Ten Years: Opportunity or sentence

NEWS FLASH

11 October 2021

“Tertiary education institutions have been given ten years to address the differences in the levels of academic outcomes for Māori and Pacific students.”

Tertiary Education Commission

11 October 2021

Ten years is a very long time. Calculate the numbers of Māori and Pasifika students who face the provision of programmes that have been declared as failing in terms of equity and therefore access to a sound tertiary programme. Ten cohorts of students. Pukenga will have to respond to these challenges immediately and, I would have thought, well within the ten-year deadline.

Ten years is a very long time. And those who have been keen to see progress with these priority learner groups are disappointed that some excellent educators had not been met with widespread support and sustained focus over the past decades that are required action to change the pedagogical skillsets and frameworks were clearly failing.

Six times ten years is a much longer time and over that time I have seen the a stream of Māori educators bring their wisdom and guidance to this issue of equity and access in higher education education but it seems not to have been influential to the extent that is needed. Sir Mason Durie with his conceptual framework of Te Whare Tapa Wha and the role of taha tinana, taha hinengaro, taha wairua and taha whanau has over many years influenced those who he has reached out to. Russell Bishop brought his Te Kotahitanga Programme worked over a wide belt of tertiary teachers with his emphasis on effective and culturally responsive pedagogy. Ranginui Walker, Rose Pere, Manuka Henare,…….  a long list supplemented by many dozens of Māori teachers and lecturers who have worked hard, often without effective support, in their institutions. Seemingly the problem beats the process of change and that means that this time the changes must be understood and bedded firmly into everyone’s professional psyche, not just the few in each tertiary institution charged with “doing something about Māori and Pasifika outcomes”.

Interestingly, ten years ago saw the establishment of the first Tertiary High School which was the result of my observation that as much as tertiary institutions work honestly and with good intent the statistics of educational outcomes remained stubbornly resistant to change. The structure of schooling was not serving priority learners well with the persistently shaky transitions, unclear pathways, and half-hearted preparation for further education. This led to the situation in the 1970s and 1980s of+ an education system that was performing to a high standard, comparable to the best of overseas systems, at the top but a tough tussle of failure in the lower third of the students where the performance of our students was raising questions and troubled many in the community who were critical of the levels not being achieved. Disengagement was rife.

But change was made, dual enrolment was found to be possible, funding issues were overcome (using funding differently) and the education law of the land changed to make. These changes were not only made the tertiary high school model possible but also created an environment in which trade academies were possible. In the past decade the Tertiary High School has offered a stable and successful pathway to tertiary qualifications for approximately 1,500 students while trades academies, a collaborative effort between secondary schools and polytechnics, have reached out to 46,000 students who are engaged in secure pathways to secondary qualifications and subsequently tertiary qualifications and employment.

This time around change can and must must be made. Not the situation where, in Charles Payne’s view[1] the hiss and the roar, “So much Reform, So little change!”  Ōritetanga is a start which must now be spread and secured across the sector! 

___________________________

 Charles Payne (2010), SO MUCH REFORM, so little change, Harvard Education Press, Cambridge Ma.

Maths, it all adds up to a muddle

About a year ago I wrote a Letter to the Editor of the NZ Herald with a comment on the then announced membership of a Working Group that would prepare the report for the Royal Society Te Aparangi on the teaching and learning of Mathematics in our schools. I asked back then how a set of leaders in Mathematics Education could come to the kinds of conclusions that would bring about change for the better, when they have been the leaders that have taken mathematics to the state it is in.

A year later and a report appears, and my misgivings have not been confirmed and I apologise for that.   But this is not a report that can be ignored! 

The Chairman of the group that has produced this report, Pangarau Mathematics and Tuanga Statistics in Aotearoa New Zealand, Distinguished Professor of Mathematics Gaven Martin, is reported to describe the teaching of mathematics as a “mess”. But it gets worse. Reports state that “gaps were widening between rich and poor”, that there is “nothing intrinsic in the curriculum that has led to this situation (but on the other hand there was “nothing challenging in our curriculum by international standard).” In short students should be doing better and indeed must do better. The report chair voiced a fear that there is not a political appetite to make the changes recommended.

Those recommendations that need to be addressed are:

  • Attending to students falling further behind in the curriculum. Does it take an experts group to suggest that this should happen? Why do we have schools?
  • Attend to the matter of teacher maths knowledge and how they teach maths.
  • Leadership from the Ministry of Education instead of just leaving teachers to fend for themselves! I kid you not.
  • And perhaps the scariest of all – “The way maths education is attended to can only increase inequity.”

