10 December 2018
I have long cherished that little yellow book, the size of an old School Journal, that was called Tomorrow’s Schools: The Reform of Education Administration in New Zealand. Forty-Five A5 pages spelt out the changes that were designed to lead to a more equitable system.
Now in 148 A4 pages the review group that has directed its gaze towards Tomorrow’s Schools has concluded that the system “is not working well enough for our disadvantafed and young people.” This is to state the obvious but it needs to be stated often and loudly . They continue to drive home the unpalatable message that educators have ignored for too long: “There is no evidence to suggest that the current self-governing schools model has been successful in raising student achievement or improving equity…” At last a few of NZ’s dirty little education secrets are out.
So what is to be put in place to take us forwardto an equitable system?
Education Hubs – not entirely dissimilar to Tomorrow’s Schools suggested role for Education Service Centres way back in 1988. These were never put into place. Instead Boards of Trustee asummed control – they had a hunger to rule the schools matched only by the greater hunger of most principals to put on a corporate facade, indulge their hunger for competition between schools and their lustfor such concepts as “my school”, “my budget” and “my staff”
The controls Education Hubs will have (and they are significant) will clear the way for the true purposes of education to come to the fore and enable schools to behave in ways that address the needs of their local areas in a more equitable manner reducing the social inequities that characterise schools presently.
The review addresses the provision of schooling and rather coyly, in the spirit of understatement that is a mark of such reviews, states that transitions between schools can be difficult for students. Face it, transitions between schools, between levels, between teachers all have the potential to be disastrous for children. The only blessing is that at least the big transitions noted in the report, primary to secondary, secondary to tertiary, come along with a Christmas holiday! The review drives itself to rather timid proposals. Doing away with intermediate schools is not the answer. Repositioning the stages of schooling will require much more than this if are to be develop a renewed sense of purpose and focus..
The Review takes little note of the continuing alarming scale of disengagement from schooling. The ruling rate of 20% of 16 year olds who are not in education continues, the steady incremental growth of the NEETs group seems unable to be slowed let alone stopped, the 76,000 who are absent from school any day – these all beggar belief. And we should ask ourselves “Are these the markers of a crisis or are the simple cries of “we could do better” an adequate response?
New Zealand could solve much of this issue by simplifying the schooling system There could be one sector for Year 0 to Year 10 – this could be split at some point to make use of existing plant, but those pairs of split-site schools must operate as one school. Then you have a post-schooling sector from Year 11 on. This Post-Schooling sector should be merged with the tertiary sector, be funded as is the tertiary sector and have clear pathways to employment thrust.
The review season is with us for quite a while. But the big question! Will it knock the Auckland Schools Rugby scandal off the front pages?