Archive for Education

Well done Minister! You’ve done it again!

Those struggling to conclude the review of NCEA have been shown the way by Minister Hipkins who has an practical and student oriented understanding of the way NCEA works and the value that it brings in its current shape to many students.

For too long, New Zealand education and especially the senior secondary school, has been bedevilled by the anxiety felt by University administrators in having little confidence in the NCEA system to select the stream of students who were worthy to tread the path to academia. Well, that has been solved with Auckland University declaring that students can enter the 2021 academic year without a complete NCEA Level 3 set of results characterised by a number of the requisite Excellence awards.

We have always known that NCEA was not the kind of qualification that related well or even closely to the requirements of a university programme. The last 20 years have been largely wasted discussion being distracted by the insistence of the universities, supported by a small group of schools (they know who they are), that their needs must be met first and the rest of the school system could trail along.

It was hard for the universities to grasp standards-based approaches to assessment and the fact that at the beginning levels of learning, a body of knowledge could be presented as a set of standards that expressed a curriculum in ways that students could work to achieve those standards and in doing so develop an expertise at various levels.

In the 1990s I attended a number of meetings where there was a palpable tension around such matters. One famous meeting at which the Vice-Chancellors spread themselves across the front row so as to have maximum impact on Prime Minister and Minister of Education, Rt.Hon. David Lange. After hearing NCEA being described as “intellectual finger food’ and a range of other barbs the PM assured the Vice Chancellors that he wasn’t afraid of them – ‘you’re just a gang of bikies in suits” he bellowed. Neither side contributed very helpfully on that occasion! And one of the University team declared it to be the rudest meeting he had attended in his life!

Those who would wish to argue for complicated mechanisms for the conduct of the NCEA assessment system need to understand some simple truths. No-one will operate on a human being to correct a brain injury or even tackle open heart surgery solely on the basis of having attained NCEA (with Merit).

NCEA is what provides those first steps that will place students onto a pathway, it starts early (NZ leaves it a bit late in my view) and by taking a series of small but connected steps, the student discovers their potential to head towards a destination that is worthwhile. The accumulation of credits contributes to a package of knowledge that has credibility. Think about the driver’s licence as an example of standards based assessment. Many aspiring drivers present themselves for assessment of a wide range of skills which collective add up to being a proficient driver – the skills are in themselves of different importance and the decision to grant a license is made on the basis of an overall assessment of the driver/driving overall – not on the basis of one skill.

Sometimes a student realises that the direction they are taking is not one they wish to pursue. As a result, a horizontal shift is required across to a different direction. Level 1 and Level 2 serve a useful role in the development of a young person’s progress. That is why are usefully flexible and have a range of credits that can be transferred. Level 3 is where decisions become more serious and that is the point for electing to take a clear vocational pathway. It’s where students not headed to university should be on a clear vocational track.

The success Trades Academies and other secondary tertiary programmes show a clear appetite for STP students to transfer in L3 vocational programmes rather than the  general school programmes at Level 3.

The Minister in his decision to keep students moving forward through the system and trusting the judgement of the instructors and teacher through the award of additional credits. The balance of the overall programme is retained and common-sense greatly benefits the student. Well done Minister!

(Next week:  How NZ’s NCEA has changed a nation.)

Oops! An Unintended Reform

I have been sorting papers to accommodate the move from the luxury of an office to the cosy reality of the open-space work room. When clearing out, you stop from time to time to reacquaint yourself with this paper or that book! That is how I came across a paper that has influenced me for the past 15 years – a book review that dealt with reform versus evolution in education. In these CoVIT-Panacademic times there has been some positive promotion and commendation of online learning and the weight of support seems to be swinging a little more in its acceptance. About time I hear you say!

I was reminded by this of the 1997 book which was the subject of the review, Tinkering Towards Utopia (Tyack and Cuban, 1997),  a time when reform seemed to consistently fail much to the inevitable despair of educators. Would the much vaunted reforms ever see result? The reform movement was huge, truckloads of resources were being thrown into wholesale reform  that had little impact – “So much reform: So little change” was Charles Payne’s summary. And especially in the area of online learning the future was slow in coming.

