Special Schools and Charter Schools

Hello everyone,

I’ve been out of the loop for about a week. I was off down country seeking a new job for 2012 – a hunt which turned out to be successful. I am a happy camper.

So to the noteworthy events of this week.

Firstly, the government has confirmed the closure of McKenzie and Salisbury residential schools for students with specialist educational needs. Hekia Parata, Education Minister confirmed government plans to close two of the four residential schools in the country. Understandably, this has not been welcomed by those most affected by the closures – the parents and the schools themselves with Salisbury considering legal action over the plan. A range of other groups (PPTA, NZEI, PSA, commentators and the opposition parties) have also hit out at the plan. The PPTA and NZEI have linked the closures with the money used to save private Whanganui Collegiate – see Robbing From the Poor to Give to the Rich.

There is a general concern amongst the teaching profession that the closure / merger of these schools and those in Christchurch is part of a wider plan by the National-led coalition to completely reorganise the educational landscape. Parata and the government have been working hard to sell their ideas in recent months. So far the consensus is leaning towards the government failing in this regard. This was highlighted by a recent TV3 poll which asked: Is the government providing the best school system for our children? A telling 58% of respondents said ‘no’.

Head of the Education Ministry, Lesley Longstone, was again in the news last week. She was roundly criticised by the PPTA and the NZEI after saying that New Zealand education is not the best in the world. She later clarified her comments saying it wasn’t the best because was failing Maori and Pasifika students. Fairfax reported ACT and the Maori Party being in agreement. Journalist and blogger Gordon Campbell pointed out with the arrival of national standards and charter schools her comments weren’t made in a vacuum. He starts his commentary with this statement:

For politicians and bureaucrats alike, their readiness to diss the people they rely on to improve education outcomes is a risky leadership tactic.

Many educators would agree that it’s hard to become motivated about implementing changes when you are constantly being branded as unprofessional or incapable of functioning in your job. Longstone herself would have been slightly happier on the weekend after the Herald’s ran a puff piece where she wasn’t forced into her usual role of vigorously defend herself and her ministry.

Finally, a few quick but important things to mention.

  1. Charter school advisor Catherine Isaac continued to argue for unregistered and unqualified people to be allowed to become registered teachers. The Herald article is here. Commentary from Save Our Schools NZ is here.
  2. Another pay round for Novopay, another round of errors. Campbell Live reported on the Novopay roadshow which is travelling the country at the moment. Most people interviewed while they were heading in didn’t have very good things to say about the $30 million payroll system. Fairfax have a list of numbers obtained under the Official Information Act.
  3. The Huff Post Education site reported on the damage to New York schools following Sandy last weekend. 200 out of 1400 schools had experienced some kind of damage.

There are many, many things happening in education at the moment. Please let me know if I miss something important out. Being a full-time teacher it can be quite hard to find the time to read / watch all the news items I need to. Just add in the comments section.

Have a good week.

Mr B
















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