I am appalled that not only can these opinions of an expert group have a ring of truth, but also that it is a damning condemnation of the state of a critical subject that no doubt children have an expectation they are preparing for life and their parents simply have the right to know that this is being done and being done well. Does this call for a wider review? If Maths – a “gatekeeper” subject – is like this, what assurances are there about other subjects? If it wouldn’t take time that we cannot afford, it is material for a Curriculum Review.

Other reports have said much the same thing about a variety of issues. But there simply seems to be a lack somewhere of willingness to tackle the issues. Or perhaps it is a case of what G.K. Chesterton talked about when he argued that “it isn’t that they can’t see the solution. It is that they can’t see the problem.”

The expert group that has written this report is to be congratulated and the leader, Distinguished Professor of Mathematics Gaven Martin and his team are to be thanked for the frank and unpalatable conclusions. He is right: “It’s a goddamn mess, and things are not getting better. And the consequences are pretty horrific, so something has to be done!”

The least we should expect is a clear response from the Ministry of Education.

Walls that stymie progress.

Forced stay at home regimes might look like a bit of a punishment but I prefer to see it as an opportunity. I am currently working towards a project the sees me going through papers and books stored in boxes and ignored over the past couple of years. This is proving to be quite a stop/go process. It is very easy that a paper one has enjoyed personally and previously catches the eye and half an hour later you are focussing on that paper to the exclusion of the rest. The same with books that might have been, in all -honesty, skimmed and put aside. Its starts with a flick-through that stops with a feeling that there is a chapter that demands closer attention.

One such small book in which Sir Kenneth Baker[1] (a.k.a. Lord Baker of Dorking) brings together a set of educators that subscribe Sir Kenneth’s view that the solution to raising educational outcome would be achieved by a focus on the age group 14-years to 19-years, challenging the obsession (in England) on the primary/secondary transition at age 11+ and the curriculum offered between that point and age 16-years when students leave school prepared for very little it seems.

One of his oft-quoted points made when asked why 14-19 and the answer is: “well, 11-years is too early and 16-years is too late.” In short, our current major transitions might not be serving students’ learning effectively.

His book is a collection of reflection from an international set of educators engaged in putting effort into creating effective vocational and technical education for the target group. A contribution from Alan Smithers[2] challenge the plausible arguments about education. 

A selection of his views.

“Take the sweeping generalisation that academic courses keep options open and vocational course close them down. While it is true that vocational courses have a specific purpose, it is good courses whatever stripe that that enhance opportunities and poor courses that restrict them.”

“Truancy has increased fivefold from Years 7 to 11!”

“If the assumption is that young people do not know what they are good at, what they like and what they want to do after nine years of required school attendance, then the quality of that education has to be questioned.”

It seems to me that the sectors we use these days ate arbitrary, not necessarily productive and based on premises lost in the mists of time. They have lost their purpose and do not serve students well.

There are many different structures used throughout the world – have we ever challenged the placement of sector boundaries in New Zealand?

More on this later, it’s back to the boxes for me!

  1.  Baker, Sir Kenneth, (2013), 14-19 A New Vision for Secondary Education, Bloomsbury Academic, London/New York.
  2.  Alan Smithers is Professor at Buckingham University and is deeply engaged with a variety of reports for the UK Government relating to education.

Catalogue of Change

Covid has seen New Zealand working in ways that are new, testing and perhaps not as temporary as we might like to think. 

Schooling

It is inevitable that the question of whether to shift the holidays to compensate and recognise that the students have missed a lot of term time thanks to Covid will always be a bit controversial. It is one of the times when it seems to me that all the positions taken around this issue have merit. I might have thought that the Boards of Trustees could contribute to this discussion.

In the history of New Zealand education there were considerable times when there were breaks in children being at school, often this was on a regional basis rather than the whole country and lessons were one way or another continued at home. The Correspondence School was prominent in the help given to teachers and schools at that time and many students, now much older, recall with pleasure the arrival and the departure of the canvas satchels in which the lessons were dispatched and collected on a weekly basis during the period when schools were closed. Those who once were young speak of the delight in getting the satchel which the teachers distributed and collected.

But that was then, this is now and things have changed.

Coffee #2 and Impact

I was amused the other day to hear a coffee shop owner in Wellington adamantly stating that it is time public servants “got back to work” so that they could keep coffee shops operating. As much as I realise that getting the business flowing again is important, the thought that people are only working when they “get back to work” ignores the fact that they are “back at work” and it is called working from home.

