Category Archives: Principal’s Office

Being middle class gives students edge to excel

Excellent article from Martin Thrupp, professor of education at the University of Waikato in the NZ Herald.

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My daughter goes to university this week having been one of those secondary school all-rounders who also achieves stellar academic results. She is one of New Zealand’s latest Top Subject Scholars and will soon attend an awards ceremony at Government House.

I share her story not just as a proud father but because it challenges the anxieties of some parents as well as the direction of education policy.

As a baby my daughter was entirely bottle-fed for medical reasons. About the age of 9 she then came from a “broken home” after her mother and I split up. My daughter has always attended state schools. She had two happy years at an intermediate, a type of school the Government seems to have little time for.

The Ministry of Education is keen on parent involvement in schooling but for many years I’ve hardly been a role model for it. I’ve gone to parent evenings and some prize-givings and I’ve inquired after my daughter’s day. I don’t think her mother has done much more. But from early on, our child understood far more about what her teachers were wanting of her than we did.

At intermediate she was invited to go into an accelerated class and I thought it might be a good idea. But my daughter wasn’t having any of it: “It’s too nerdy Dad!”

So what has worked for my daughter? I think it has mostly been general middle-class advantage. Two professional parents and the language environment that goes with that. Being read to frequently as a small child and access to good early childhood education. Living and holidaying overseas for several years. Attending schools with mainly advantaged peers and whose teachers were able to capitalise on all the advantages those children and young people were bringing to school.

I don’t think of my daughter as “gifted”. There are children who are genuinely gifted but there are many more who have been highly advantaged and whose parents prefer to think they are gifted.

The Key Government keeps trying to downplay socio-economic and other contextual influences on education. This is most unfair for many schools and the communities they serve. Schools get compared on raw results or by decile rather than in any “value-added” way that takes better account of social contexts.

Minister of Education Hekia Parata says New Zealand’s PISA results show that socio-economic status accounts for only 18 per cent of student achievement. But what is being used to make this claim is only PISA’s narrow definition of family socio-economic influence.

International experts tell me that by using PISA’s wider criteria that include neighbourhood and school socio-economic factors, 78 per cent of New Zealand’s results are explained by socio-economic conditions.

This strong link between social factors and student achievement in PISA results should not surprise.

A powerful relationship between social class and student achievement has been a repeated theme of world research in the sociology of education for more than 50 years.

I congratulate my daughter for her wonderful school achievements and I congratulate the teachers that helped her to excel. But none of us should imagine that patterns of unequal attainment in the school system will change very much without reducing socio-economic inequalities and related segregation between schools.

Be Careful What You Wish For

By Wayne Bainbridge

In November 2013, there was great debate and hysteria in New Zealand on a big slippage in New Zealand’s PISA rankings and much ill-informed comment on our comparative standings, especially with ‘countries’ in Asia. PISA is a 3 yearly survey carried out by the OECD to compare the educational performance of member countries, in science, maths and reading of 15 year old school studies (Programme for International Student Achievement).

The ‘countries’ which led the OECD world were Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan and Korea. Shanghai and Hong Kong are not countries but cities and shouldn’t be compared with countries. Both are strong economies with a strong emphasis on education. When I asked Andreas Schleicher, the deputy director of PISA, why PISA included cities like Shanghai he replied that was the only place in China that they could get reliable data. The supposition is that the national data for China, if available would be significantly poorer. (Incidentally, the 2013 PISA report also attributed 21% of educational achievement was due to the strength of the economy in that setting). The 2006 darlings of PISA performance, Finland had all but dropped off the top performing national ladder in 2013. Closer examination of Finland’s data post 2006 found that Finland excluded indigenous and special education pupils from their data.