The book reviewer commented on the tension between change and reform and the mechanisms schools practised to resist change and left me with a feeling that perhaps the battle was swinging away from the traditional classroom. In some areas it seems quite clear and online learning was one area. This was largely because “…….the school exerts less influence on what children do with home computers, and as the number of these reaches significant levels, we are beginning to observe changes in the relationship between teachers and students brought about not by a reform, but by the fact that the students have acquired a new kind of sophistication but about ways to learn and methods of research.”

Come forward to the current swirl and add to it the imperative of the pandemic lock-downs. To to use an appropriate (some might say inappropriate) figure of speech, it could be that the DNA of schools as institutions is strong enough to rebuff the challenge of an attack on conventional practice but retain an immunity to change. The pressure to work differently during these times is overpowering. Seemingly there are no vaccines against attacks on the status quo in education and places called schools were quick to reclaim their children back into the places called a school, being there at times when schooling was prescribed, and re-establishing rituals of delivery.  Parents and their children who had perhaps discovered a new and different connection with learning, saw the whole palaver of the less relevant institutional mores such as assemblies, homilies from form-teachers, the wearing of a common uniform, bell ringing, and all that jazz – return into their lives much to the despair of some and the delight of others.

But to get back to on-line learning in educational institutions – will the new normal, which will never be the old normal, allow it to emerge and grow stronger in its new level of penetration into schooling and to bring with it a different balance of power between students, parents and schools or will it succumb to a pressure to return to the well-established, trusted ways-of-working with their mixed bag of outcomes.

As the reviewer said: when a school sets out to change its approaches, in the end the school changes the reform [and goes on to say that] one may at first blush see a tautology in using this proposition to explain failures of reform. But to say that School changes the reform is very different from simply saying that School resists or rejects the reform. It resists the reform in a particular way – by appropriating or assimilating it to its own structures. By doing so, it defuses the reformers and sometimes manages to take in something of what they are proposing.” So, will bits of our lessons from the pandemic shine through or will it be “back to business as usual?” And I am frustrated by having lost the name of this reviewer!

It was the Heading that Caught my Eye!

“Low Level courses not helping young Maori” headed a single NZ Herald column report on the soft underbelly of secondary and post-secondary programmes. The research being discussed had found that “a disproportionate number of rangatahi leave school after completing NCEA Level 2 to go on to level 3 certificates at PTEs [private training institutions]” and concludes that “They would have been better staying at school for Year 13.” Well, would they have been?” Taking a wider lens to the issue has to start with the stubbornly robust statistics which tell us that:

  • 20% of young students have left school by the school leaving age of 16-years;
  • There is significant disengagement from age 14-years on;
  • Young people who complete Level 3 would be encouraged to consider that they were successful (and they are!) but there is a missing element that is a goal of schooling;
  • 76,000 school students are absent from school on any given day.

Starting with the obvious, schools cannot hope to reach those who are not at school. Why are they not at school? That is not a mystery – they have disengaged and end up in the ranks of the NEETs.

The issue that the research stresses is that the Level 3 qualifications simply do not constitute a pathway that leads to employment pathways that provide a sustaining income. Yes, the students appear to be on a successful pathway until they reach the decision point – employment. They are led astray by being tempted to go to programmes that are disconnected both to their past education and to those critical pathways that constitute careers. Level 3 does not constitute a take-off point for employment. And a pathway is not a pathway unless if engages at an early point hand gives a line of sight to the future.

But all is not lost, there is a different pathway that has opened up.

The Maori and Pasifika Trades Training Programmes have matured and now constitute settings in which Maori and Pasifika students are supported, have a clear focus on employment, access to free tools, and a setting which has the promise of continuing not only on to further qualifications after Level 3 but also to employment.

