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Tag: education system

Talk-ED: Change in Auckland without the shake


There was a good response from the piece last week about the population changes facing New Zealand as the growth focuses on the Auckland Region. The fact that 38% of New Zealand’s population would be contained in the Auckland region quite clearly has implications for all other regions. I suggested that the changes proposed for Christchurch should be the start of a national discussion on the forms of education and training that are appropriate for the future.

One correspondent thoughtfully asked “And what are the implications for Auckland? Do you think that no changes are called for?” And so, on to Chapter 2…

Quite clearly Auckland will change quite dramatically and the large amount of green field development will see large areas requiring new schools, better transport and increased education provision right through the system. So here are some suggestions.

New early childhood education centres and schools will be required as new communities are developed particularly in the north and the south of the region. It is wishful thinking to believe that this can happen without changes to existing provision. Some schools will close; others will need to get larger; some will merge; and so on. It will be Christchurch come to Auckland albeit a much gentler shake-up.

As increased interest in the schooling sector starts to promote the notions of different ways of working, of a multiple pathways approach to senior secondary schooling, of increased growth of secondary / tertiary interface programmes and other new ways of working, the face of the secondary school system will inevitably alter. Auckland has recently seen the building of Junior and Senior High Schools without any overall view as to the role of such institutions and the impact of this development on the wider system.

So how will Auckland change in its education provision?

For a start, it is expensive to provide great increases in university places. I suggest that the Epsom and Tamaki campuses of the University of Auckland be converted into “community colleges” taking students from Year 13 and combining it with the first one or two years of an undergraduate degree. This would create space in secondary schools and at the university where the impact of such a move on undergraduate / postgraduate ratios would be advantageous. Equitable provision would probably demand that such a community college be established in the north of the city as well.

Polytechnic provision. Given the fact that Auckland already has less polytechnic provision than the population demands and the fact that participation in polytechnic education and training is at half the level of the national rates, this sector is one in which large growth can be expected. This should be planned growth rather than reactive provision which always runs after demand and never quite gets there. There is probably a good case for another large polytechnic to be created in Auckland or it could be a major new campus within a federal relationship with either or both of the two existing polytechnics.

A clear emphasis on growth of provision in Auckland must be on trades and technical areas (Disclosure: I work in a polytechnic) but this is essential for the skills levels of in both Auckland and the rest of New Zealand. The skill base needed to maintain industries and infrastructure and to cope with extraordinary demands such as is currently evident in the Christchurch Rebuild, the Leaky Building Response and the sheer size of the demand for new housing in Auckland. A significant portion of these new skills will have to come from Auckland. Therefore, look to see an increase in programmes such as those currently under the banner of the Youth Guarantee policy, look to see an increase in early access to vocational education and training, look to see young people get traction from Vocational Pathways and so on.

In short, we are facing a major repositioning of education especially in the senior secondary school and that will inevitably be the basis on which new secondary schools and other kinds of education and training provision that will be developed in response to the new demands.

You can be sure that Auckland will face changes that are dramatically more significant than those elsewhere which will be typified by a need to cope with declining demand across the education system.

Sensible management of the education system will seek to maintain universities at a viable and productive size throughout New Zealand so that will be one area where Auckland students might just have to travel to access university education if they fail to secure a place in an Auckland institution. And that is not such a bad thing.

We are talking about these major changes being required within 30 years. The discussion must start now.



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Talk-ED: "Follow me! I'm right behind you!"

(claimed to have been the call from a World War I General)

Stuart Middleton
7 February 2012

Another Waitangi Day comes and goes and I am not sure whether we are better off because of it. What makes me wonder is whether or not we continue to have the will to be a great country or are content to get into the scrum of a country that is safe and OK. Have our aspirations as a country lowered in order to make the challenges seem less daunting?

Take education. New Zealand has a history of striking out to do what others had not attempted to do. A universal, free and secular education system was introduced ahead of other countries. Incrementally, access to free education was extended upwards.

Dr Beeby, working with a willing Minister, was quite prepared to put a line in the sand that represented a commitment to each and every young person.

