Archive for Education

A fair share in an unfair world – The Demise of Deciles

Stuart Middleton

EdTalkNZ

3 August 2017

 

At last the decile system has gone! Announced in the early 1990s. it was intended to be a mechanism to take account of the socio-economic status of schools in assigning resources to all schools or, to put it more crudely, it was meant to deliver increased funding to schools who taught students who were at risk of failing.

The formula was built around five factors related to the socio-economic standing of parents and caregivers and their level of education, their occupations, the number of people living in the house, and the degree of benefit dependency.

Through a complex process of ranking across the five areas, the numbers were crunched and a “decile rating” tattooed firmly across the forehead of each school. This was to become a badge of honour for those in Deciles 8-10 or a mark of shame for those in Deciles 1-3. Schools in the Decile 4-7 range were in something of a state of suspended judgement in which the reputation of the school depended on other things.

At a time when it was launched there was a developing maniacal level of the worst sort of competition between schools. There was no show at all of the decile rating system being used as a neutral means of assigning resources more fairly. At that time, I was a Principal of a low-decile school. Rather than hugely increased resources which the high-decile schools alleged was being delivered to low-decile schools, I was instead the beneficiary of commiserations and voices lowered as a sign of deep sympathy by others when they discussed the school. That scheme could hardly have been launched at a worse time.

So, let’s be clear – when it came to reputation, high deciles were the winners and low deciles were the losers regardless of school quality. The shocking history of the way low-decile schools were regarded over many years was certain evidence that our national system was broken and that New Zealand could harbour no false impression that it was a united country at least in terms of schooling, This was a situation that flowed from the perceptions of groups of people about other groups of people; it flowed from the “secret courts of the hearts and heads of men and women”; it flowed from a media with a voracious appetite for slinging the dirt at those who were down; it flowed from real estate agents whose views on schools were based only on decile-ratings and “what that told you” about one area or another.

But those going to the low-decile schools saw themselves in this way. Of course, those who went to high decile schools knew they were better than others, those who went to low decile schools often enjoyed going to school, were taught by many excellent and a fair proportion of superb teachers. Teachers who knew that education was about helping people to grow and making changes were attracted to low decile areas. Never make the mistake of thinking that ‘high decile’ and ‘low decile’ are or ever have been an automatic proxy for ‘high quality’ and ‘low quality’.

But that has all changed with the announcement that deciles are out as a risk assessment of the student body in each school replaces it, perhaps 2019 students is in. While not a lot of detail has yet been revealed, some clear distinctions emerge between the old and the new.

  • The money will be follow the students assessed as carrying a risk into their schooling rather than being apportioned on the basis of a statistical generalisation based on a set of untested assumptions about a demographic group in a geographic area.
  • Schools who have disproportionate numbers of students with considerable risk will receive their fair share of the funding that reflects the actual proportion of their student numbers who meet the criteria and not be limited because they have been assigned to a category based on a relatively crudely decile or some part of a decile.
  • The early information suggests that the assessment will be on risk factors known to have a close association with low achievement, be based on actual families and young people who go to the school. The assessment will be based on data which reflect the actual issues faced by a student which impact negatively on their school progress.

The actual categories are a comprehensive list of factors that are known to directly impact on a young persons school performance:

  • Proportion of time spent supported by benefits since birth
  • Child has a Child, Youth and Family notification
  • Mother’s age at child’s birth
  • Father’s offending and sentence history
  • Ethnicity
  • Youth Justice referral
  • Benefit mother unqualified
  • Proportion of time spent overseas since birth
  • Most recent benefit male caregiver is not the birth father
  • Mother’s average earned income over the previous 5 years
  • School transience
  • Country of birth
  • Father’s average earned income over the previous 5 years
  • Migrant /New Zealand born
  • Number of children (mother)
  • Mother received third tier benefits (payments directed to alleviating hardship)

Clearly the calculations will achieve a far higher level of granularity than previously and, most importantly will not be made public – schools will receive their funding as part of the annual process – bulk funding, however unpopular with teachers, would be the ultimate protection of this anonymity.

The biggest challenge will be to the professionalism of all in education to resist attempts to undermine this new approach and to “leak” or to become partners in dirty tricks with the media that might wish to deconstruct the funding package – were this to happen it would simply perpetrate the dubious behaviours of the past. I have faith in the integrity of the our profession which I hope will in turn  have faith in this unique and bold approach to finding a level of social equity between schools.