There have been some quite clear indications that there will be a number – some say 15% – who will not return to the coffee shop but continue to work from home. This was once thought to be difficult to control but it seems to have proved easier than we might have predicted. MBIE was reported last week to have 50% of its workforce doing their job at home. Many of those who are working at home will not “return to work” but remain being at home, perhaps playing role in their young children and older youth education, and drinking their home-made coffee!

Access to Goods and Services

My computer ink arrived the day after I ordered it, brought to me by a courier – who would have thought?

Finally, Tertiary Education responds

Tertiary education has long spoken of distance learning and flexible access to learning. The change to on-line learning is widespread in many of the tertiary education institutions. These are changes that will be difficult to turn back from, just as it will be with schooling as it is at home, and keeping coffee shops working but at a scale and number that is driven by customers rather than custom, and with tertiary education increasingly abandoning requiring students to gather in a certain place at a certain time to learn. Once issues of access and equity to post-secondary education and training are solved there will be great advances in tertiary education. Change in education does not come easily and perhaps not in business and commerce.  But when change happens we should be wise enough to hang on to the best of it.

Covid or Coffee? The Lowdown on Lockdown

Where did this mania for drinking coffee come from! It seems to be to the middle classes and the rich what Kentucky Fried is to the great unwashed. It’s nuts. Well. Quite literally.

What has happened to New Zealand when we experience a lock-down of a week and that culminates in countless people revealing that their biggest, most passionate wish when they come out of lock-down where they have enjoyed many good thing such as food as fine as they can cook, drinks to whet their whistle and the companionship of a bubble which cis as good as those in it, is to have a coffee. They strut outside the coffee shops holding their prized coffee out front as if it is some piece of golden, religious paraphernalia and show smiles that dangerously run the risk of damage to their faces. They Oooohhh, they Aaaahhhh and assure us that they have been on tenterhooks just waiting for release to have their first coffee and slyly admit that they have been waiting for this first coffee, it is to them a kind of Waiting for Godot experience.

The coffee culture has been a somewhat fast development in New Zealand culture, and I blame the invention of the take-away cup. It alone revolutionised the purchase of coffee to take with you whatever you are doing and wherever you are going. It has the power to influence the design of motor vehicles with the creation of those round spaces with have an opening with the ability to keep your precious cargo safe. I read the other day that electric cars will in time be fitted with AMCM capability. These small Auto-Mobile-Coffee-Machines will keep you supplied with the best coffee available long after you run out of power through a small solar panel on the back of the mirror.

I am a veteran of coffee drinking as my parents back in the 1950s served coffee made with chicory. Mr Google tells me that Common chicory (Cichorium intybus) is a somewhat woody, perennial herbaceous plant of the daisy family Asteraceae, usually with bright blue flowers, rarely white or pink…. In the 21st century, inulin, an extract from chicory root, has been used in food manufacturing as a sweetener and source of dietary fibre and the essence was used to make coffee.” 

Be warned, coffee beans are said to be very expensive soon and Chicory Essence could well make a comeback. If you have read the description above it is certainly a talented plant with more uses than simply making coffee.

My Mum must have known a thing or two because we didn’t know anyone else who drank it! And this information comes as a surprise as I thought over all those years and until now that Essence of Chicory was made from industrial waste such was the putrid taste which we tolerated as the drinking of “coffee” was considered a treat.

But on reflection I rate this coffee thing and its drinkers ahead of the untold numbers who crave for and descend on the house of Colonel Sunders and others to feast on take-aways which I note are now known as take- outs! There is no doubt that we are becoming known for our culinary practices. 

Whatever happened to Dinner Parties, shared picnics under the trees at the lake, and drinks at five? And by the way, my favourite coffee at the moment is an Americano!

Still the Bogey of Assessment prevails

It was interesting when several vox pop items in the television were news interviews of family groups about the impact on students as the lockdown prevailed. Concerned parents and the students themselves expressed concern at the impact on their progress and ability to complete the course if this lockdown went on and on and on.

They were especially talking about NCEA and it could be that their concerns were able to be softened. I was particularly interested that when they talked about the disruption to NCEA they used the old language of the assessment regime, and I can understand why that happens. I find that the older community members with teenage students don’t quite understand the difference between norm-referenced assessment – the old examinations, the School Certificate Examination, Sixth Form Certificate, and Bursary Examinations – and the Standards-Based assessment of NCEA.

