Source: Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA)
The Tomorrow’s Schools taskforce chair Bali Haque answers PPTA News questions about the group’s recommendations for reviewing New Zealand’s schooling system.
PPTA News: How can teachers and principals be confident the hubs proposed will be the localised, connected supportive organisations we so desperately need; not just an extra layer of bureaucracy?
Bali: There will not be any extra layer-we are recommending the disestablishment of the 10 current MoE regional offices, and the establishment of Education Hubs -which will be very different organisations. They will be crown agencies and therefore protected from political and bureaucratic control while being connected with national curriculum, assessment, pedagogical and leadership expertise. We envisage their operation will be heavily influenced by educators who have recent successful experience in the schooling system and understand what real partnership means.
PPTA News: The taskforce has made the Treaty of Waitangi a founding principle of the new system, “in theory and practice” – how is this manifested in the recommendations?
Bali: Our recommendations build from te Tiriti o Waitangi to use equity to ensure greater access to education with the participation and wellbeing of all students a priority across the system. We encourage spaces for Māori to bring their experiences and knowledge to education including a Mana Whenua position on the school’s BoT, iwi representation on the Board of Hubs and the investigation of a parallel pathway for kaupapa Māori education.
PPTA News: The report implies that some schools are not up to scratch. How can you, with a clear conscious, restrict parental choice and require them send their children to those schools?
Bali: We do not envisage sudden change to current choice arrangements We do think that, over time, as schools all improve, it will be possible to gradually limit out of zone enrollments depending on local circumstances. In our recommendations we do not specify a limit on out of zone enrollments, or how long the process will take- quite deliberately. This will vary by school and locality . We accept that parent choice is important .. so it is about carefully managing enrollments over time, to get where we want to be, for the good of the network of schools in an area and all their students.
PPTA News: The majority of schools work well, so why not just provide extra support for the failing schools?
- We prefer to think about all schools needing varying levels of support at different times in their development and what is happening in their community, rather than particular schools which ‘fail’ -we all know education and schooling are complex. Labelling a school a failure is as bad as labelling a student as a failure.
- We’ve got some long-standing issues in our schooling system that show that we won’t be able to improve things for many students and educators and boards unless we change the way we work and relate to one another
PPTA News: Will the ‘successful’ schools – with waiting lists, plenty of applications for jobs, large student donations, be the losers in hubworld?
Bali: Schools’ operational funding, staffing entitlements and ability to fundraise will continue to be controlled by individual schools. We don’t see this being about winners and losers. We want all schools to see themselves as part of a network with responsibilities for students throughout the area. We want to build on existing strengths, therefore we see more sharing and collaboration.
PPTA News: Hubs are vital to the success of the system. If hubs fail, it is likely that the system will be worse off than it is now. What are the key elements that will make the hubs successful?
- Each hub will be configured to address the needs of its community of schools
- Focus on collaborating and partnering with schools, teachers and principals, not a compliance culture
- Recruitment and capability development that ensures hub staff have credibility with teachers, principals and boards
- Continuing ongoing professional contacts between schools and hub personnel
- Crown agency status to free them from political and bureaucratic control and enable localised decision making
- Adequate resourcing and efficient and responsive systems
PPTA News: Won’t hubs threaten a school’s ability to innovate and provide programmes tailored to their particular students?
Bali: Absolutely not! The hubs are not new bureaucracies. Boards and principals will have complete discretion on curriculum, assessment , school goals, character and priorities. Innovation will be encouraged so we can continually improve teaching and learning. Hubs will provide a mechanism to spread and sustain effective innovation through a comprehensive PLD advisory service, leadership advice and regular contacts between schools.
PPTA News: Why no community input into the governance of the hubs?
Bali: School boards continue to provide community input into each school. Hub boards will require very high level governance skills and need to be carefully selected. They must all have good local connections. When the minister appoints this specialised governance team they will need to have regard to community input, particularly iwi. We note that it is possible to establish a legal framework which could avoid party political appointments to boards.
PPTA News: What would the hub as the employer of teachers and principals mean for collective agreements? Will they be negotiated with the hub instead of the MoE?
Bali: Absolutely not. We see no advantage and considerable risk in multiple contracts and see no need and would strongly oppose any changes here.
PPTA News: What’s the rationale for middle schools – which still leave students with two transitions – and don’t they simply delay access for students to specialist teaching?
Bali: Our report questions intermediate schools which are unique internationally -with half the school population changing each year. We don’t think a ‘two year school’ maximises learning opportunities. Middle schools are one alternative option suggested in our report (although there would the same number of transitions, we would still avoid a two year turnaround). Other options suggested include full primaries and composite schools. The final configuration will depend on local circumstances and vary across the country.
PPTA News: What do you think about a transition process that could see some regional hubs established in a few areas to trial the changes and learn from for the rest of the country?
Bali: We need at least a 3-5 year process to implement these recommendations…We fully expect that our recommendations will be phased in over this time so that we can grow capacity and capability in the system. We are interested in discussing the pros and cons of locality trials for a system-wide change.
PPTA News: Any change will lead to increased pressure and workload in the short term, how do you think the transition can be managed to reduce this?
Bali: The last thing we want is sudden unplanned change. For teachers we see reduction in workload as a comprehensive advisory service is put into the Hubs and the MoE. This would support teachers with curriculum and assessment advice and resources. We also want to simplify the appraisal system and shift it from time-hungry compliance.
Submissions on the Tomorrow’s Schools review close on April 7
Advice for PPTA members and branches on the Tomorrow’s Schools report (ppta.org.nz)
Advice to branches for submissions on the Tomorrow’s Schools review (PDF)