Hekia Parata: I’m all ears – especially my ears

New Zealand has a very good education system. That’s beyond debate. Can we make it better? Yes, we can and we must. We must make it heaps more betterer.

As a passionate New Zealander and as a mum, I want to see an education system that delivers quality learning for every child and young person every day. Their achievement matters, to their families, their communities – and to me.

I visit schools right across New Zealand on a regular basis, and after the torrents of abuse have died down, I speak to teachers, principals and parents about what I, as the Education Minister, can do to support them to ensure our kids are achieving.

For example, I can open my mouth and tell them to do things I think are important. They can listen to me or they can strop and moan like a grumpy old man.

The proposed changes that we’re making in education are all about putting our kids at the centre of the education system, lifting the educational success of every young New Zealander.

This means ensuring we get the right amount of funding for each child. There are so many options in modern education. Back when I was at school in Ruatoria we had nothing. No pencils. No books. We didn’t even have a classroom or a teacher. There were 753 students in my class. At the start of the school year they took us to the top of Mt. Hikurangi and left us there. You graduated if you could make it back to Manutahi School by the end of the year.

That was real learning. And even though I never had a teacher, my teacher was the best teacher I ever had.

These days school need to be supported in making the same kind of courageous decisions for kiwi kids. Each year we spend over $11 billion on education.

As I’ve often said, “That’s a shipload of money,” because so many people I know use that term when referring to a large amount of something.

We increase spending each year and the spending review we are currently engaged in is looking at everything. We want to provide schools with more flexibility and choice. We want them to be able to be flexible enough to say, “Hey… We’ll paint the junior block and put a beginning teacher straight out of university in front of our most vulnerable learners.” At the moment they can’t do that.

School communities have to spend some of their money on teachers. That’s such a shame.

I’ve consistently listened to the teacher unions since I came into the education portfolio, regularly meeting with them and working with them on a number of important initiatives. I’ve also told them they are just plain wrong. There’s nothing more motivating than an Education Minister telling teachers how wrong they are.

This is about lifting the learning potential of every child. Our spending cuts in the Early Childhood and Special Education sectors have allowed kiwi children to grow and prosper.

It’s about preparing young New Zealanders for a contrary, challenging, exciting world where they will spend their working lives sitting 3 hour external exams and being assessed against their workmates as to whether they meet the standard.

Or not.

* Hekia Parata is the excellent Education Minister of New Zealand

Hekia beckons men

More men in teaching.

The call has been made today by Education Minister Hekia Parata. Ms. Parata was sharing her views with Te Awamutu residents, some of whom were slightly put out by her approaches outside the McDonald’s drive-thru.

Men in teaching, good old charter schools, and how to get more special needs children removed from official government statistics were all on the menu today in the small Waikato town.

Attracting some of New Zealand’s best and brightest into teaching is the key.

“I haven’t focussed to much on whether they’re men or whether they’re women but if it is a higher-performing profession, I think that will attract more attractive men,” she said.

“I’m not going to have a quota for men. But it would be nice to see more men.”

Parata laments the fact there are so few men teaching in New Zealand.

“It’s so sad to walk into a school and see no men. Men are have so much to offer our young minds and our old eyes,” she said.

“Just once I’d like to walk into a classroom, surprise a Justin Timberlake-like teacher leading to a slight fumble with his whiteboard marker. Maybe he bends to retrieve it he perhaps lingers a little too long before turning, raising one eyebrow in an appropriately provocative manner before saying, “Yes, Minister?” in a deeply soothing and arousingly educational way. That’s my vision for New Zealand,” she said.

During her time in Waikato, Parata visited McDonald’s, Wendy’s and a dairy in Huntly.

Everything stays the same?

We were all there watching on election night. Watching when a compulsive fibber was re-elected to the premiership and promptly promised to, “work for all New Zealand.” Yet another mistruth. But who’s counting?

One of the twitter conversations I followed on the night but didn’t engage with because I was so furious (at the result, not the conversation) was between a few teachers.

We were discussing how, now that National had the “mandate,” the entire education system was going to be thrust into a state of flux as all manner of weird policies were thrust onto the education system.