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Trying to keep the baby in the bathwater having thrown out the bath!

A friend was cleaning out the cupboard the other day and came across a little publication from the Department of Education in Auckland dated 1967.  It was a school by school listing of the courses that they offered.  Apparently in those old days it was considered to be in the interests of parents and their children to have this information impartial and undiluted by the “marketing madness” that would get its grip on such a publication now.

It highlighted several things.

By and large secondary school back then offered far more choice to students than they do now (albeit that this is changing in some schools).  A reason for this was that students could chose from Year 11 to focus their schooling and they could even match this with a selection of options that got them onto the pathway.

Now, before people take to twitter to point out to me that this was in the BAD old days when students were STREAMED!  Well, let’s use the more neutral term “tracked”, no, let’s get right up to date and call them pathways, for that is what they were.  Students could see a pathway to skills, to employment (for there were jobs for all), to a family sustaining wage and if the schooling system was to do its work it should have been able to do so in the 10 years students spend up to the age of 15 (then) or 16 years.

We then faced the death of choice as the system became more and more devoted to the notion of the comprehensive high school.  This was a bizarre way of coping with difference by having all students do the same programme.  Another Department of Education publication puts it like this:

“The secondary schools, no longer selective, must now cater for students of widely differing skills, abilities and interests. The range is little narrower than in the adolescent population as a whole.  Much remains to be done before it can be said that the schools have completely adjusted their curricula and methods to the facts of this situation.”

This extract is from the Thomas Report, the work of the Committee established by the Minister of Education in 1942.  The style changes but not the basic issues.  The Thomas Report went on to reshape School Certificate that, in tune with the time internationally, was believed would be the school leaving qualification for most.

What strikes me is that the approved list of optional subjects for School Certificate included such subjects as:

Animal Husbandry

Applied Mechanics

Bookkeeping

Commercial Practice

Dairying

Engineering shop work

Field Husbandry

Heat engines

Horticulture

Shorthand Typewriting

Technical Drawing

Technical Electricity

Woodwork

In short there was then, and it persisted into the late sixties and early seventies, a wide selection of what can be described as “vocational education and training.” 

The committee actually noted that it was “not exalting ‘general’ education at the expense of ‘vocational’ education and that it is now recognized that the antithesis is largely a false one.” 63 years ago they saw it but still the split between “academic” and “vocational” persists.

Percy Nunn got it right when he said….

To train someone in the tradition of these ancient occupations is to ensure … that they will throw themselves into their work with spirit, and with a zeal for mastery that teachers usually look for in the elect….a student’s whole intellectual vitality may be heightened, their sense of spiritual values quickened. In short, the vocational training may become in the strictest sense liberal.

He goes on to say….

To ignore this truth, to overlook the desire of the healthy adolescent to get to grips with reality, would be fatal. Indeed, the ‘general’ education of many students would have much greater significance to them if it was brought into a closer relationship with their strictly “vocational” studies.

The liberalisation of the school curriculum through multiple pathways, trades academies, options for vocational education and training at age 16 years and suchlike activity has a long history. The tragedy has been that it has taken close to seventy years for us to substantiate it.

All students are special, but some students have special needs

I think the 21st Century will be characterised by a phenomenon that might be called “condition creep.” This is where a condition starts to be redefined to such an extent that the clearly understood condition becomes obfuscated and the search for a “new” condition begins.

This occurred to me when listening to several speakers on the radio who were talking about the Dyslexia Awareness Week. In the course of this I learned that 45,000 New Zealanders suffer from dyslexia. This seemed rather high to me. But then it became increasingly apparent that the condition was now not simply the impact on reading of some neurological process that sees people confusing letters. It now seemed to apply to a lack of co-ordination, a series of learning difficulties and being a little bit off track in terms of teacher expectation.

I was reminded of the trouble that a UK academic got into a few years ago when he argued that dyslexia was often no more than a description by middle class white that sought to explain why Sally or Charles were having trouble getting the hang of reading or perhaps even being a little slow to pick up maths.

Of course he was wrong and his comments were a disservice to the young and old people who really do have dyslexia – there is no doubt that it exists. But in my time as a teacher of English and all my time working in education, I have to say that the clearly and genuinely dyslexic (in terms of the original definition) seemed to me to be quite small in number.