Time Magazine (Dec 4 2013) summarized the absurdity of the PISA ranking of Shanghai under the headline ‘China is Cheating the World Student Ranking System’. “Beijing must supply national data …..and not simply the results of a small majority of elite students’. Students in Shanghai and Hong Kong are better educated than students in the rest of China”

Fact: 84% of Shanghai high school graduates go to university compared with just 24% nationally. (Tom Loveless, Brookings Institute).
Many in Western countries including New Zealand immediately jumped on the bandwagon that Asian education was better and we had much to learn from the Asian region. Those advocating this sentiment need to consider the educational environment prevalent in Asia.
* Entry to teacher training is at Masters degree level.
* Huge government investment in on-going teacher Inservice and IT provision.
* Societal valuing and support of education and teachers. Truancy rare.
* Special needs children often excluded.
* Huge parental investment in education and extra curricula tutoring.
* Little arts, sport, music and creativity as part of school curriculum.
* High stigmatization of academic failure.
* With the exception of Singapore, the other Asian leaders tend to be mono-cultural. All the Asian leaders are very disciplined societies and without a social welfare system. Education success is a crucial motivator to economic success in such environments.

So what would be the implications for New Zealand for those advocating we adopt Asian practices?

The most obvious ones would be that entry to teacher training would require Masters Level. The government would invest heavily in ongoing teacher Inservice and would probably require a minimum number of “inservicing credits” for renewal of teacher registration. We would probably follow suit and exclude special education children from our data. These are all easy to implement.

The harder issues are more long term and would require really brave government actions which would be politically unpopular. We need to bring about societal changes creating a more disciplined, respectful society. This would require changes in law and order with a more punitive approach but with a corresponding strengthening of the economy with government investment in jobs and job creation and raising the income levels of lower income families. It would require a complete re-think of the place of social welfare such that becoming long term unemployment (or never employed) or going on the DPB would no longer be career options.

The status of education and its role in leading to decent employment prospects would bring about greater respect and valuing of education.
In reality, the societal changes will never happen because no government would have the balls or the tenure to make it happen. Thus those who advocate we adopt Asian educational practices, need to look at the environment they exist in and be careful of what they wish for.

Exorbitant charter schools funding revealed

From the PPTA:

One of the premises of charter schools was that they would be funded at the same level as public schools – clearly a pretty crucial factor if comparisons between the two are going to be made. The Ministry states that the resourcing is intended to “provide a broadly similar level of funding to that for schools and students in the state system.”

What the Minister hasn’t said is that the funding – while ‘broadly similar’ is actually far more than almost all students in the public system receive. A newly released cabinet paper from October last year spells it out though. “The cost is particularly high, especially for small secondary schools…” and, the cost of these schools “is much higher on a per student basis” than others.

How much higher is revealed in the charter school contracts.

School sponsor

Establishment Payment

Annual operational payment, 2014

Students 2014

Per student funding, 2014

Villa

$1,019,533

$1,340,940

90

$14,899

ATC

$1,611,534

$2,123,804

108

$19,664

He Puna Marama

$1,880,693

$2,016,630

50

$40,332

Nga Parirau

$1,379,150

$1,508,560

71

$21,247

Rise UP

$391,945

$484,440

50

$9,688

Total

$6,508,389

$7,474,374

369

$20,255

Compare this to the average per student funding in the public system (2011- most recent year figures released for) including property, staffing and operations resourcing: $6,978

The Ministry of Education says that it’s unfair to compare these two, as these are new schools which always cost more. But the point is, they only build new schools when they really have to because of roll growth, not just for a political, or ideological point. Except in the case of charter schools.

And the greatest irony of all, this is a policy from the party that claims “Government spending is out of control.”

Why Are Teachers Used As Targets?

Interesting article by Allan Alach at The Daily Blog.

The 2013 school year has now concluded and teachers are heading off to well deserved breaks. It’s timely, then, to cast an eye over how teachers fit into the world of schooling under the Global Education Reform Movement (GERM). New Zealand, as the ‘johnny-come-lately’ to GERM, is following overseas trends, especially those from the usual Anglo-Saxon suspects. Note that this following of overseas policies is in stark contrast to the leading role that NZ education had up until 1990. To be fair, I doubt that Hekia Parata, her government colleagues, and the Ministry of Education, have an indepth awareness of the full GERM agenda, especially given the government’s lack of understanding of just about any issue. Ideology over evidence; slogans over informed policy.

