16 August 2016
It is looking as if the teacher organisations are simply allergic to any discussion about school funding. Mention funding and any changes as to how funding is currently delivered and they break out in a rash of anger, predictions of doom, and greatly exaggerated accounts of the impact of any change.
The logic is clear. The schooling system is bringing success to a good proportion of the students who attend schools and there are incremental improvements to the groups that have not been traditionally well-served. Further improvements in student outcome will require the school system to work differently. To work differently funding will need to be delivered differently so as to be more flexible and managed closer to the student, their needs and their aspirations rather than be squirted out in a formulaic manner centrally.
The argument is persuasive. We have been dining out on our “self-managing” school system for nearly thirty years but have yet to allow Boards of Trustees to have a real responsible role in managing the key resource – funding.
The teaching organisations can’t have it both ways. It simply doesn’t cut it to be nervous about schools based on a different model of funding (e.g. charter schools, independent schools etc. for instance) which allows them to work differently while at the same time blocking changes in the state school system that might also allow the state schools to work differently. The role of charter schools (still in its early days in this country) have across the world been given space in which to emerge largely through the performance and rigidity of the respective state schooling systems. This of course is a little less clear in Scandinavia and Europe where the state systems of schooling have flexibility, a greater ability to reflect individual student need and multiple pathways to achieving outcomes we envy.
Allowing some funding to follow students is the next step – in fact it is already happening. On the one hand with Trades Academies at Year 12 (Level 2 – a 4 day + 1 day model) it is managed professionally and without heat between the schools and the ITPs. On the other hand with the Year 13 (Level 3 – a 3 day + 2 day model) will be funded on a simpler model where schools will receive 60% of the funding for the student who will be at school three days a week and the ITP will receive 40% of the funding it would normally receive from a full time enrolment.
Once again, New Zealand makes progress through a simple solution to issues which have dogged other jurisdictions for a long time – especially North America. It solves the issue of trying to work across the boundary of two dissimilar funding methods.
And guess what? These developments will result in increased school rolls and the more astute school leaders understand that 80% or 60% of a student’s funding entitlement is better that 80% or 60% of a disengaged student who is not on the roll. These flexibilities are keeping students in school, returning those facing possible disengagement and exciting those who might be incipiently disenchanted.
The prediction I made when developing the MIT Tertiary High School was that the Multiple Pathways approach would be a powerful tool to keep students in education and training. The changes made to the Education Act at that time have allowed the Youth Guarantee Policy to flourish and that prediction is being confirmed by the evidence in our part of the world.
So, let’s have that discussion about funding understanding that it could lead to increased retention in the schools, higher levels of successful outcomes for students and a better future for many of our young people.
It is said that some allergies can be psychosomatic.