My submission to Stuff Nation

I’m not one for going on a rant.. oh hang on… that’s all I do.

I read on the fabulous Save Our Schools NZ blog this afternoon that Stuff Nation were asking for submissions on a new assignment they were running on the politics of education. I read Dianne’s and just had to have my own turn.

Here’s my contribution:

Since the current National government slipped through a policy on charter schools as part of their deal with John Banks and the ACT Party, the education system in New Zealand has started to resemble a chaotic mess.

This chaotic mess was started not to benefit New Zealand children but to open the education system up to wholesale privatisation. It has nothing to do with education children or improving standards or anything of that nature. These current education policies are drawn directly from Neoliberal Education Policy 101. They are utterly ideological and utterly doomed.

Their policies are full of contradictions. On the one hand the government say teacher quality is the single most important contributor to student success yet they are allowing unqualified and unregistered teachers to front classes in charter schools.

National Standards have been the flagship policy for this government. Raising standards will lift students out of poverty. Despite this mantra charter schools are not required to adhere to set standards. As well as this they are not bound by the Official Information Act. Why? The last thing this government wants is for snooping media to get their teeth stuck into a failing charter school.

Since our National Standards are all written by individual teachers and not assessed using a standardised system, they are an utter nonsense. Nobody – teachers, media, ministry officials or politicians – can draw any valid conclusions from them.

What about performance pay? Good teachers get more cash. As we have seen today (Sunday 16 March), Hekia Parata plans to measure teacher performance based on the performance of their students against National Standards. As I’ve said, our standards are far from statistically robust.

I can teach my kids for the 6 hours they are at school, but their home life (the other 18 hours), is going to have a far greater impact on their day-to-day performance at school. Kids who are living in poverty and those with special learning needs have much greater things affecting their learning than just teacher input. Those outside the classroom factors impact, sometimes hugely. To have part of my pay or part of my school’s funding tied to the achievement of students is totally unfair.

It is no coincidence that the often quoted figure 20% of children who are “failing” is closely aligned with the figure of children who are living in poverty – 20-25% depending on which government statistic you read. Deal with the poverty and you deal with the achievement.

The most crucial thing impacting on education at the moment is the complete dismissal of the teaching profession by those creating the policy. You can see it in the United Kingdom as Michael Gove regularly alleges teachers are lazy or suggests they cut down the number of holidays. A recent survey by the Department for Education showed primary school teachers were working, on average, 60 hours a week. Hekia Parata and others supporting her policies have the same belief. Somehow teachers are a lazy profession full of unionised workers who care nothing for the children in their charge and everything for their extended summer holiday.

This is demoralising. It sends the message that they do not care a jot for us, our practise or our profession.

It all comes down to this: none of the people promoting the current moves in education, none of the bloggers, the politicians, or the media have been in a classroom since they were at school themselves. No offense but they have absolutely no idea about 21st century learning and where schools are heading. They are developing policies not to benefit children but to benefit those who wish to invest heavily in a privatised education system.

Please trust teachers to teach your children. We all love teaching. We all love creating fantastic learning experiences for your children. We will continue to create fantastic, enriching learning experiences for your children in spite of the next load of nonsense that Hekia Parata will throw at us. It’s because we love what we do and the children in our class are at the heart of every decision that we make in our jobs.

The same cannot be said for Hekia Parata and her government.

Mr B.

Sources:

Education policies – what are the big issues?: Save Our Schools – March 16, 2014

NZ election: school of politics: Stuff.co.nz – March 16, 2014

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