One trend is very clear – the imposition of GERM based policies requires the downplaying of teaching as a profession. The main weapons used to achieve this are the continual attacks on teachers for not raising achievement and the introduction of ‘big stick’ policies to make teachers lift their game. This runs from the extreme of hiring and firing teachers based on their classes’ performances in national testing programmes, to performance pay based on the same criteria. Teachers can’t be held accountable for the impossible.
While these sticks haven’t yet arrived in New Zealand, you can rest assured that should National win the 2014 election, we can expect moves in this direction fairly quickly. The framework to enable this has been developed in the Progress and Consistency Tool (PaCT) database of children’s achievement against national standards, and which will include links to their teachers. While PaCT is not yet compulsory, we can ignore Hekia Parata’s statements that this will never be the case. Too much has been invested in PaCT for it to remain optional. If the election goes National’s way, we can expect two things – there will be a new minister of education (due to the incompetence of the present occupant), and PaCT will become compulsory.

So, the question is “Why is it necessary for GERM to destroy teaching as a profession?”
There are a number of possible answers to this. The first one, the most obvious one, is that teachers are highly educated professionals who are very skilled in helping children learn. Anyone who claims otherwise is just showing extreme ignorance. Who is best placed to point out the pitfalls in the standards based education movement? Who is best placed to point out that the biggest impediment to children’s learning (outside of meddling politicians and business people who have no understanding at all) is the socioeconomic backgrounds of the children? Who sees hungry, poorly clothed, and ill-housed children, lacking in life experiences, coming to school every day? Who better to really see the effects of poverty on children? Teachers of course.

For GERM type policies to be implemented, the teaching profession needs to be silenced. We could equate GERM to the emperor with no clothes, and teachers to the boy who points out the obvious that others refuse to see. Destroying the status of the teaching profession is crucial to this movement. As I’ve said many times, the present government’s education policies have nothing to do with education in its richest sense.
I’m not sure, as things stand today, whether I’d encourage anyone to consider teaching as a career. Why should anyone want to paint a target on their chest so that ill informed politicians, media and others, can take pot shots? If the present trends continue, this will only get worse. As for being a principal, even more so. Employment dependent on school’s national standards results? Happens overseas…..

Running concurrently with the need to attack the teaching profession, is the need to silence the two education unions – the Post Primary Teachers Association (secondary teachers) and the New Zealand Educational Institute (pre-school and primary teachers.) The unions, naturally, bring the collective voices of teachers together, and, contrary to the right wing spin, are motivated to enhance the learning environments and opportunities for children, as well as ensuring the status of teachers is suitably rewarded. These unions are well placed to also point out the nakedness of National’s education policies and so are a threat.

While so far both unions have succeeded in retaining their membership and collectivity, it’s no secret that National led governments have been trying to destroy this ever since the Employment Contracts Act of 1991. The unions’ strength comes from the very high membership. I don’t have the figures but I would conjecture that over 95% of all teachers belong to their union. The power of this solidarity is a threat to the government. Attacking (blaming) unions for problems with children’s learning is a common ploy overseas, aimed at distracting attention away from the real issue – inequality.

A more extreme reason for destroying teaching as a profession is to be found in the USA. The multinational corporations who are working to mine profits out of education have this vision of a future where children will primarily be taught by networked computers, with human interaction restricted to providing assistance as needed and ensuring all children are on task. I’m not exaggerating. There are already moves in this direction through an organisation called the Khan Academy, where online video lessons are provided for children to follow. The acknowledged educational expert Bill Gates (yes, he of Windows blue screen of death fame) has called the Khan Academy ‘the future of education.’ In educational slang, this is merely a version of ‘chalk and talk;’ there’s nothing radical about this at all. Educationally, this method of instruction is garbage, and will kill children’s desires to learn very quickly.

