconditional” grants don’t have an upper limit.

    • ianmac 4.2

      The $35million was additional to that already paid. Not sure how much that they were already getting but it is heaps. They argue that if the taxpayers didn’t bail them out then all the private school kids would end up at the State schools and wouldn’t that be awful! Big classes. Limited equipment. And mixing with the yokels!

  5. M 5

    Great post.

    As a pupil of private schooling there were abuses that went on: pupils bullying other pupils where nothing effective was done and teachers who hectored some poor kids mercilessly.

    In form two I had a teacher give me and a few others in my class a really hard time but as a nun she was almost above reproach, or so I thought. One day, one very doughty mother came up to the school at lunchtime and dressed her down in front of the whole school. We didn’t dare laugh or show pleasure at her comeuppance in any way, but inwardly cheered as she finally got some of her own medicine.

    After that she laid off quite a lot, perhaps scared of getting the treatment again. If private schools were held to some state standards then maybe most parents could lobby for some change or accountability in a particular school.

    All schools need to be scrutinised where child welfare is concerned. It doesn’t matter that some people view these schools as snobbish, children shouldn’t suffer at the hands of adults in schools who have tremendous sway and power.

    Not all kids who attend private schools are snobs – the nuns made sure you had very little ego. My parents wanted to give us the best education they could, but we always mixed and have continued to mix with all kinds of people, it makes life more interesting – not for me the barren enclaves of the old school tie network – I don’t mix with anyone from those days.

  6. Nick 6

    Regarding the pink postman’s letter and the Angel’s reply; I think there are two distinct issues here which we should not confuse.

    (1) The funding by the taxpayer (or indeed the existence at all) of private schools and

    (2) The protection of children (and adults for that matter) from bullying and other forms of harmful aggression.

    The underlying socio-political issues are 1, the right to equality in educations vs. the right to choose and, 2, New Zealand’s culture of family violence and institutional bullying (which are, in my view intimately connected) vs. the right to play rugby.

    I think that (1) requires political balancing and (2) needs better recognition and much better protection for people in vulnerable positions.

    • Thanks Nick for your clarity. I totally agree that the distinction between the two should be clear, but the combination of public money and deregulation will be disastrous for some children in some schools.

      The policing mechanism of the “high trust model” is supposed to be parent power i.e. the power to leave the school. This mechanism can already easily be corrupted by something as simple as it being a “specialist” form of education of which there is not a huge amount. In such a case it is possible for habitually abusive schools to lie low even in the event of repeated mass evacuation, and wait for fresh blood to arrive. This is true even if half the parents do get up and leave and even if the reason they did so was because of atrocious bullying. People and animals drink from dirty water holes if they must. Whatever you think of people who are so averse to public schooling that they would rather educate their children in a dirty water-hole, the state should not sacrifice children in this way.

      Giving more and yet more money to these schools isn’t just a scandal of financial sleight of hand, hypocrisy and the promotion of social inequality to the detriment of the vast majority at state schools.

      This Amendment to the Education Act will further aid abusive and effectively rogue schools who will damage more children as a result, whilst the Act also denies those children any human rights. And that’s a fact.

  7. Pascal's bookie 7

    Thing is, to me at least, and I readily acknowledge that I’m a simple soul, they are private schools. I’m cool with that. If people want to send their kids to a private school for whatever reason, and a school exists that offers what they are after, then sweet as sez I.

    But let’s a get a few things straight.

    ‘Private’ doesn’t mean unregulated. It doesn’t mean that for medicine for example. It doesn’t mean that for anything. So regulation, per se, is not something that diminishes what private means.

    Obviously private means something though in terms of freedom from government control, but I suspect it shouldn’t mean that private schools are free to offer an unsafe environment, or a syllabus that doesn’t meet some sort of minimum standard.

    It seems to me that the freedoms people are after, are freedoms to provide extra things that the public system cannot provide. This might be straight up resourcing, better labs, better sports equipment, more specialised teaching, more specialised courses. Or it may be some sort of character, religious education or some philosophical approach, or a militaristic one, or just a straight up elitist one. None of this do I have any problem with. You want it, someone wants to provide it, it meets the regulatory minimum standards, then go for it. As long as you are the one paying for it.

    I can’t think of any reason for the state to subsidise this. If it is to be private, and if private is what they want, then private it should be. If the state is paying for it, it ain’t private.

    If the people want the state to provide the sorts of schools that the private sector is presumed to provide, then that’s another question, and it should provide them. But if the state has no mandate for providing these schools, then it shouldn’t be paying for them. And if parents want their children in private schools, they have no business asking for the state for subsidies.

    The state doesn’t pay for the education of a child based on the tax status of it’s parents. Nor does a citizen have 1 cent of their their tax calculated on the resources used in educating their children. Arguments for state funding of private schools that ignore those two facts, or assume the opposite to be true, are not something I find worth spending any time considering.

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