But the real development that is proving itself is the array of Trades Academy Programmes that have grown out of the pioneering Secondary/Tertiary Programmes, particularly the development which instituted the Tertiary High School for students who have disengaged or are likely to disengage – a very successful intervention that has been beneficial to over 1,000 students.

The key to the success of both the Trades Academies and the Tertiary High School is that they firmly embed students into a career pathway in the trades, they are unashamedly focussed on employment.  In 2019, Manukau Institute of Technology achieved creditable levels of success – 74.5% gained NCEA Level 2 and over 80% met the assessments for the credits offered.

The MIT Tertiary High School has a pathway that proceeds through NCEA Levels 1 and 2 (with students simultaneously working at both levels and at a speed they set targets for rather than the lock-step pace on the conventional school programme) and on to Level 3 and higher but rather than take NCEA route from level 3 they start on MIT qualifications that are employment focussed.

But they differ in their choices after that. Only a few (with higher “academic” aspirations) take NCEA Level 3 a large number opt for choices that are take-off points on a career pathway. Having experiences a range of trades earlier, they have a sound basis for choosing chosen pathways that they understand and for which they have an appetite. And from there they continue onward and upward through study at levels up to Level 7 – a surprising number have successfully reached Level 7. Levels 4-6 are by and large exit levels.

But….. Don’t forget that the trades lead to early and substantial earnings. A recent study showed that the institution which produced the highest earners five year after graduation was a vocational and technical tertiary education organisation. Who was that? Oh all right I will mention it, MIT topped the list!

Some might argue that this focus is a narrow and limiting approach. Well, that is simply wrong, the secondary tertiary programmes focus on basic skills, on understanding applied technical education. Of course this has focused on specific trades for the Trades Academies and Tertiary High School students will have experienced four different trades prior to making their choice of a career pathway. Because of the focus on trades students have a purpose for learning rather than the become lost in the murky fog of conventional “education for no obvious reason” in which many struggle with and from which so many simply give up.

The Chore that keeps on Giving

I shared some ideas about children learning to read in my last blog and promised to ask the question: When does learning to read finish?

The quick answer to this is that it doesn’t. Certainly young people usually grasp the process, the mechanics of reading that enables them to convert marks on the page to meaning. The faster they can do this the more pleasure will follow. If they slow their development down before “getting up to speed” they might be adults who don’t read for pleasure and who are operating at a level well below what they are capable of. And simply being asked to “bark at print” won’t work! All ages get meaning from print by bringing meaning to print.

So why does there seem to so little emphasis on continuing to learn to read and on raising the levels  of competence among adults other than, seemingly, in prisons! Tertiary institutions are on the whole a little remiss in not including substantial language components in most of their courses.

Reading is generally driven by both necessity and opportunity. Around the 1970’s, a pattern of courses and books that were based on the use of language in different occupations and polytechnics were attracted to such courses. “English for Secretaries” and “Language and Science” cashed in on the movement coming out of the United Kingdom under the title of “Language Across the Curriculum.”  This was a breakthough movement that gave language the importance it needs if learning is to proceed.

The fuel for language is vocabulary – the words you know and can use. Many studies have shown that the size of a person’s vocabulary will asign then to various lecels of reading competence. Some words look easy but have multiple meanings. But highly specialist word are easy to use, it is those faux amis that catch you out. Some words are simple (bark,nails, jam, pool, mine etc.), others are slightly more difficult (bolt, season, novel, draft, squash etc.) while others could be thought of as hard (buckle, current, harbour, hatch, racket) and so on. This is because they each have multiple meaning and are capable of being used in different ways. This can be a trap for learners at every level and is a difficulty that learners of a language that is a second language find initially something of a barrier.

In technical subjects, words can be deceptively easy but obscure in the meaning given to them (belt, family, gall, lisp, patch, and shear etc.) It is not possible to rote learn all these ambiguities and shared meanings, which brings me to my last point – you learn to read by reading! Nothing else will substitute for this.

You might think that mention should be made of “writing”. No need to, you learn to write by reading!