This weirdness was exemplified a few days later when a 12-year-old was appointed Undersecretary to Education. What the hell is that? It sounds like one of those double entendre from a Carry On film (“Ooo err Madam Undersecretary…. etc).

With ACT now a joke political party, the term sock puppet pops into my head whenever I hear them. Actually, when I think about it, I have not heard from them since around about the time David Seymour gave his maiden speech to parliament promising to, “lift all New Zealanders out of poverty by reducing their employment conditions, wages and housing opportunities.” I’m paraphrasing, but I think that was the general gist.

Back to our discussion. The idea was that no matter which government was in, or which policy was being implemented, nothing much changed in our day-to-day lives as middle class public servants.

At the time I thought about this and I thought that was possibly fair enough, but the longer time has gone on, the more and more I realise what an utter cop-out this argument is. It’s the argument of the people who voted National but don’t like their policies.

Every single National-led government since I’ve been born – Muldoon, Bolger, Shipley & this current bunch (too young to remember Holyoake) – have implemented policies that have had a huge impact on a vast proportion of the population.

  • Cutting benefits – let’s reduce the income of the poorest people in New Zealand. That won’t have any impact on anyone. I’m sure nobody will resort to crime to cover the money missing from their weekly balance so they can feed their kids.
  • Student loans – let’s make students borrow to pay for their education. That won’t have any impact on the people graduating. I’m certain they will all stay in New Zealand and not go overseas so they don’t have to pay their loans back.
  • National standards – let’s measure every child in New Zealand against a set of arbitrary figures that we promise will not be used to measure schools against each other but then we publish them on a publicly accessible website and say “we don’t like what stuff.co.nz are doing, but . No… this won’t impact on the teaching profession. Labelling a student “well below” for the entire time they are at primary school will have absolutely no impact on them, their families or their teachers.
  • Novopay – let’s outsource our payroll. That will have very little impact on anyone. At all. Because the people at Talent2 said so.

These are just a few policies. There are many, many more (90 day stand-down period anyone?) that have huge impacts on people’s lives.

Here are the stupidly weird things that are being proposed by this government (and by proposed I mean they are being put out for “consultation” with a committee of rubber stampers before being foisted on a beleaguered profession.

Hekia Parata has started making noises about the decile rating system. She was making these noises before the election. She likes talking about it being “messy” and “misunderstood.” The government want to move to a different funding model they have more control over. How can they achieve this? By linking funding to achievement. Your school will get money based not on the socio-economic standing of the residents within your zone, but the performance of those children against an arbitrary standard.

No. That won’t have any impact on the teaching profession.

How will schools work if this funding model is implemented? Well, if my funding levels required me to have more and more students achieving at the National Standard, then that’s precisely what would happen.

In the US where this policy has been in place for a while we have results fraud going on and special needs (or ESOL) students being excluded from even being assessed against standards in the first place (First rule of statistics: always boost your statistics by removing statistics that wreck your statistics).

People need security. If you are going to take their security away they start making stupid decisions. If my pay is going to be partly decided by the performance of the students in my class, then some decisions I might start to make could possibly be in the best interests of me. If my school is going to be funded partly on the basis of the performance of students against the National Standards then perhaps those students are going to perform awesomely against the standard.

As someone pointed out the other day, the year they bring in “value added” performance pay will be the year we have a massive spike in our National Standard results.

For whatever reason, well over 45% of people who turned out to vote that day in September decided to re-elect a lying money trader (is there any other kind?) to the premiership. If you are going down that route, then you need to expect the policies you are going to get are in line with those of a lying money trader.

Those from an industry that contributed the Global Financial Crisis should never have any control over any decision-making processes at any level of government.

Just sayin’

Mr B.





Third #edchatnz think today

Just prior to getting on the plane this evening my new secret mentor (in that she doesn’t yet realise she is my mentor) @chasingalyx decided to head off to the movies as a reward following her hard work this weekend. Not only was she on the steering committee for the conference, she wrote no less than three posts today.