There is also the puzzling feature that white middle class communities have higher levels of reporting of dyslexia than the poorer areas where there is a significantly increased number of people with literacy issues. One wonders about this!

Some years ago I felt that the same condition creep was occurring with “ADHD” and right now I have to wonder about the spread of “depression”. What is it that makes us want to blur definitions? It can’t be a simple attempt at inclusiveness. Rather it seems to me that it might be a symptom of a community that has a number of people who are asking for help and of people who are seeking explanations by way of labels. In short, what is described as a condition might well in fact be a symptom for something else.

Another strange fact is that high decile schools access special assistance for students with issues when it comes to external assessments more than low decile schools and by quite a margin. The radio report I was referring to earlier noted that 17% of candidates from high decile schools compared to 1.0% of low decile school candidates were recipients of NZQA funded support at assessment time. It takes my mind back to the days when “equity funding” was dished out to institutions on the basis of the total EFTS. How’s that for targeted resource?

No-one sets out to rort the system on the one hand nor to deny a student that to which they are rightfully entitled on the other – but it happens. The swirl around the whole business of “special needs” and the support of students suggests a situation where we might have got something somewhat wrong.

Perhaps we should seek guidance from countries where they get it right?

 

Starting with the end in mind

The central most important question used be called the $64 question – it was the last question in the 1950s show Take It or Leave It. It was  the largest prize. Of course the term has inflated due to the ignorance of folk top its origin and now the most important question is typically said to be the $64,000 question.

Today we might well be asking one question and it really is attached to the number 64,000.

This year 64,000 students will start school and the question is “Where will they be in 13 years time – in 2028?” It is the finishing point rather than the starting point that is important.

We know that unless there are changes to the system, 13,440 of these starters will have dropped out of the race before they are sixteen years old, forget reaching Year 13. Perhaps 10-15% of those left are unlikely to have a platform from which they can head securely towards a great future. That’s another 5k – 7.5k. And so the story continues.

If the little ones joining the system today face an unchanged system that keeps on delivering the same then they will simply get the same results.

And they are not the only ones starting – many are starting secondary school for the first time –   that is a challenge. Many others are looking at NCEA results and wondering about whether they are going well, doing the right subjects, heading on a career path that they understand and want?

Where each single student ends up ought to be a consideration from the beginning of each and every year. Doing well at each end point is simply a sound basis for doing better at the next.

What better inspiration at the start of the year than to recall T S Eliot’s lines:

What we call the beginning is often the end

And to make an end is to make a beginning.

The end is where we start from.

A good school education is the largest prize!

 

Party at Hekia’s Place – BYOE Bring Your Own Excellence along

It looks as if 2014 is shaping up to be somewhat unusual for education in New Zealand – three key developments are happening.

In March a set of Education Festivals will be held in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Developed by Cognition Education and with the four key themes of COLLABORATION, INNOVATION, COHESION and CELEBRATION.   The festivals are co-ordinated by Cognition Education with the support of the Ministry of Education and will coincide with the 4th International Summit on the Teaching Profession, jointly hosted by the OECD, Education International and New Zealand through the MOE.

The festivals focused on two key dimensions, the performance of students, teachers, schools and institutions in our community and the proud record New Zealand has inspired improved educational achievement in other countries by sharing our expertise and systems.

The press education receives is generally at best miserable and at times plain negative. I have frequently pointed out that the profession too often contributes to this. Here is a golden opportunity for education to put on its best clothes and strut its stuff in public and rather then spout clichés  about a “world class education system” , to allow the outcomes of the work of schools and other education providers be seen and enjoyed by a wider community. Let the work and skills of our students be the push for the excellent brew that comes out in most schools.

An added opportunity is to be able to do this while an international community of educators is here as our guest – a chance not only to show and teach but also to listen and to learn. The participating countries at the 4th International Summit are the top 20 education systems as measured by the PISA  results and the five fastest improvers.

This is a unique opportunity for New Zealand to learn and to gain insights into how we can match achievement data with greatly improved equity measures.  Both the festival and the summit will allow us to share insights with others and to learn from the insights of others. This is not a bragging contest but potentially could be a fine week for education n New Zealand.