PS   Get a good dictionary (i.e. Oxford Concise English Dictionary) can’t be beaten, keep it no more that arms length away, and use it!

Reading Ability Falls the NZ Herald Tells US

A very enjoyable part of my journey as a teacher was a very wide and intensive engagement with language and especially reading. I was teaching at a school with a student population that was struggling with English language. It was required in a New Zealand school setting but was anew language for many of the students, certainly the formal brand required indoors. They had quite adequate vernacular outdoors. English was not a mother tongue for most of them.

Already I have mentioned two key principles without being specific – first, “reading” is a subset of “language” and secondly, success in reading relies heavily on success with language. The language-poor simply do not have the currency to cash in as a reader. So, what do we do about this as children come through school?

Above all, if students for whom English is a second language and for others who struggle, the only hope of real success in reading is to ensure that these wonderfully potentially gifted speakers of another language are not in a position of ever using these assets. In short, get cracking at teaching the first/mother languages of the students – those are the language systems their DNA holds captive until unleashed by good teaching and appropriate environments.

Next is the important principle that “students get meaning from print because they bring meaning to print”. If the materials they are using to learn how language works are alien to the things they hear, the interactions they indulge in, and the nuances and tones do not carry the music of their tunes rather than the sounds and accents of foreign voices, they struggle.

The miracle of watching little ones learn to read is the relatively small period when “the penny drops” – they understand what it is to read. They have skills now at determining how words sound in ways that mean things and as this facility becomes more secure, they get faster and that is the key. They have the appetite to learn to read. Many children do not get the meaning of the material they are using because it is a languorously plodding and slow and boring chore.

Of course, schools then placed barriers in the way. In my childhood they were reading books like the Janet and John series (based on the American Alice and Jerry readers), and then later stories about Daddy flying to Wellington on the Viscount! They were greeted with a vacant stare.

Reading is about connecting words discover worlds that are able to be related to world inhabited by people like the reader.  Adults not being seen to read are not serving young ones well. And learning language skills appropriate to levels higher than the relatively beginning levels I have skipped over in this blog will be the subject of the next blog.

The Power of Purpose

When Trades Academies were established in 2011, the target group of students were not those headed to university or tertiary programmes which are both appropriate and attainable. If a student has the skills and aptitude for the heavily academic setting of a university programme and can be assured of making the cut, they should do just that. They have a pathway.

But there is a significantly large group of students who run the risk of being left behind because pathways have not opened up. There is therefore a significant group who are starting at about Year 9 to show weaknesses in the academic journey and to start the process of disengagement. This exhibits itself in haphazard attendance patterns, and when they are at school there are signs of a niggly relationship between them and their teachers accompanied by wilful gaps in their work. They are the ones that will be left behind as teachers maintain a momentum for those who cooperate with their effort and who do the mahi!

These Year 9 and 10 disengagers are on the way to being incipient dropouts. The statistics on this are a woeful indication of the simple truth that a diet of conventional schooling does not suit all learners. The disengagers that are well down the track to full disengagement have few choices. They can end up being destined for the NEETs group which is a difficult situation to get into and a worse one to get out of. The conventional solution is to get them back into school. But school is where they dropped out of and which subsequently holds little attraction for them. A very small numberhave been able to access the Tertiary High School model in the 10 years it has been operating with success in terms of pathway outcomes for a high proportion of them.

But all is not lost. It is becoming apparent that the Trades Academies, a programme in which school students undertake either one full school day (Level 2) or two school days (Level 3) in a tertiary programme delivered by an Institute of technology / polytechnic institution at the tertiary institution. The evidence suggests that the programmes are encouraging secondary students to develop a frame of mind where pathway in the technical and vocational areas, especially the trades careers. It is a bonus that these programmes also encourage students to maintain better attendance patterns and more willing interest in the rest of their school programme resulting in.