The New Zealand Drivers Test is also standards-based and there are some features that what we know we could understand by thinking about standards -based assessment and the issues raised if the NZ Driver’s License on a norm referencing basis. It would go something like this.

All candidates for a licence test would have to present themselves on a single designated day to sit the test. Imagine the chaotic scenes were that attempted. 

Of course, with the sort of number being tested there could not be practical test. Rather it would be a theory test. No-one would get to drive a car for the test but would have to answer questions about driving. 

In the best of norm-reference exams the results would be massaged to fit a pre-determined pattern. About half would pass and get their license. Half would get their licence – both rather unpalatable issues when you think about it!

The skills of driving would be separated in topics: rules of the road, being an observant driver, parking the car, managing a trailer, speed limits, driving in lanes, and so on. But asking questions about each element of bring a driver would in no way be a guide as to the performance of a driver when they had to consider demonstrating all the skills simultaneously and in situation where there were drivers on the road each of various levels of competence.

Based on the theoretical and the distribution of marks some drivers would be deemed to be Class A, others Class B, still others Class C.  Perhaps the rest would be BO Class (i.e., Bicycle Only

The old examinations system worked exactly as this bizarre and almost unbelievably stupid set of assessment procedure that we have applied to the Driver’s License ex it was applied to real subjects about which the demonstration of competence and knowledge and skills was determined by 1 examination.

But the New Zealand world of assessment has changed. NCEA does not operate like an examination. The key differences are:

  • Students know full well what they need to know and do.
  • Students do not just get one shot at the assessment of that knowledge and skill but can go over learning many times – practice make perfect or rather perfect practice makes perfect.
  • Students can present themselves for assessment when they feel ready since time served does not apply – they can learn at their own speed rather than perform in a class like synchronised swimmers or marching teams.
  • Working with others, even talking through their learning, is the reward for working collaboratively rather than a detention.
  • There are no set numbers for the proportion of students passing – they will get credit for what they have learnt and can demonstrate.

Students wondering about preparing for tests and handing work in can accept that there will be problems when they are freed from lockdowns.  Students will get credit for what they do and what they know. The message is to get on with the work they have been asked to complete. Enjoy the freedoms of learning at your own speed. 

In the 2020 Covid Lock-down the Minister of Education decided to award extra credits for every five credits earned by the student that reflected that additional work and perhaps even the stress of studying in lock-down circumstances. NCEA has the flexibility to reflect learning that cannot be split into smaller pieces but rather reflect the holistic understanding of whole subjects that students develop.

One last thought! How many students have set up Zoom Study Groups

Two Heads are better than one but three might trump all

I have long thought that there was a good case to be made for educators, probably retired educators with proven track records, who could act to mediate and assist parents and schools to resolve issues that arise. It makes for sad reading when the NZ Herald spreads a story across the front page and down a column of Page 2 about an incident when a teacher reprimanded a student for using an iPad when for some unstated reason that was inappropriate. The student responded by swearing at the teacher, the school reacted by expelling the student. The Ombudsman ruled that the school’s response exceeded the rights of the school to take the action they had. 

In former years the action taken might have been considered to be custom and practice throughout the land when expulsions were de rigour reached over 4,000 a year. But that was then and now is not then!

When a student runs afoul of a school it is easy for the situation to grow in assumed substance in what is already an uneven relationship. Because, in many instances both parties are right. The school must judge whether they can run sweetly if swearing at teachers were to pass with a shrug and the answer is probably “no,” they can’t. On the other hand, parents, in my experience as a principal, will cooperate with schools if they believe that their child, of whatever age, has committed an offence and will support school response if they believe it is fair, considered, and reasonable. And especially when there has been good consultation.

That is where sage third party assistance could help to resolve incidents and issues in ways that support the school’s need for an orderly and respectful working climate and the parents / caregivers feel supported by the respect and involvement they have had in reaching a resolution of the incident. But not only an incident which has become inflamed. There are processes that add value to the role of a school as an educator. And both sides should approach these situations mindful of the fact that schools are educational institutions which act in the interests of young people and need to do what it takes to act in the interests of the students – that is what “duty of care” requires.

I have often been asked by parents who are trying to support their children when indiscretions which the parents arguing for the matter to be accepted, ignored and in which the parents are acting to constructively to seek a resolution. That is when good procedure is required – agreement on what happened, an explanation from the student, a discussion between and parents / caregivers with the Board of Trustees, then the development of an action that is explained to the student and their caregivers / parents. And above all, consistently applied. Yes, it is time consuming but done well it will help the school to achieve its enhance its role as educator.