The Minister of Education Hon Hekia Parata is behind both of these initiatives and her leadership deserves strong support from the sector and from all levels within the sector.

The third element that could lift the image of education in New Zealand is the announcement, also from Minister Parata, of the inaugural Prime Minister’s Education Excellence Awards to be introduced for 2014. The tertiary education sector has had just such a set of awards for about 10 years and they have been markedly successful under the astute leadership of Ako Aotearoa.

This new set of awards will focus on early childhood education, primary and secondary schooling and collaboration between secondary schools, tertiary providers and employers. This last award – collaboration – is particularly pleasing coming at a time when it is emerging that pathways between sectors will be a critical feature of the new environment that will allow us to address equity.

Ands that brings us back to the festival and the summit. We need to see these three developments as a set of tools that the education system can use to create a better education sector, one characterised by collaboration, by clear evidence of excellence and by a commitment to improved equity of outcomes. We will do this in part by seeing collaboration (bringing the fragmented sector together for the festival) and celebrating (excellence in teaching through the awards) as necessary to lifting our game. Necessary but not in themselves sufficient – long term change will require us to make a habit of collaboration and celebration.

In summary:

  •          Festivals of Education  – Auckland (21-23 March 2014), Wellington (29 March 2014) and Christchurch (23 March 2014)
  •          The 4th International Summit on the Teaching Profession – March 2014 
  •          Prime Minister’s Education Excellence Awards – entries close 31 March 2014

Roll on March I say.

 

 

Pathways-ED: Let’s elevate the talk

 

Written by Terry Bates – CEO, Cognition Education Ltd

 

Over the past weekend we watched the Labour Party elect a new leader.  Foremost in the minds of Labour Party members, we are told, was Mr Cunliffe’s sharp intellect and his perceived ability to “take the fight” to the government.  On the face of it, this augurs well for the health of our democracy and will give the “political junkies” in this readership the prospect of a much enlivened year leading into the General Election. 

The popular wisdom in New Zealand is that elections are won or lost in the mid-range of voter preferences.  For that reason it has often been difficult to distinguish the policy platforms of our two major political parties and for around 25 years there has been a significant public policy consensus between National and Labour in a number of areas.   Both parties have been resolutely committed to the management of a low-inflation economy.  In the Education area, the administrative blueprint originally called “Tomorrow’s Schools” has remained largely unchallenged since its inception. 

In 2006, Labour’s  Education Minister,  Steve Maharey seemed to flirt briefly with the idea of a wider system review with a particular focus on the performance and role of boards of trustees. The idea was quickly trounced by the then Opposition spokesman Bill English who pungently characterized the proposal as threatening, “all-intrusive centralized control of the education system”.

Anti-bureaucrat rhetoric has long played well in the New Zealand electorate.  With the memory of Trevor Mallard’s unpopular programme of school closures still haunting them, Mr Maharey’s Cabinet colleagues seemed to persuade him to quickly drop the idea. This was a shame.  If there was ever an area of political consensus that seems worthy of close examination, it is the proposition that value in our public education spend is most likely to be extracted by distributing the control of that spend and in particular responsibility for the performance of the teaching work-force across more than 2,500 community boards. 

Currently neither of the major political parties would appear to have much appetite for reviewing the locus of school control or critically examining the impact on system performance.  Mr Cunliffe’s success has been backed by promises to take the Labour Party to the left – an appeal to reinvigorating traditional Labour voters has also been central to the stump rhetoric for the top job.  Within the party that bias will tend to reinforce locally elected school boards as an important expression of participatory democracy – they are after all the smallest unit of representation in our polity.

On the government benches we can hardly expect a Prime Minister committed to lowering the numbers employed in government administration to have much enthusiasm for any move that appears to offer the prospect of diminishing school autonomy in favour of strengthened central bureaucratic control.  For different reasons the ideological biases drive to the same place.  There is little motivation for either Mr Key or Mr Cunliffe to disturb the administrative status quo. 

Yet that status quo is a fundamental impediment to creating the sense of national mission and unified purpose that is required to systematically address the embedded patterns of Maori and Pasifika underachievement that have exercised Education Ministers both in the current National-led government and the previous Labour-led administration.  System fragmentation inevitably mitigates against system responsiveness.