However online instruction through video or computers appeals to economists (those who know the cost of everything and the value of nothing) as it means huge savings in teacher salaries. Who needs teachers when computers will do the work? Who needs economists may be a better question.
There’s nothing immediately imminent about the use of this kind of schooling in New Zealand. However, the trends can be discerned, as internet learning networks are presently being established. While there is a place for online instruction to provide tuition where teachers are not available (such as specialist subjects in remote secondary schools, or in correspondence schooling), it is not a valid means of educating the masses (the rich will take care of their own). How do you fancy having your kids/grandkids taught through videos or computers?
Anyone who thinks computers and online videos will be replacements for skilled teachers has absolutely no understanding about how children learn.

Part of the process of attacking teachers is to minimise their qualifications, and so we now find six week training courses to prepare teachers (aping similar programmes in the USA). Regular teacher education is a four year course, followed by two years practical, in order to gain full registration. And they think that this can be replaced by six weeks? How would you like to treated by a doctor with similar fast tracked training?
However Hekia has thought of the problems with ensuring that fast tracked graduates are able to attain their teacher registration, and so she plans to replace the New Zealand Teachers Council (membership partially elected by teachers) with her own hand picked group (no elected members). While her usual verbiage obscures the reasons for this, there is no doubt that this is yet another way to downplay the professional status of teachers.

And so it goes.

Not withstanding all this nonsense, the reality is that teaching children of any age is a very skilled and very demanding job. Anyone who argues to the contrary is showing that they have no idea at all of what being a teacher entails. I venture to suggest that there are very few ex-teachers, who have moved on to other professions, who reflect back on their teaching lives as easy. It’s a common saying amongst teachers that they’d love to put ignorant critics in front of a class of kids for a week or longer, and see how they’d cope. While I’d love to put these ignoramuses in a classroom, the damage to the children’s learning would make this rather unethical. But it sure would be fun to watch……

Working with children, seeing them grow and develop to reach their potential, is extremely rewarding. This is why teachers put up with the nonsense that comes from meddling governments and ignorant commentators. It is also extremely demanding, both in the full-on involvement that comes with working with 30 or so children for six hours each day, and in the unseen hours of preparation and other paper work (including ‘keep busy work’) that needs to be put in before and after school hours, as well as in weekends and term breaks.

By the end of the school year, teachers are exhausted. From November onwards, a teacher’s life is a blur of end of year reports, paperwork, national standards rankings, meetings, as well as beginning the planning process for the following year. Added to that burden are children who are also worn out (learning is actually hard work) and tired of school for the year. The opening of swimming pools (in schools fortunate enough to have a pool) is a real blessing!

It’s only too easy for outsiders (those who’ve never taught or worked in schools) to point at all the so-called holidays. I refused to call the two week breaks during the school year ‘holidays’ as they most certainly are not. Most of the time is spent recovering from the previous term – it takes until about Tuesday of the second week to recover, and then a day or so later it’s time to start planning for the coming term. It would, in fact, be more accurate to consider these breaks as sick leave. Remove these breaks, as various governments have suggested, and the outcome will be significant numbers of teacher breakdowns. The only break that counts as a holiday is about four weeks from late December to late January.
Having said all this, I wish all teachers a very pleasant and restful holiday. Forget about school for a few weeks and live life as a normal person. Enjoy the rest. You deserve it.

Principal’s Report 2013

My personal inquiry in 2013 was around the question ‘how does a high performing school continue to be a high performing school?’ The answer is really obvious: by continuing to do what it does best and improve those areas that need improving. My own mantra is that organisations that sit still and don’t change, will wither and die. At Matipo Primary, we have a strong system of self-review and self-reflection. Events and strategies are debriefed and analysed. This year we undertook reviews of planning, assessment, inquiry, IT and maths. With roll growth causing a major change in school organisation and physical layout, it was also an opportunity to reflect on changes required as a result with exciting but challenging changes planned for 2014. High performing schools need to continue to work hard, to challenge our own standards and meet the enhanced expectations of the community.