Neutrality has a strong power to succeed where entrenched positions will fail.

Call it a “Mediation and Advisory Service!”

We’ve got the Apples but not the Teachers

The Government’s solution to the apparent teacher shortage is to increase their engagement in Covid-Roulette by opening the borders to 300 teachers from overseas. What has happened to the old system when the Ministry of Education knew, with some certainty, that the likely supply of teachers would be made up of three categories – teachers registered and on-the-job, teachers-in-training, and what I think was intriguingly called the “Pool of In-Active Teachers?”

Perhaps the numbers of students who drop-out or leave primary school but never appear o the roll of a secondary school or join the ranks of the NEETs has complicated the process of making predictions for the supply of teachers a bit of a guessing game. The fact that the MOE has five years to prepare for the number of students entering primary school and 10 years to work out the relative numbers moving on to secondary school. Either solving the strange disparity in population numbers and progression figures or simply shrugging shoulders as to this mystery and factoring it into their calculations should help.

Another issue -It seems that there are teachers experienced in the New Zealand education system who are available to teach but simply cannot get teaching positions and, we are told, even an interview! This seems a bit daft?

Now, some positive moves.

Teachers themselves could be their own worst enemy. Some think it smart to say: “I wouldn’t recommend to a student that they consider a teaching career.” Well, this can only make the recruitment of young people into the ranks of teaching more difficult and it will rebound on the lives the lives of those who make these statements.

New Zealand’s current position makes it imperative that we find people willing to teach in a wide range of settings. We cannot continue to ignore the great need to recruit and train hundreds of teachers who reflect the skills, languages and community connections of Maori and Pasifika and other groups of students who would respond to teachers who can relate to them, and ideally have fluency in the language of the students in their language kit-bag.

An example. It is a lazy and unacceptable to respond to a reluctance to learn Te Reo, for instance to state that there are no opportunities because there is a shortage of teachers. New Zealand could solve this simply by recruiting Maori to be specialist teachers.

It has been disastrous to place teacher training predominantly into the hands of the universities (New Zealand has not been the only country to head done this track). Teaching as a pathway must be available to young people. Access to programmes of teacher training must be developed so that teaching is easily accessible in regional settings. There could of course be a teacher training programme in every polytechnic and institute of technology. Pukenga could respond to a challenge in this area surely. Incidentally while mentioning Pukenga, they should be thinking of playing a role in preparing teachers to service the needs of the very successful Secondary Tertiary Programmes.

New Zealand has a very successful distance learning institution, Te Aho o te Kura Pounamu. There could be a role for this organisation in providing pathways to post Year-12 students wishing to head into teaching, or members of the communities in regional cities and towns for those wishing to return to the workforce as teachers. This could be done in conjunction with universities.

There are so many ways in which shortage of teachers can be addressed and solved. Migrants are likely to be part of the solution as indeed they have been at times in the past. It is one solution, but it will never be the solution. Teaching is an area where home-grown will prove must be seen central to a great solution.

At last NZ’s Dirty Big secret is out! The issue of Truancy and Absenteeism is to be dealt with.

At last the dirty secret that educations has by and large brushed over is to be brought into the open with a serious review of absenteeism in the school system. All power to their arm. This issue has been known but ignored, been open to remediation but no action that has been effective.

And mostly that is because no-one owned the issue. The hoary old reason, the plaintiff cry of “we have no resources” – seemed to be enough to quell the concern of the community. Well, the community that cared because sections of the community were complicit in taking their children out of school, preferring instead of sending students to school, to take holidays in the South Pacific, or to be able to galavant around the snowfields of the south.

I first wrote of this issue in the 1990s. Some might remember Education Review: The Back Page. And my effort to bring this to attention has continued through to this blog, EdTalkNZ to the present time. I was also also an early-alert agent of the question the growing phenomenon of NEETs (indeed I even launched a document in the early days that drew to attention the existence of this group that was relatively unknown back then. NEETs are the alumni of truants and those groups that do not go to school or are selective in turning up.

Back in 2010 I gave a presentation at the Eastern Institute of Technology which beat the drums I was beating then, and which was typical of the many presentations (at that time being on a mission to explain the Tertiary High School opening that year at Manukau Institute of Technology). 

20% of 16-year-old students were not at school when they turned 16-years old and became legally able to leave school – most of these students must have had parents / guardians who turned a blind eye however grudgingly.

