Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Moving from frustration to disgust

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  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Scott Chris,

    Because they are acting self-interestedly as are the kids concerned. But that’s beside the point. Grammar is not a political institution.

    Oh yes, it is. Immediate past headmaster John Morris once headed the Education Forum, the educational branch of the think tank formerly known as the Business Roundtable. And here’s a who’s who of the board, skewed towards high-decile schools:

    Enosa Auva’a, Principal, Mount Albert Primary School
    Byron Bentley (Chair), Principal, Macleans College
    Marilyn Brady, Chief Executive, ETITO
    Alison Gernhoefer, Principal, Westlake Girls’ High School
    Dave Guerin, Director, Education Directions
    Deborah James, Executive Director, Independent Schools of New Zealand
    Bryce Wilkinson, Acting Executive Director, New Zealand Business Roundtable
    Sue Kurtovich, Director, Kurtovich Consulting (ECE management consulting)
    Derek McCormack, Vice-Chancellor, Auckland University of Technology
    Roger Moses (Deputy Chair), Headmaster, Wellington College
    Phil O’Reilly, Chief Executive, Business New Zealand
    Sherida Penman-Walters, Executive Principal, Pinehurst School
    John Taylor, Director of External Relations and Development, The University of Auckland

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5446 posts Report

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    Executive Principal, Pinehurst School

    Am I the only one disturbed that such a job title even exists?

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report

  • Jolisa, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    The Americans tried compulsory bussing years ago to de-segregate the public school system, and ultimately failed after wealthier parents switched to the private system.

    Also, massive white flight from the inner cities to the (more expensive) suburbs, whose public schools are perceived to be “better”, because whiter and more middle class. And better funded via taxes, given the weird local funding system there :-(

    What remains, at least as we witnessed it in New Haven, is a predominantly “minority” urban population (I know, contradiction in terms) being, for the most part, still bussed across town to average out the school demographics, but also in pursuit of minimally differentiated “magnet school” offerings. And/or to the handful of charter schools, which operate on long hours and strict discipline.

    In practical terms, this means very few kids are walking to their local schools; very few parents are able to just pop in and help out or talk to the teacher; and much less cohesive neighbourhoods.

    There’s been talk of returning to zones, to address the sheer ridiculousness of it all. Naturally, one of the very few public schools that still has a strict zone is the one in the university-adjacent neighbourhood where all the professors live… It’s massively oversubscribed and subject to all sorts of behind-the-scenes jiggery-pokery as out-of-zone parents try to get their children in. (Our family briefly included, for reasons outlined in the post Russell linked to).

    Interestingly, in the last year – and this would have been us too if we hadn’t moved back – there was a parent-led movement to help regenerate the *other* local public school (long disregarded because a lot of its students were new immigrants and refugees). The conscientious opposite of white/bright flight, if you will. It will be interesting to see if the “neighbourhood school” movement spreads across the city – including obliging the charter schools to have a neighbourhood preference for their student intake.

    [ETA: snort, yes, pretty funny that the "best" school in town was called the Hooker School. I never did get my hands on one of their "Proud Hooker Mom" bumper stickers :-( ]

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report

  • Jolisa, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I was thinking about this last night while I made dinner and came to the same conclusion. What is being threatened for education is much more frightening than asset sales. And then I got all angry again and had to play an angry song on the stereo.

    Funnily enough, I was thinking about this last night -- angry music and dinner were involved too -- and came to the opposite conclusion, for reasons that I'll see if I can articulate in a blog post. Naively, perhaps, I reckon parents are too smart to fall for this one... for all that Parata keeps saying "Parents need this, parents want that", I think she doesn't have the measure of what they do want -- nor how thoroughly teachers and parents (and students!) are on the same side on this question. And I think she underestimates the ability of the sector to ignore/redefine/work around whatever gets imposed.

    Whereas asset sales, once done, are so much harder to undo. And so completely economically STUPID.

    That said, of course it's not a competition for crappiest, most angry-making policy. It's okay to be royally fucked off about both of them, and I still am!

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report

  • Jolisa, in reply to Richard Aston,

    "And then I got all angry again and had to play an angry song on the stereo."

    Just curious Russell , what was that song ?

    And was there dancing?

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Richard Aston,

    And then I got all angry again and had to play an angry song on the stereo.

    Just curious Russell , what was that song ?

    Home Brew's 'Good God'.

    If you're going to be angry at anyone, it might as well be God. And the Hollie Smith backing vocal is amazing.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report

  • Steve Withers,

    League tables could be a measure of how the government is failing to provide an adequate education to various communities. What fascinates me is the government’s apparent intention to see these measures of success or failure as something akin to a force of nature over which they have no control. One does get the impression that kids in schools at the lower end of any scale have nothing much to do with the government and there isn’t much of a sense of ownership or commitment to address that. This plays to all the most negative stereotypes about National Party people dis-owning the people at the bottom….and their kids. Instead of working to lift them up…..you label them and walk away…and give others the means to label, avoid and walk away, too. Really? Is that the Kiwi Way?