2014 marks our 50th year and also our 5th year of partnership with Akzo Nobel, our fantastic sponsor. In 2013, they paid for the building and painting of a permanent outdoor stage which will become a major school and community asset, as well as continuing to staff and pay for the breakfast programme. Long-time supporters of the school, Torque Mechanical (23 years) and Unichem Pharmacy (5 years) are also acknowledged.

There is so much to be proud of about out school. The children are fantastic and fantastically behaved. The staff are committed and multi-talented. Our kapa haka group performance bought tears to my eyes. This year’s Classical Concert and Art Exhibition were wonderful events and I acknowledge the generosity of our guest artists for their gifts of paintings to our permanent collection. The new concept of ‘Wine with Wayne’ at the parent interviews was enjoyed by the small number of parents who popped in but hopefully it will grow next year. Attendance at parent interviews and Learning Expo’s reached around 75% – wonderful support.

Some specific school goals in 2013 were around improving the quality of our writing which we did but specific data will appear elsewhere. Induction of new staff was a major success and a trend has been set of appointing staff who are committed, professional, multi-talented, strong work ethic and with good interpersonal skills. Four new staff appointed for 2014 have these attributes. We farewell two incredibly good teacher this year: Azba Rasheed to marriage and moving to Canada, and Sian Foley to maternity leave. A huge thanks and very best wishes.

A major headache in 2013 was the new classroom block and the incredible difficulty of getting it built on time. The MOE process is greatly flawed and the procrastination, lies, excuses and stonewalling of the project team (not our MOE property advisor) took such a huge toll on me, I had to take stress leave. Providing additional classroom space and upgrading the school to provide modern learning environments for 21st century learning remain a major challenge.

2014 will be another exciting year for us, with new opportunities, new initiatives, new refinements, new organisation and new staff. I absolutely guarantee that 2014 – the 50th year of Matipo Primary, will be sensational!

Kind regards and very best wishes,

Wayne Bainbridge

Police Incident Kervil Ave

There was a police incident this afternoon in the vicinity of Neil Ave shops involving firearms, ambulance and fire staff and a large police and Armed Offenders Squad contingent were on site.

Acting on police instructions, the school was put in lockdown. The gates were locked and all children were confined to the hall. Children living in the immediate vicinity of the action were to be held at school until the all clear was given by police, which came through at 2.55pm.

I would like to strongly complement the staff and children who responded quickly and quietly. Several staff put themselves potentially at risk on the school perimeters. Two children were quite shaken but in these circumstances we have to be transparent with the children, err on the side of safety and follow the instructions of police.

 

TVNZ story

Police release

Germ Warfare

There is a worldwide education trend known as the Global Education Reform Movement. It is not based on educational need nor is it driven by research-based educational theory. Rather, it is driven by political rhetoric and expediency. Its philosophy is embedded in cost saving and privatisation of education as governments seek to devolve from direct responsibility for provision of high quality public education.

The rationale of governments around the world is that it’s purpose is to improve educational outcome and standards – laudable to the extreme but is the methodology proven and will it success in its purpose? Internationally, the GERM virus is characterised by prescribing more competition between schools and school systems. Private school, charter school, secondary school academies (England), league tables (NCEA, National Standards). It is based on a market philosophy that competition between schools and school systems will raise achievement.

Accompanying this is the notion of school inspections and associated ratings, standardised testing of children and performance pay for teachers. The Finnish example (number one as the world’s best education nation for the last 10 years) is contrary to the concept of competition as a means of improving performance.

School choice is seen as a means of increasing competition and allowing parents to access high quality education for their children. Yes it does for a relatively small number of wealthy and predominantly white parents. Of course the quality of education for carefully screened and selected pupils with engaged and highly driven parents paying $12,000 – $20,000 per year fees plus laptops, sports coaching fees, overseas tours and the like will be better than that provided by open access state schools.

In New Zealand, the newly promoted charter schools will not have to employ trained registered teachers nor will National Standards apply.

