Our House

An interesting thing happened over Christmas – my 73 year old father successfully purchased an actual iPad. Those of you in the profession will be thinking I’m about to launch into a commentary making reference to life-long learners you are going to be disappointed.

The first “app… is that how you say it?” my dad asked for was Google Maps, which I quickly installed. Once opened, dad zoomed in on the house where we grew up.

It was a sad sight. The front yard, where my brother and I engaged in many hours of one-on-one rugby, is now taken up with one of those kit-set garages the talking dog sells. The driveway, where several full three match test series were played, now leads to another house foisted on the rear portion of the property.

I’m sure the people who decided to make these changes to my childhood home had the very best of intentions. I’m certain they didn’t just sit around the dinner table one evening and decide to completely anihiliate the property. Ask any Aucklander (the house is not in Auckland), subdividing the disused back garden of your villa can be a most profitable venture.

They would have had the best intentions and reorganised the property for the right reasons. They have, however, completely ruined an excellent family home. No more front yard rugby. No more “I’m 645 not out. Mum! Tony won’t let me be not out until tomorrow!!” No more trampoline flips in the back yard.

Before Christmas someone got in touch with me saying they are involved in setting up a charter school for 2014. They said they’d “read my comments re charter schools” and said if I was keen to get in touch to find out more. There are 110 Manurewa families keen to get in on the ground floor of this charter when it kicks off in (I can’t believe this) a couple of weeks. I emailed back and got a link to their website, which I have duly clicked on and perused.

As they pointed out in the email, there are many South Auckland families wanting to get in at the front end of this charter school. I would expect many of them have felt underwhelmed by what their children have been offered through the education system so far.

Teaching is tough. I’m in a decile 10 school and I’m stressed. I can only imagine what it’s like for my colleagues working in the lower decile schools of South Auckland (or Porirua or East Christchurch etc). Years of under-resourcing by successive governments has left teaching a highly stressed, undervalued profession. People aren’t going to choose to work in a highly stressed job unless they are totally committed to the cause or really need the job (teacher quality discussions are for another time).

I  have no doubt in my mind that all of the current operators setting up the five charter schools set to go at the end of the month have the very best intentions. They are not sitting around trying to work out how to fleece as much as they can out of the taxpayer and then spend as little as they can on educating the children in their care (thinking this won’t happen? Read this). They are doing to do the very best they can for the children in their care. I have no doubt the government will make it as easy as possible for them to succeed – although how they are going to measure this success is beyond me. No national standards for charter schools!

This first set of five have been set up by New Zealand organisations. My “conjecture” on charter schools is based on my reading of the experience of parents, teachers and students experiencing the charters being run by those in the United States. It will be when those companies begin setting up shop in New Zealand will we see the extent to which some people see children as a cash cow to be fleeced for 13 years (enter lesson on mixed metaphors here).

If we actually paid teachers enough money to actually attract the fullest range of people we could to the profession, then some of the issues that are sending parents and educators down the charter school avenue might be alleviated.

Best intentions don’t necessarily end up with the beset result. Just ask those people in Hawkes Bay who’ve built a driveway on some of the most fertile soil in the region; we used the garden behind the garage as a compost heap for 7 years. It’s now covered in concrete.

Publicly funded private education will end up with our education system being worse off.

To conclude, I’ve got some pictures from the 1970s and Google Street view to let you decide whether the house is better or worse…

Happy holidays.

Mr B.

Before:

After:

Screen shot 2014-01-05 at 8.14.52 PM

Trampoline Flip:

DSC00609

Sources:

15 months in a virtual charter hell: a teacher’s tale – Education Week Blogs, Jan 6, 2014.

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