As examples,  Ministers Parata and Mallard (despite political differences) are and have been articulate and worthy champions of the educationally marginalized.  However,  they have both been up against a lack of system coherence exacerbated by conflictual mind-sets that so often characterize sector-government relationships.  As illustration, look no further than the tensions over the implementation of National Assessment Standards and the puzzlingly negative reaction in some quarters of the profession to the recent prospect of a nationally applicable moderation tool (PACT) to improve the consistency of teacher judgements in assessing those standards. Professional trust of government intentions (and vice-versa) often seems in unnecessarily short supply for a nation of our size.

Both Mr Key and Mr Cunliffe are possessed of formidable intellects and motivations.  They are very well educated.  They  have both enjoyed conspicuous personal success.  Both men come from relatively modest family backgrounds and they both appear (albeit by different means) genuinely determined to create and foster the economic and social conditions that will maximize the life chances of New Zealanders.  Given their backgrounds and as our two leading politicians they are well-placed to elevate the public policy debate in education. 

In the contest for the Treasury benches, it would be optimistic to expect Messrs Key and Cunliffe not to be embroiled in election-year pamphleteering and associated polemic.  After all that’s their job. But polemic has its limits.  It would be good to hear both leaders commit to the need to forge a new educational policy consensus focused on building high trust relationships with the profession and creating  a genuine sense of shared educational mission for the nation expressed in a durable accord between government agencies, school boards, teacher professional groups and the unions. 

A good place to start would be cross-party endorsement of the proposed reforms to teacher professional credentialling being sponsored by the current Minister.  The ideas are worthy.  They deserve considered debate.  For teachers the reforms appear to offer a genuine opportunity to control and enforce professional standards and develop a stronger professional voice. They seem likely to contribute to improved system intelligence and responsiveness.   In the search for a new consensus, that seems a handy departure point. 

 

 

Talk-ED: Why our most vulnerable are so important

 

Written by Dr John Langley,   Member of the Minister of Education’s Forum on Student Achievement

 

Nelson Mandela once famously said, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way it treats its children”.  That is particularly true of our most vulnerable children.  Indeed, one of the real indicators of whether a society can truly call itself “civilised” is the manner in which its most vulnerable and weak citizens are both perceived and treated.

It is a sad fact that in New Zealand we have many vulnerable children and young people.  In the 2012 year Child Youth and Family (CYF) received around 150,000 notifications of possible abuse or neglect of which 21,000 resulted in a judgement that substantial abuse and/or neglect was occurring.  Over the last three years New Zealand has had some 3,800 children and young people living away from their homes in care.  Also during the last three years there have been some 7,000 to 8,000 family group conferences each year held for young people who have come to the notice of the youth justice system.  Many of them have also been in care and protection situations in the past as well.

While this is all depressing enough, what adds to the problem is that if we are to look at the outcomes we desire for all of our children, such as educational success or good health, children and young people who are being abused, neglected, in care or have involvement with the youth justice system consistently perform poorly.  In many cases very poorly.

When we talk about vulnerable children, who are we talking about?  Generally we are referring to those children and young people who have been or are suffering abuse of some kind, neglect, or who suffer from a range of mental health or conduct problem issues.  In many cases there are co-morbidities such as the teenager who may suffer from a mental health condition and who is also addicted to alcohol or drugs.  Often these children and young people end up in care of some kind or, because of their behaviour, offend and end up in the youth justice system.

So what is the point of all of this in an education blog?  The point is that there is much lip service that rolls off many tongues about how education is supposed to improve an individual’s life chances, to help them realise potential and to provide opportunities they would otherwise not have.  Not for our vulnerable children it doesn’t. 

There is also much talk about the social and moral obligations that we have as a society to provide equal opportunities, or at least vaguely equal opportunities for all.  Not for our most vulnerable children we don’t.

There is also talk about how continued failure of groups such as most vulnerable cannot be sustained.  Yet the cost keeps rising.

The problem is that the education system is inconsistent at best in terms of the way it engages with our most vulnerable.  Let me be clear – I’m not suggesting for one moment that this is easy stuff.  Most of these children need considerable support, often quite intensive interventions, significant resources and very skilled staff.  All of that said, many schools are marvellous and go the extra miles to keep children and young people in school, keep them engaged and provide programmes that will lead to success and further education.  Some are luke- warm at best and are less than enthusiastic when presented with these children.   Others simply don’t engage and refuse to enrol them.  This is not good enough at a time when government agencies are striving to cooperate to a greater degree and work together on challenges such as this.