30,000 truants from secondary school each day (this was in 2010 remember- the number of secondary and primary truants are getting up to the 80,000 mark). 

School stand-downs were running at 4,000 a year (in 2010).

4,500 students were leaving primary school but failing to enter a secondary school (in 2010).

80% of youth appearing in the Youth Court have left or are absent from school (in 2010).

48% pf school leavers going to a tertiary provider successfully completed a postsecondary qualification (2010). This issue has been replaced by the pattern that 50% of secondary school leavers in the Southern Auckland area leave school not intending (or perhaps not knowing) where they will go in the next year (in 2019).

Meanwhile by 2010 the number of NEETs had grown to something between 17,000 and 25,000. Why the huge range? New Zealand was grappling with getting clear definition – who should or who should not be included in this category – youths seeking a job for instance?

My point is – those statistics are from 12 years ago. And the statistics of today have finally drawn the Government to say enough is enough. NZ has deluded itself with thinking that we have a great schooling system – what we have is a bipolar system where one half does well and the other half does not. 

It is abundantly clear that the issues can be addressed but only if there is some courage in understanding the reasons why the system has broken down. Hard solutions will be needed. and hard solutions can be found. Answers lie in the Ministry having the courage to stop the rort that allows students to stay at home – the parents must be hauled into line but only if the outcome of the review leads to a system in which students are motivated by an appropriate curriculum, taught well, one which has purpose. Parents also need to see a purposeful future for the children.

Secondary Tertiary Programmes show that students can be motivated if they see the promise of a future. Ask one of the 45,000 students who have found purpose in programmes that give a glimpse of the future.

But breaking news, its official folks – 40 %of New Zealand’s school students are playing hookey!

Words, Words, Words! Sorry….Sir!

“Words, Words, Words, 

My words fly up, my thoughts remain below

Words without thoughts never to heaven go.”

Shakespeare was his usual perceptive self when giving these lines to Hamlet and Polonius. Hamlet is When asked  about his reading matter his answer reflects a despair at knowing that his words mean little. And so might our words have less impact while our motives are well meaning.

When I became a principal there were times when I was called on to resolve an issue between school children – antagonisms, scraps, actions that hurt others, things said that sting. I started off in thinking that quite often in these circumstances an apology was an appropriate ending to such discussions. But I quickly learnt that an apology can simply be an easy way out, a proxy for a sound conclusion. It might be this for both the aggressor and for me but the aggrieved remained aggrieved. It was much better to focus on acknowledging what has happened in order to agree on how behaviour or understand will remediate what needs changing and agreeing to do just that.

I wonder whether New Zealand is drifting in a cult of “sorry”-ness, the habit of making an apology as an easy way out. A quick and seemingly tidy way to conclude an issue especially when you see that apology oiled with phrases such as “we need to move on” and other mock-heroic gestures.

Increasingly I see a line-up of events where huge damage has eventuated demanding a response that goes far beyond an apology.

I was working in South Auckland at the height of the Dawn Raids, a brutal and unforgivable period of intrusion, hurt and damage, – actual, pecuniary, of mana, of hurt to families – all this simply because citizens who were doing no harm failed to have the correct papers. We have seen such actions in the regimes of other countries. They were dark and threatening days! Is saying “sorry” adequate?

The events at Mt Alice Psychiatric Hospital, recently in the media, got worse as they were unfolded. Seemingly “sorry” was used to lessen the hurt of the actions that to any ordinary person seemed unbelievably cruel if not barbaric and to draw the matters to a close. Is saying sorry to be the last word or to draw the matters to a close?

Now I am not putting “remorse” into the same category as “sorry” or two – the courts make effective use of the concept of remorse and act to recognise remorse when it shows. That is ensuring that the offender has genuinely reflected on the harm caused and often the sentencing process makes rulings reflecting the view that being “sorry” is not enough. Victims often comment on the fact that remorse has not been shown by the offending party.

In short, sometimes saying “sorry” is simply not enough and the response needs to go further in recognising this.  A list could also include Pike River, Whaakari/White Island, and the transgressions of government ministries, departments and agencies which seem to trot out their CEOs to make apologies at the drop of a hat. 

I have deliberately not included the Treaty of Waitangi process which seems to me to have got it right. An apology with the full might of the current Government and accompanied by recompense for the hurt, the impact on lives and addresses of iwi to get on with resources to build new and better futures. An honest attempt is made to right wrongs. There are lessons in this when saying sorry is a meaningful process with high levels of engagement between the aggrieved and the perpetrator sorrowful events.