    In almost every policy area this government disgusts me. Public broadcasting? Give it to Rupert Murdoch. Climate change? Do nothing. Public transport? Lie about the benefits...and build roads. Asset sales? The price of power went up a year ago to pad the balance sheets prior to sale. We're *already* paying for the assets we still own. It's all grotesque.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 312 posts Report

  • Dave Patrick,

    Couple of things from some posts up-line

    From the Schagen article:
    The standards describe what a student should be able to do at each year level. Those students who aren’t at the standard are identified and provided with the assistance they need to make progress.

    One problem with this (actually, two) - school funding has not increased by one single dollar to provide those identified students with assistance. And the government would have you believe that these students aren't being identified at the moment, or aren't being identified in a way that allows comparison between schools. This is wrong as well - PAT tests, 6-year net and other tests already in use are standardised nationally. National Standards isn't about getting everyone to use the same set of standards (because that's already happening), it's about providing that information to central government.

    And just a note on zoning from my experience - Rangiora has three primary schools, along with 5 or 6 smaller country schools on its fringes. Every one of these schools has a zone, and only two of them overlap. In our town's case, enforced zones (and at least two of these have been enforced by the Ministry when the schools in question didn't want a zone) are about managing the Ministry's classroom stocks, rather than being about what each individual school wants. Rangiora really should have a fourth primary school (and maybe a second high school) but the Ministry has been "consulting" (read delaying actually having to do anything) for a good 8 years now. So you have the choice of going to your local school, or not going to school.

    Rangiora, Te Wai Pounamu • Since Nov 2006 • 261 posts Report

  • merc, in reply to Steve Withers,

    I think you have nailed it.

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report

  • Sofie Bribiesca, in reply to Russell Brown,

    If you’re going to be angry at anyone, it might as well be God.

    Well back in 2008 I got angry that we got a National govt. Closest it got to god was me screaming " Jesus F... Christ!
    Now I send emails complaining about whatever it is they plan to do to us ,that I don't like. As you can imagine (please do) I email the smarmy lot every week.

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report

  • Ross Mason, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    I don’t know and I’d be happy to see data to the contrary, but my feeling is that most families in NZ have much less choice than you describe. It’s only in the big cities that schools are close enough for families to be in range of more than one.

    What he said. A pertinent observation. The agrarian sector has little choice over their kids schooling. It's the local or boarding school. I have a giggle when the urban parents go out of their way to take advantage (?) of rural schools that are close to the suburbs around towns. "I want my kids to get a country education" like. Whereas in the burbs the proximity of schools gives an (un)enviable choice for parents.

    Now. Tongue firmly in cheek here........too much time to ponder maybe??

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1590 posts Report

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    Is there anything that can be done without being accused of PC gone mad?

    Yes, fund decile 1,2,3 and 4 schools so damn well that they can afford the best teachers and more of them so that the decile 10 school are no longer the only choice. Wait isn't that what we're trying to do now.

    Actually to hell with it why not fund ALL our schools so that they can afford the best trained teachers and lots of them so our next generation can have the proven advantages of high quality education.

    But that will cost money so we need to get the culture of paying taxes back into society.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4461 posts Report

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Scott Chris,

    is enhanced when presented in an objective way

    Scott you are mistaking numbers for information. It's a relatively common error especially when funding is dictated by people who spend their lives working with numbers.

    Your version of the statement actually conveys less information but it has numbers and hence can be summarized. Essentially if you want the information form the first version you need to read and process the information.

    I agree funding bodies generally are not good at that - hence the default to numbers. but I strongly disagree that the use of described informative English is in any way inferior nor does it diminish the reputation of the person giving it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4461 posts Report

  • Glenn Pearce, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    they can afford the best teachers

    But you can't pay the best teachers more, they're all paid according to a pay scale that's based largely on qualifications I believe. Allowances for responsibilities are on top I think.

    Someone more informed than me might be able to elaborate.

    Auckland • Since Feb 2007 • 504 posts Report

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Steve Withers,

    In almost every policy area this government disgusts me. Public broadcasting? Give it to Rupert Murdoch. Climate change? Do nothing. Public transport? Lie about the benefits…and build roads. Asset sales? The price of power went up a year ago to pad the balance sheets prior to sale. We’re *already* paying for the assets we still own. It’s all grotesque.

    I stumbled on this article of interest*, when following a link about the 'Residential Earthquake Repairs Grind to a Halt ' - probably best not to read either one, (or this Press one ) as they'll just make you more angry....

    * Action for Christchurch East published an article in June 2011 examining Naomi Klein's book 'The Shock Doctrine'. Her work investigates how publicly owned assets are thrown into the hands of big business and emergency responses are privatised during the chaos synonymous with natural disasters, war and economic turmoil.