Standardised testing worldwide has seen schools teach to the test (11 + exam in England for the last 30 years) and causing schools to narrow the curriculum to concentrate on reading, writing, and maths. Arts, science, sport and social science become casualties. In some countries, standardised test results are linked to performance pay.

The Finnish system is based simply on equity in education – to provide a strong public education system where all children have access to good schools. All schools are equally provided for without a system of “haves and have not’s”.

Teaching is a hugely regarded profession with strong competition to enter teacher training with a Masters level entry qualification. The notion of competition and standardisation testing and competitive models is non-existent. Finnish teachers enjoy antonomy, professional trust and public respect. The Finnish government invests 30 times more in professional development of teachers then it does in testing pupils. They have adopted proven best practices from around the world. Pasi Galberg, the internationally renowned Finnish educator puts it well, “Without strong public schools, our nations and communities are poorly equipped to value humanity, equality and democracy. I think we should not educate children to be similar according to a standardised metric but help them discover their own talents and teach them to be different. Diversity is richness in humanity and a condition for innovation”.

Farewell Sir Paul Holmes

You can read about Paul’s career in various media outlets. He had a very fulfilling career as an eminent broadcaster, writer, columnist and singer.

I knew him when I was president of the NZ Special Education Association. Paul had suffered a serious head injury through a road accident resulting in some brain damage. This caused him to have great empathy to those with disability and he always gave us on air publicity for special education events and conferences and interviewed our international speakers.He was patron of the Paralympic organisation in NZ.

Paul made a huge contribution to his community in an anonymous, sincere manner as well as through his public persona.

Arohanui Paul,

Wayne Bainbridge.

Just how is Hekia still hanging on?

Excellent opinion piece on the controversy surrounding Education Minister Parata from Simon Cunliffe of The Press.

The question arises: how much havoc and uncertainty do ministers have to create within the realms of their portfolios before they are deemed to be acting beyond their competence and are quietly moved into other, perhaps less acute, domains?

It is a question Prime Minister John Key might like to contemplate on the golf course in Hawaii this summer, particularly with respect to the critically urgent business of this country’s education system; and with respect to the minister whose every move seems mired in missteps and controversy.

Enrolment Scheme Statement

An open group forum on Facebook has been having a vigorous debate about the school enrolment zone motives and process. Unfortunately very little of it is based on facts and there is a malicious intent to a lot of it.

These are the facts:

  1. For the last 2 and a half years Matipo have warned that a surge in enrolments was putting pressure on the school and the school roll was likely to be restricted.
  1. Earlier this year after we approached the Ministry of Education for more classrooms, the Ministry commissioned a demographic survey of the Te Atatu Peninsula and then wrote to us to tell us they believed our school was becoming overcrowded and directing us to implement an enrolment zone.
  1. The Ministry then drew up the enrolment zone map and description and directed us to begin a 28 day consultation process.
  1. People who live within the proposed enrolment zone will be able to attend Matipo, as of right.
  1. People who live outside of the zone would have to apply to go into a police supervised ballot for any available places.
  1. People living within our zone may also choose to go to either of the other primary schools on the Peninsula.
  1. Those two schools can continue to enrol children from anywhere they like. With our school zone restricted, it is to the advantage of the other two schools whose rolls will grow.

To the many rumours or deliberate misinformation from the Facebook forum:

a)     No, this is not a ‘clever’ or ‘cunning’ marketing ploy.

b)     The school roll has not been ‘dwindling over the years’. It goes up every year and we get new rooms every year.

c)     The process has been forced upon us by the Ministry who drew up the zone and provided the wording for the consultation notice.

  1. The enrolment zone is a reality because we have no room for further expansion and the other two local schools, in the words of the Ministry, have “network capacity”.
  1. Finally, as the enrolment zone is still out for consultation and hasn’t been signed off by the Secretary of Education, we are still open for enrolments for this year and succeeding years.

If you wish to object to the zone then do so in writing to us by Sunday, 26th August 2012.

Click to enlarge