If an agency such as Child, Youth and Family turns up at a school and says, “Here’s Billy, good luck” any principal would be within her or his right to point out that such a situation is setting everyone up to fail, and postpone any enrolment until the necessary support is in place.

When, however, a school is approached to enrol a child or young person who has considerable support, safety plans and resources to assist them to succeed should a school be able to simply say no or equally make it clear that the child is really not wanted?  I don’t think so.

In New Zealand our schools exist for all children, not just some.  Continued engagement and achievement in education is essential for the future success and development of any individual and to exclude them is removing a basic human right that should never occur except in the most extreme circumstances.  Yet this is what we continue to do.

It is high time that another look is taken at how our schools can and must engage with our most vulnerable.  Unless we do New Zealand society’s “soul” may not bear too much close scrutiny. 

 

 

Secondary-Tertiary Pathways: Collaboration, Collaboration, Collaboration

 

Written by Colleen Young, MIT Centre for Studies in Multiple Pathways / PhD Candidate

 

Seven out of ten of our senior secondary students in New Zealand will not attend University.  Increasing student failure and youth unemployment has focused educators on creating multiple pathways with increased programme choices for senior secondary students.  Student failure should not be an option for any of our senior secondary students.  However, pathways development requires collaboration.

We know that providing increased choices and student-centred learning rather than what works best for an organisation or continuing with the “status quo” requires new ways of working and problem solving in the secondary-tertiary space.   The need for educators to collaborate with other providers, share resources and create individual learning pathways for each learner is paramount, to enable improved student success, if we are going to achieve the 85% government “Better Public Service Target”  of all 18 year olds achieving NCEA Level 2 by 2017.   

High School leaders and management staff are now beginning to build sustainable partnerships with other educational providers with the assistance of the newly established Youth Guarantee Networks.    Although over the last decade secondary schools have introduced Gateway and STAR programmes which have required staff to collaborate with tertiary providers and/or employers, the challenge now is to be able to implement these types of initiatives on a much larger scale.  Youth Guarantee programmes such as Trades Academies, Tertiary Fees Free Places are examples of collaboration between secondary and tertiary providers over the past few years.  For example, New Zealand’s first Tertiary High School (THS), (School of Secondary-Tertiary Studies) situated at the Manukau Institute of Technology was established in February 2010 with the aim of improving student outcomes for students identified as disengaging  in Year 10 and likely to fail in a traditional school setting in Year 11. Implementing a mixed secondary-tertiary program has allowed for THS students to undertake NCEA Level 1, 2 and 3 while simultaneously gaining credits towards a tertiary qualification at MIT.  Now, the THS is in its fourth year and the indications are that the THS students’ achievement, progression and transition into postsecondary education and/or work are demonstrating huge success.  The THS student success has not just happened without enormous effort on everyone’s part.  It required huge collaboration from all parties:  the Ministry of Education, Tertiary Education Commission, Manukau Institute of Technology, surrounding secondary schools in the southern Auckland region, New Zealand Qualifications Framework, local community, whanau and students.  But, there was a trade-off.  For schools to identify students at risk of disengaging and to encourage them to apply to the THS, they knew that the school was at risk of losing a percentage of the funding for that student.  This required faith and trust and a student-centred approach to managing the schools funds.  The THS shows us that with determination and a student-centred approach that all other challenges such as funding or duty of care can be solved with the key stakeholders’ willingness to put student success at the top of the agenda. 

In an effort to improve collaboration amongst the various secondary-tertiary providers and the employers, the Ministry of Education has been establishing Youth Guarantee Networks throughout New Zealand with the key focus to create partnerships between schools, tertiary education providers, and training organisations and for this group to focus on developing a collaborative approach to increasing NCEA Level 2 achievement rates in their communities.  In future, the Ministry of Education wants to also work with industry leaders, business advocacy groups and employers with the intention of improving the skills and competencies to respond to the local communities employment needs. 