Remember that the Trades Academy students are unlikely to pursue heavily academic pathways. The performance of the Trades Academy students in 2019 continuing improvement in gaining the relevant NCEA credits. Manukau Institute of Technology, a large provider of Trades academies recorded an 83.9% of students successfully completing Level 2 and this was even across student groups – Maori 78.2%, Pacific 81.4% and Pakeha 93.1%.

There is an explanation for this. These students have in those proportions found purpose in learning. Research shows that the applied nature of learning when hand help heads and vice versa is a powerful attraction for adolescent learners. Pathways to employment are a real possibility when learners discover the meaning of learning and accept their role and responsibility responding positive in the more mandated engagement environment of trades academies. A key element in this is played by the NCEA qualification which in the trades academies is playing the role intended – it must not be tampered with, but more of that later!

(Dr Stuart Middleton is Specialist Advisor to the Chief Executive, Manukau Institute of Technology)

Who are the fruit cakes in all this?

If fruit cake caused serious mental health issues in in young people and especially boys there would be a call to have it banned.

If skateboarding were to cause mental health issues to adolescent boys and some girls, it surely would be side-lined by authorities.

If travel on an international flight was to cause a set of boys, about 10% of adolescent boys and fewer girls then there would be calls to recommend that flying was a serious health issue.

Why then do seemingly intelligent and reasonable adults wish to rush to cause levels of harm to a percentage of adolescent boys and girls by voting to make cannabis legal. Scientists are agreeing that should an adolescent be exposed to cannabis before the age of 15 they risk having a serious psychotic episode around the age of 18 years – well, 10% of those who indulge in smoking dope will.

That might seem a smallish risk but the tough side of these findings is that it cannot be predicted who among those who partake will fall victim to serious psychosis until they are melting down, irrational and about to cause pain and hardship not only to themselves but also to their families.

Believe the science on this. The highly respected Dunedin longitudinal research on development has seen this exact phenomenon in their youthful subjects. And it is not just New Zealand: “Cannabis is strongly associated with psychotic symptoms and psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia” concludes a major researcher in Ireland (NZ Herald, 3 August 2020). Furthermore, early heavy use dulls the brain with irreversible brain damage. So go ahead and vote for the legalisation of cannabis but do so in the knowledge that if sourcing it and using it becomes a habit for young people, they will enter into a game of cannabis Russian Roulette and 10% will lose with disastrous results for themselves and their families.

O wad some Power the giftie gie us…..

Baby Boomers(1946 to 1964); Generation Jones (1955 to 1965); Generation X (1965 to 1980); Xennials (1977 to 1983); Millennials (1981 to 1996); Generation Z (1997 and after); Generation Alpha (2010 and after).

We know all these various appellations used to describe successive generations from time to time. As a generalisation they work but of course they do not reflect the scale of difference within each generation.

I must declare at once that I am classed as a “Baby Boomer”. We grew up under the shadow of World War II. The six years of the war were still forefront in my parents’ minds and the stories were abundant. Quite regularly when looking through photo albums and asking where were the relatives we had never met, the answer was often “the didn’t come back from in the war.” There was no rushing to the western front to see them – just a telegram delivered by the local postman.

The mood of the Baby Boomers over the years has been one of sorrow for the deceased tempered with thankfulness for being alive. And younger generations might not even know that bacon, butter, sugar, meat, and petrol were rationed from the end of the war up to 1954. There were no mad panics about buying toilet paper nor storming of the grocery shop as happened recently in New Zealand. You had your coupon book and that was what you could have.

It is the pattern of human behaviour in an epidemic that contrasts so dramatically with the patterns of behaviour in a conflagration that astound me. Are Baby Boomers fundamentally wired in a different way to Millennials? They must be otherwise how can the contrast in reaction and behaviour of the two groups be so different. And just what are those differences?

The demands of those who wish to avoid quarantine, the strident demands from non-essential retail shops, the exuberant lining up for salary and expense top-ups for Decile 10 schools, the events in Victoria, Australia – all paint a picture of a generation or two that have a highly elevated sense of entitlement.