Farbeit from me to be left out of the tri-blog loop, I realised some things a teacher friend of mine said this afternoon were weighing on me.

I stopped off at her place on the way to the airport – my phone merrily chirping the arrival of several #edchatnz tweets during my short stay. I talked about Hobsonville Point and the amazing conference.

Oh, she said, are you talking about modern learning environments? I don’t like the idea of 90 kids in a class. What’s the noise like? I need quiet when I work. I couldn’t work with all that noise. What happens to the kids who are introverted? And what about artistic kids who can’t handle the noise? So it went on.

She cracked my nut.

Masking my rapid deflation I pointed out MLEs are not about huge rooms with a hundred kids who play on iPads all day.

I’m not sure if I convinced her but I did affirm to her what I’ve had affirmed to me all weekend. It was our group’s thought at the #edchatnz face-2-face session.

It’s not about bean-bags, it’s about pedagogy.

You have to have sound practice backing you up. You have to keep up the research. You must have robust systems. You need to remain connected and maintain your connections. Most of all, if you know in your heart that it’s right, then you must do it.

My nut is now fully reformed and ready for Monday.

Mr B.

PS: did I forget anything?

#edchatNZ Blogging Meme

If you get included in the blogging meme: copy/paste the questions and instructions into your own blog then fill out your own answers. Share on twitter tagging 5 friends.

1. How did you attend the #Edchatnz Conference? (Face 2 Face, followed online or didn’t)

  • I flew up to Auckland because I wanted to put faces to twitter names. I actually don’t know who I didn’t meet! Someone will tell me.

2. How many others attended from your school or organisation?

  • I was the only one from my school.


3.How many #Edchatnz challenges did you complete?

  • About 5 or 6. I ended up being the Grelfie guy thanks to my association with a certain vehicular construction company.

4. Who are 3 people that you connected with and what did you learn from them?

  • Annemarie Hyde (@mrs_hyde): absolute hilarity all the time. The more time I spend with her the better my life will be.
  • Alyx Gillett (@chasingalyx): It’s funny how your assumptions develop. Because Alyx was on the steering committee, was presenting, and inspired me right from the start of her presentation I assumed she’s been around for years. The fact that she is still a provisionally registered teacher actually blows my mind.
  • Kristyn Rack: I got talking to her on my tour of Hobsonville Point Primary. I wanted to find out about systems and getting parents to understand the future of education (which is actually now). She was open and welcoming and I have instantly been inspired to change and augment my practice. 


5. What session are you gutted that you missed?

  • I was lucky in that I managed to see everything that I wanted to. Lucky me!


6. Who is one person that you would like to have taken to Edchatnz and what key thing would they have learned?

  • I would have liked to have taken the Year 3/4 teacher from our school. She is a self-confessed technophobe and I want her to understand it’s not about the technology or the bean-bags, it’s about the pedagogy.


7. Is there a person you didn’t get to meet/chat with (F2F/online) that you wished you had? Why?

  • Meeting the people I did was fantastic. There were many, many people there who I probably should have said “hello” to but never got around to it. I will leave that for the next #edchatnz conference.


8. What is the next book you are going to read and why?

  • My answer to this is unknown. I am catching up with all the new blogs I am following. However, there is a book on key competencies that the book edchat people are reading. I think I have to read that one (Key Competencies for the Future).


9. What is one thing you plan to do to continue the Education Revolution you learnt about at #EdchatNZ?

  • I will continue what I am doing in my class, only more uber. I’ve already posted about it – becoming a transparent teacher.

10. Will you take a risk and hand your students a blank canvas?

  • I am willing to take a risk and hand them a semi-blank canvas. I still need to get some robust systems in place and working correctly before we can really go for it. Continued conflabboration with my new besties will help with this…


Who do will I tag with this meme:

Annemarie Hyde @mrs_hyde
Sonya van Schaijik @vanschaijik
Ben Hilliam @benhilliam
Danielle Myburgh @MissDtheTeacher
Alex le Long @ariaporo22
I was going to tax Alyx Gillett but she’s already done one!
I’m definitely going to rest now. Thanks all for a fantastic weekend.
Mr B