In addition, the five Vocational Pathways (Social and Community Services, Manufacturing and Technology, Construction and Infrastructure, Primary Industries and Services Industries) developed in collaboration with the Industry Training Federation, released by the Ministry of Education are an important tool to assist students when making their choices for their future career pathway.  Once fully understood by both students and education providers the five Vocational Pathways can be used not only as an achievement record and assisting with senior secondary school programme choices but the aim is to also use the Vocational Pathways as a diagnostic tool at an earlier age (perhaps Year 9) to ensure students see the benefit and purpose to their learning programme over time. 

While there are some challenges faced by all providers such as a lack of understanding of the Vocational Pathways, funding frameworks and what pathways should be introduced by each Youth Guarantee Network, for which students and by which provider, it is crucial for us as educators to put the student first in all of our discussions.  Working collaboratively will assist our senior secondary school students on their pathway to successful transition from school to tertiary and into employment.  Let’s try not to use the silo approach and continue to work together for the good of our students!

 

 

Talk-ED: It's still a good read: The Hawke Report

 

This is the third piece in an occasional series about documents that have had in them important ideas and challenges to practices that prevailed at the time. The first was about the ideas of Phil Capper in the late 1980s and early 1990s (The Jagged Edge) while the second noted that the 1993 policy statement Education for the 21st Century, released during Dr Lockwood Smith’s watch, had ideas that we are only starting to grapple with now.

In 1988 the Report of the Working Group on Post Compulsory Education and Training was published.  This group, convened by Professor Gary Hawke, had been looking at what happens after the age of 15 years (the school leaving age at the time, across the variety of providers and ways of obtaining qualifications.  The report, generally referred to as The Hawke Report, led to policy statements Learning for Life and Learning for Life 2.

It is instructive that the focus was on “post compulsory” and that this point is a person’s educational progress, reaching the age of 15 years and therefore not compelled to remain at school, was seen as a key point from which educational responses could be planned.  It also meant that the senior secondary school was placed into the mix of provision alongside other kinds of institutions (polytechnics, universities for instance) and different approaches to educating and training the young adult (such as on the job training).

The definition of “postcompulsory” that the working group was given was not narrow and dry simply pipelining young people onto the floor of the factory or out into the fields.  Hawke noted that the working group had worked on the basis that the definition, the definition which took in all state provision, private providers, both formal and informal opportunities, it was assumed to be  “all-encompassing in the spirit of lifetime education for everybody in New Zealand” (p14).

We seem these days to be even more troubled by the notion that the senior secondary schools is just one pathway forward at the post compulsory level and there seems an even greater desire to see the senior secondary school as being able to meet the needs of all learners for several more years after the point of compulsion.

The Hawke Report discussed the idea of raising the school leaving age noting that 15% of the age “cohort left school within a year of their fifteenth year” (p21) and immediately noted that “the consequences for many schools of having to provide for significant numbers of reluctant returners would be significant.”   The report went on to propose an “educational leaving age” requiring young people up to some age limit such as 18 to be in some form of education and training”(p22)Five years later the school leaving age was raised to 16 years! What a pity that the more challenging notion of requiring continued engagement with education and training wasn’t explored and the simplistic “school leaving age” approach which was, to be fair, favoured across the Anglo-Saxon systems was favoured.

Another interesting recommendation of the Report was the suggestion that a ministry would be best grouped so as to be the Ministry of Education and Training.  This might have avoided some of the distracting and misleading arguments that are still trotted out about the distinctions between “education” and “training”, an argument largely fuelled by the old hoary binary distinction between “academic” and “vocational”.  It went further in ruling out as producing too many awkward divisions, the notion of a Ministry of Postcompulsory Education and Training on the grounds that it would “place an awkward division of responsibilities for the upper levels of schools” (p46)The truth in this is being played out currently through the attempts to provide success for more 15-19 year olds with initiatives that cross that very same “awkward division”.

The Hawke Report gave impetus to the development of a national qualifications framework under the control of a National Education Qualifications Agency (NEQA) which would later come about as the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA).  In fact the Report deals at some length with attempts to bring order into what was then a somewhat Byzantine collection of disconnected agencies, bodies, boards and authorities.

While schools were a little outside the target of the Working Group, it did arrive at some conclusions about them.  It noted a welcome trend for schools to be opening “paths for young people rather than administering successively more demanding barriers to further education” (p90) and sought to see this continued which would require, in its view, the “removal of barriers to students undertaking courses in more than one institution.”  I wonder if this is the first appearance of this notion in an official document.  It was later to re-surface in Education for the 21st Century and, twenty years later is starting to be actualised in trades academies, tertiary high schools and other such developments.

