St Valentine’s Day – a day of romance, love, the joy of hope, the euphoria of positivity.
Just like yesterday when the Education and Science Select Committee started hearings on the Education Amendment Bill which among other things give the warrant for Charter Schools (now known as Partnership Schools Kura Houora). As could be predicted the submissions did not require even the hearings for their content to be known.
Except for the Ombudsman who drew attention to what surely was a mistake in the drafting of the Bill – of course any sort of school should be subject to ombudsman scrutiny. Then I wondered – are independent schools subject to ombudsman inquiry? Must find out! Integrated schools? Surely!
The ombudsman’s reported comments simply said that in the education cases she dealt with, it seemed mostly to be about stand-downs and expulsions that schools had “cocked up” and “cocked up big time”. This, I hope, was an exaggeration which flowed from the moment rather than a calm assessment of the workload.
But calm assessment seemed from the reports to have been something a little light on the ground at this first day of hearings.
I am amazed that education which ought to be identified with reason, with evidence and with scholarly discourse, prefers to present itself as something else.
No survey study of charter schools anywhere has found that they are without exception, a “bad thing”. Generally the evidence is that there are good charter schools, middling charter schools and poor charter schools. It is clear that there are good state schools, middling state schools and poor state schools – we aspire of course to have good state schools. An interesting piece of the charter school evidence is that the proportions of good to middling to poor reflects closely the proportions of good to middling to poor schools in the respective state system.
Would anyone set out to create a middling or a poor Partnership School Kura Houora? Of course not. Therefore blind opposition can only be ideological rather educational in origin.
It surprised me that there was so little reported commentary on the general issue of school success and failure or of disengagement and truancy as key education issues that any new development must address. If a new development does not engage in activity that will deliver higher levels of success and lower levels of disengagement it would be probably not worth doing. This might have formed part of the submissions. If it was, then it has failed to make an impact on the media.
In our peculiarly Anglo-Saxon education system (and in our peer systems of Australia, the UK, the US and parts of Canada) the key issues in education are the levels of success and failure in the education system, levels of disengagement from it and professional support for teachers working in it.
It is therefore good to see that the Education Amendment Bill ties educational achievement to the responsibilities of the Board of Trustees. The key role of governance bodies such as Boards of schools is to provide returns to the shareholders and increase the value of the operation. In schools this is less about money but very significantly about the success that is brought into the homes of tax payers who support the schools through their investments of time and work.
Issues of health, housing, youth justice, for instance, have their solution in education. Not that schools should attempt to directly address health issues directly other than by playing a proper educative role and perhaps working closely with health providers, nor should they attempt to address hunger which is a role of central government – Finland feeds everyone in schools, the US and UK means test eligibility for lunch while we struggle to put on a little breakfast in the odd place.
Getting the focus clearly and back on achievement is perhaps the matter in this Education Amendment Bill that has the potential to make the biggest difference.
As for Charter Schools – New Zealand, building on its long experience with charters for all schools, might be able to show others that with focus they can become another way of working. Of course working differently has never been very popular in New Zealand – that is a problem which often hides a solution.
We need lots of educational red roses!