Contrast, on the one hand, the treatment handed out to farmers throughout New Zealand over the years in times of drought and floods and cyclones and stock disease outbreaks. There seemed to be a view in governments (on both sides) that those events were normal risks of doing business that you had to simply manage. On the other hand, the treatment of coffee shops, bars and pretty well all business seemed to be uncritically in favour of instant recompense for risk.

The point of raising these concerns is to ask how much the education system has contributed to the traits of the community. Education earned some praise for getting materials and devices out to students, developing TV initiative which was novel and, in the tertiary sector, development of a huge online capability was impressive. But I note that students at the universities in Auckland and Wellington are complaining about the in-line tuition. Once again entitlement trumps gratitude. They claim they are being shortchanged, that they want face-to-face tuition. I only hope that these cries are coming only from a small minority who capture the attention of a rapacious media thirsty for doom and despair. Their complaints don’t wash when they immediately flee into Facebook for their social life.

It is at this point that the argument fails – generalisations based on the all-too-easy names for generations inadequately characterise groups born in various decades. It is more the truth there are only good people and some others.

Don’t trust illusions

The arbitrary assigning of specific ethnicities to a couple of politicians recently has reminded us that some care is needed, training required and probably a bit a pause for thinking about it all. The perpetrators, both excellent people forced into quick thinking on the fly, made assumptions first about their own knowledge and secondly were caught into a no-win situation getting into a discussion about diversity.

Early in my time as a secondary school principal I learnt a little about my own knowledge. Having arriving at a school directly from teaching (in a teachers college) courses about Multicultural Education, Sylvia Ashton-Warner and suchlike I thought I knew quite bit about cultural difference etc. But this turned out to be to an embarrassing trap.

One day a distraught Pasifika mother arrived at the school upset about examination fees. I was out and about the school just then and was summoned to the office. Yes, she was greatly irritated and with justification. There was a group standing with her in the foyer and I invited them all into my office to talk it through. I knew how to handle the situation, I was experienced with Pasifika situations, I knew that the basic tenant was to first seek to understand and then be understood. And over perhaps 20 minutes we had sorted it all out.

I then thanked the group that was with the Mum, assured them that I valued the support they had given and invited them to speak. I sat back with some satisfaction that I had done well. But I was not prepared for the response. In a gentle voice one of the group said “We do not know her, we were standing by the office and you made us all come into your office!” I later was told, which rubbed a little into my wounds, that the group did not share the same ethnicity as the troubled Mum

A little learning is indeed a dangerous thing.

I have a feeling that “diversity” is not quite as helpful as a concept as perhaps “cultural inclusion” might be. Targeted cultural inclusion programmes that first address issues of personal knowledge and skills in a diverse setting are then able to move to issues of implementation, and strategy, and performance and outcomes based on the specific needs of whatever the area of desired impact is – the market, a business, a school, a community, a church and so on.

Diversity is not in the eyes of a beholder but exists in the minds and feelings of real and different people who will not be undifferentiated in their views and needs and who will require different things if their growth, wealth and happiness is to be nourished.

So getting back to the politicians, the issue is not a head count because that will not in itself guarantee outcomes. But if the issues, policies and outcomes are built in an equitable and collegial fashion by a group that can bring different perceptions, different aspirations and sound responses that reflect the communities they come from, we can expect their impact to be visible and life enhancing.

But we need to watch our own role and the quality of the knowledge and skills we personally bring to the task.

A little learning is a dangerous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.
Alexander Pope

A fair share in an unfair world – The Demise of Deciles

Stuart Middleton

EdTalkNZ

3 August 2017

 

At last the decile system has gone! Announced in the early 1990s. it was intended to be a mechanism to take account of the socio-economic status of schools in assigning resources to all schools or, to put it more crudely, it was meant to deliver increased funding to schools who taught students who were at risk of failing.

The formula was built around five factors related to the socio-economic standing of parents and caregivers and their level of education, their occupations, the number of people living in the house, and the degree of benefit dependency.