    "Before Hurricane Katrina, the school board had run 123 public schools, now it ran just 4. Before that storm, there had been 7 charter schools in the city; now there were 31. New Orleans' teachers used to be represented by a strong union; now the union's contract had been shredded, and its forty seven hundred members had all been fired..."

    from Naomi Klein's 'Shock Doctrine'

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7953 posts Report

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    The best teachers aren't necessarily the most expensive (ie older/more experienced) ones. But good teachers are often head hunted by other schools who offer them more choice about classes, fewer contact hours, after school activities etc.
    In my experience of schools what teachers like are:
    a) to be appreciated by their peers, school management and boards, students and communities - little things like the board putting on a thankyou morning tea occasionally or the PTA helping with meet the teacher nights or (reliable) parents helping with school activities, or acknowledgement from the boss
    b) be supported by same so no isolating and bullying from other teachers, management etc, and good support/admin staff
    c) access to good professional development, and then an opportunity to apply it
    d) efficient and fair school management processes and governance - so things like access to leave is fair and course budgets can be rolled over if not used in a year
    e) good opportunities for collaboration within school and with teachers in other schools, and a culture of encouragement of good ideas
    f) non class time factored into day for marking or contacting parents (harder to do in primary)
    g) fewer students overall, particularly if some are quite time consuming (and then specialist help is appreciated)
    h) fewer stupid government policies and Min of Ed compliance requirements
    i) better pay or recognition of workload, better status,
    j) warmer, drier, quieter, more modern physical environment/buildings

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3229 posts Report

  • tim kong, in reply to Glenn Pearce,

    On teacher salaries, the NZEI has put together a couple of simple videos to explain the pay scale in NZ.

    NZEI Collective Agreement

    You can also read the current collective agreements (if you really want). These agreements are coming up for negotiation now.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 153 posts Report

  • Jackie Clark, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Kindergarten teachers have pay parity with primary teachers who have pay parity with secondary. So basically, we are all paid the same. Although there is a pay scale based on years worked and qualifications. Each year, with your performance appraisal, your salary increases, until you have reached the top of your pay scale. It takes about 11 years (7 yrs in kindergarten) to get to the top of your pay scale. There is no point me being a Head Teacher - I reached the top of my pay scale some years ago.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3136 posts Report

  • tim kong,

    What Jackie said.

    Pay parity is, in my humble opinion, one of the key aspects of our NZ education system.

    It is an active and actual way of valuing all educators for their role in working with students who move through our education system. It is about saying the work that I do, as a Y7&8 teacher, is based on, and only do-able because of the work that a kindergarten or new entrant teacher has done.

    There are those who would break this pay parity, because they believe their knowledge and therefore, their instruction is more valuable than mine.

    We devalue what we do when we value one learner's ability, or one educator's knowledge over another. We destroy the very value we claim when we attach a cash amount to it.

    This doesn't preclude wanting the absolute best for all our students, wherever and whenever they are. Mediocrity should not be tolerated.

    Learning is, like Morningside, for life!

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 153 posts Report

  • Whoops, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I confirm - we have a choice of 1 school, that we deemed not right for our son. We are out of zone for other 4 schools and so are 'forced' to move.

    here • Since Apr 2007 • 105 posts Report

  • Mark Lewis, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Having a choice sounds nice but fits well with the process of divide and rank. Also, with being consumers more than citizens. Offering 'choices' (lol) is what the current masters love us to believe in. I agree with the sentiment that ALL schools should be acceptable and provide a place for all.

    Auckland • Since Jun 2012 • 1 posts Report

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to tim kong,

    What Jackie said.

    Pay parity is, in my humble opinion, one of the key aspects of our NZ education system

    I happily sit corrected

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4461 posts Report

  • Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    It is hard not to see this governments education policy as simple class war on behalf of it's middle class supporters.

    This. And the other comment about parents wanting to know which is the best school so they can send their children there. That's all about insecurity.
    We're currently in the London commuter belt, and the angst over schooling is insane. National Standards (or whatever they call them here) rule everything. As a result, the curriculum is extremely limited - hours and hours of reading, writing and 'rithmetic and very little else - worst of all, only 30 - 45 minutes of science per week.
    At the same time, there's only limited ability to choose what school your children attend. All enrolment decisions are made by the local council (which was in turn a response to some schools refusing to enrol students who were perceived as likely to jeopardise their test results). If you're in zone, you'll probably (but only probably) get in. If your child wasn't doing well at the school they were zoned for and you wanted to move them you could try moving to the zone for your preferred school, but if the school was in demand you'd likely have to be on a waiting list for an extended period before your child could actually change schools. And there are screeds and screeds of threads on forums like "mumsnet" containing parental worry over which school to send their child to; how likely they are to get in; and what to do if they don't. It's completely hideous, and my sense is that the school rating system feeds it, though there's certainly a cultural aspect to it as well (thus the annual publication of the "Good Schools Guide"). I think Christchurch's long obsession with "which school did you go to" suggests that it is a culture New Zealand could easily adopt if the conditions were right, and league tables would certainly fertilise the ground. Yuck.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 585 posts Report

  • Sacha, in reply to Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    worst of all, only 30 - 45 minutes of science per week.

    Copying that is bound to help NZ's hi-tech economy.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report

  • Sacha, in reply to Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    Christchurch's long obsession with "which school did you go to"

    a natural location to trial charter schools.. :)

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report

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