The Hawke Report remains the most comprehensive consideration of postcompulsory education and training that we have.  The brief dip into it here does not convey the breadth of the treatment it gave to that critical area of education and training, the pathways from compulsory schooling to lifelong learning.  It continues to increasingly challenge us.

 

  

Talk-ED: It’s still a good read: The Hawke Report

 

This is the third piece in an occasional series about documents that have had in them important ideas and challenges to practices that prevailed at the time. The first was about the ideas of Phil Capper in the late 1980s and early 1990s (The Jagged Edge) while the second noted that the 1993 policy statement Education for the 21st Century, released during Dr Lockwood Smith’s watch, had ideas that we are only starting to grapple with now.

In 1988 the Report of the Working Group on Post Compulsory Education and Training was published.  This group, convened by Professor Gary Hawke, had been looking at what happens after the age of 15 years (the school leaving age at the time, across the variety of providers and ways of obtaining qualifications.  The report, generally referred to as The Hawke Report, led to policy statements Learning for Life and Learning for Life 2.

It is instructive that the focus was on “post compulsory” and that this point is a person’s educational progress, reaching the age of 15 years and therefore not compelled to remain at school, was seen as a key point from which educational responses could be planned.  It also meant that the senior secondary school was placed into the mix of provision alongside other kinds of institutions (polytechnics, universities for instance) and different approaches to educating and training the young adult (such as on the job training).

The definition of “postcompulsory” that the working group was given was not narrow and dry simply pipelining young people onto the floor of the factory or out into the fields.  Hawke noted that the working group had worked on the basis that the definition, the definition which took in all state provision, private providers, both formal and informal opportunities, it was assumed to be  “all-encompassing in the spirit of lifetime education for everybody in New Zealand” (p14).

We seem these days to be even more troubled by the notion that the senior secondary schools is just one pathway forward at the post compulsory level and there seems an even greater desire to see the senior secondary school as being able to meet the needs of all learners for several more years after the point of compulsion.

The Hawke Report discussed the idea of raising the school leaving age noting that 15% of the age “cohort left school within a year of their fifteenth year” (p21) and immediately noted that “the consequences for many schools of having to provide for significant numbers of reluctant returners would be significant.”   The report went on to propose an “educational leaving age” requiring young people up to some age limit such as 18 to be in some form of education and training”(p22)Five years later the school leaving age was raised to 16 years! What a pity that the more challenging notion of requiring continued engagement with education and training wasn’t explored and the simplistic “school leaving age” approach which was, to be fair, favoured across the Anglo-Saxon systems was favoured.

Another interesting recommendation of the Report was the suggestion that a ministry would be best grouped so as to be the Ministry of Education and Training.  This might have avoided some of the distracting and misleading arguments that are still trotted out about the distinctions between “education” and “training”, an argument largely fuelled by the old hoary binary distinction between “academic” and “vocational”.  It went further in ruling out as producing too many awkward divisions, the notion of a Ministry of Postcompulsory Education and Training on the grounds that it would “place an awkward division of responsibilities for the upper levels of schools” (p46)The truth in this is being played out currently through the attempts to provide success for more 15-19 year olds with initiatives that cross that very same “awkward division”.

The Hawke Report gave impetus to the development of a national qualifications framework under the control of a National Education Qualifications Agency (NEQA) which would later come about as the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA).  In fact the Report deals at some length with attempts to bring order into what was then a somewhat Byzantine collection of disconnected agencies, bodies, boards and authorities.

While schools were a little outside the target of the Working Group, it did arrive at some conclusions about them.  It noted a welcome trend for schools to be opening “paths for young people rather than administering successively more demanding barriers to further education” (p90) and sought to see this continued which would require, in its view, the “removal of barriers to students undertaking courses in more than one institution.”  I wonder if this is the first appearance of this notion in an official document.  It was later to re-surface in Education for the 21st Century and, twenty years later is starting to be actualised in trades academies, tertiary high schools and other such developments.

The Hawke Report remains the most comprehensive consideration of postcompulsory education and training that we have.  The brief dip into it here does not convey the breadth of the treatment it gave to that critical area of education and training, the pathways from compulsory schooling to lifelong learning.  It continues to increasingly challenge us.