Through a complex process of ranking across the five areas, the numbers were crunched and a “decile rating” tattooed firmly across the forehead of each school. This was to become a badge of honour for those in Deciles 8-10 or a mark of shame for those in Deciles 1-3. Schools in the Decile 4-7 range were in something of a state of suspended judgement in which the reputation of the school depended on other things.

At a time when it was launched there was a developing maniacal level of the worst sort of competition between schools. There was no show at all of the decile rating system being used as a neutral means of assigning resources more fairly. At that time, I was a Principal of a low-decile school. Rather than hugely increased resources which the high-decile schools alleged was being delivered to low-decile schools, I was instead the beneficiary of commiserations and voices lowered as a sign of deep sympathy by others when they discussed the school. That scheme could hardly have been launched at a worse time.

So, let’s be clear – when it came to reputation, high deciles were the winners and low deciles were the losers regardless of school quality. The shocking history of the way low-decile schools were regarded over many years was certain evidence that our national system was broken and that New Zealand could harbour no false impression that it was a united country at least in terms of schooling, This was a situation that flowed from the perceptions of groups of people about other groups of people; it flowed from the “secret courts of the hearts and heads of men and women”; it flowed from a media with a voracious appetite for slinging the dirt at those who were down; it flowed from real estate agents whose views on schools were based only on decile-ratings and “what that told you” about one area or another.

But those going to the low-decile schools saw themselves in this way. Of course, those who went to high decile schools knew they were better than others, those who went to low decile schools often enjoyed going to school, were taught by many excellent and a fair proportion of superb teachers. Teachers who knew that education was about helping people to grow and making changes were attracted to low decile areas. Never make the mistake of thinking that ‘high decile’ and ‘low decile’ are or ever have been an automatic proxy for ‘high quality’ and ‘low quality’.

But that has all changed with the announcement that deciles are out as a risk assessment of the student body in each school replaces it, perhaps 2019 students is in. While not a lot of detail has yet been revealed, some clear distinctions emerge between the old and the new.

  • The money will be follow the students assessed as carrying a risk into their schooling rather than being apportioned on the basis of a statistical generalisation based on a set of untested assumptions about a demographic group in a geographic area.
  • Schools who have disproportionate numbers of students with considerable risk will receive their fair share of the funding that reflects the actual proportion of their student numbers who meet the criteria and not be limited because they have been assigned to a category based on a relatively crudely decile or some part of a decile.
  • The early information suggests that the assessment will be on risk factors known to have a close association with low achievement, be based on actual families and young people who go to the school. The assessment will be based on data which reflect the actual issues faced by a student which impact negatively on their school progress.

The actual categories are a comprehensive list of factors that are known to directly impact on a young persons school performance:

  • Proportion of time spent supported by benefits since birth
  • Child has a Child, Youth and Family notification
  • Mother’s age at child’s birth
  • Father’s offending and sentence history
  • Ethnicity
  • Youth Justice referral
  • Benefit mother unqualified
  • Proportion of time spent overseas since birth
  • Most recent benefit male caregiver is not the birth father
  • Mother’s average earned income over the previous 5 years
  • School transience
  • Country of birth
  • Father’s average earned income over the previous 5 years
  • Migrant /New Zealand born
  • Number of children (mother)
  • Mother received third tier benefits (payments directed to alleviating hardship)

Clearly the calculations will achieve a far higher level of granularity than previously and, most importantly will not be made public – schools will receive their funding as part of the annual process – bulk funding, however unpopular with teachers, would be the ultimate protection of this anonymity.

The biggest challenge will be to the professionalism of all in education to resist attempts to undermine this new approach and to “leak” or to become partners in dirty tricks with the media that might wish to deconstruct the funding package – were this to happen it would simply perpetrate the dubious behaviours of the past. I have faith in the integrity of the our profession which I hope will in turn  have faith in this unique and bold approach to finding a level of social equity between schools.

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