The system is stuck in a rut!

It seems that the automatic reflex response to any issue related to schooling in New Zealand is “We don’t have the resources!”

Absenteeism, truancy, declining levels of achievement in Mathematics (sometimes called Numeracy) / Reading and Writing (sometimes called Literacy) and unease about digital and social media skills, and so on. You name it, except for meals at school (which schools should rightly sheet home to the Ministry of Education as one of its responsibilities) the response to criticism is a quick “We don’t have the resources! When a longer response is needed usually from the senior folk in the system

Prolong the explanation which when boiled down amounts to “We don’t have the resources!”

Well, the good news is that the resources are there – they are called school funding and are provided so that schools can provide the activities that will lead to satisfactory and acceptable or better outcomes in reading and writing and mathematics, assist students development of personal and social skills at an age appropriate level and, address the key features of the History of Aotearoa New Zealand although that appears to be controversial even before we know how it is going to be tackled in six months’ time.

As Albert Einstein (and others) have said over time, “to continue to do things which have failed over time is a sign of madness.” I don’t accept the description of “school failure” as “madness” because it masks a much more invidious but benign thing that is the cause of failure and that is ineffectiveness. This is irritating and frustrating for all and is not what teachers signed up for. On the other hand, it is over to teachers to be to change the way schools work, to create a curriculum that is inclusive and to inject a spirit of optimism into a sector that increasingly shows despair. Charles Payne looks around the US education system and simply sees his mantra being played out – “so much reform, so little change!”

Teacher-led reform could I believe produce solutions to the “issues” that are so daunting because the solutions are largely out of their hands. Sheet the solutions home to those who can and must respond.

Truancy belongs to the Ministry of Education – they are the guardians of the education laws in New Zealand and the flagrant abuse of the law in this area beggars belief. For too long teachers have had to have their programmes disrupted by sporadic attention to absences which is against the law and emphasizes the view that if you are not at school there is a likelihood that you are not learning or worse. Up to this point answers to this crisis have not been found while the pile of NEETs simply continues to grow. We need some priority here.

Teachers could help and will help if they are able to place the skills and knowledge on the things they can influence and central to this is a curriculum that attracts students, provides them with skills and interest and a view of the future, a line of sight to what with the help of teachers they are able to achieve. If teachers are distracted from this by needing to do the work of others then the community will just have to put up with it. If students do not get the benefits of knowing how to do sums, to read and write, to work harmoniously with others, and to a willingness to bring energy to going to school they will face a bleak future. So will parents, and the nation, come to that!

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