We led the world in the focus we brought to reading in our system and high levels of literacy were an expectation, not simply a goal in a strategy. Sylvia Ashton-Warner, arguably New Zealand’s most famous educator took us to places where we simply had to think again about how we taught in diverse settings. Dame Marie Clay and reading recovery was later profoundly influential across the world both English-speaking and in other settings such as Singapore.

None of this happened because people such as these were content to follow. They took a lead and took New Zealand to good places as a result.

I have spent a good deal of time over the past five years thinking about our progress as an education system and have come to a point where I see clear dangers in our continuing to follow the examples of our peer education systems in the United States, Great Britain, Australia and Canada (with the possible exception of Ontario). By and large, this set of countries, along with New Zealand, is headed towards a bad space.

It is not really anyone’s fault in as much as in these countries no-one is responsible for educational failure. We are becoming soft in accepting that it happens. It is not good, but, shucks, that is how it is.

Well, it needn’t be so. If New Zealand could with confidence stride off in some new directions we might be able to once again lead rather than follow.

How we could do this is to look at elements in systems that do better than us and using the underlying principles, consider how we might bring about change.

Example #1. Some systems such as those of Scandanavia, Netherlands and Germany take more students to positive outcomes than we do. To do this they have different institutions at the senior secondary level that offer different and flexible pathways for students. Well we don’t want a whole swag of additional institutions. Taking the principles of differentiation and pathways we could with little disruption adapt our senior secondary system to achieve results at least as good as those other systems.

Example #2. We lose quite a few students along the way and really have little idea of why and perhaps even who they are. Other systems track and monitor students in a variety of ways and by allocating responsibility to different groups – educators in some systems, local government in others and social welfare agencies in a few. The principle is that tracking and monitoring is valuable and should be done by someone. Now that is not hard and a decision on this could be made surely.

We need to be competitive in a real sense – looking at the best practices overseas and  turning them into practices which reflect the way we work in New Zealand, a small education system that spends enough money but is increasingly not getting the results.

So, there is no need to simply replicate stuff from other countries uncritically.

There is a mountain of evidence as to the success or otherwise of “charter schools” (and their other iterations as “free schools” and “academies”). It would be absurd to simply set out to have such institutions in New Zealand without considering the evidence, looking at the principles that underpin them and as appropriate turn those principles into a uniquely New Zealand way of working to the greater advantage of more young people.

Let’s not follow them blindly but be smart and lead once more.

Take the suggestion that we need a web site like Australia has with the – a site where you can see how good the local school is and how it compares to other schools. Well it is a pretty good site that gives good comprehensive information about each school and it requires an effort to use it for comparisons between schools. Let’s not copy it but look at how it could supplement the web sites that pretty well all New Zealand schools have. And National Standards are not NAPLAN thank goodness.

I think I have mentioned previously a colleague in London who wonders why New Zealand has any educational issues at all. “After all,” he says “you are such a small country you could all get together at the weekend and sort it out!”

Yes, we could. The tragedy is that we don’t.


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Pathways-ED: If it's broke, fix it!

Stuart Middleton
24 November 2011


Remember the blog earlier this week when I said:

Here is an idea. Make the primary sector start at Year 1 and end at Year 6. Have a “Junior High School” from Year 7 to Year 10. Then re-position the senior secondary school (Years 11+) as a Senior College within the tertiary sector. This would allow the funding formula for all students from Year 11 on to be synchronised regardless of whether they are in Senior College or a tertiary provider. In fact, the Senior College could well be the tertiary sector.

(These ideas will be expanded in Thursdays EdTalkNZ)

Well, I have changed my mind a little bit. I think I should have also included early childhood education.

So here goes.

Primary School (K1 – Year 6)

This would include two years of pre-school classes located within each primary school especially in areas of high need. K1-K2 would provide a standard early childhood education programme. Then the children would proceed into Year 1 and stay there through until Year 6. This would cover the conventional primary school programme.

Junior College (Year 7 – Year 10)

This combines the current intermediate school with the first two years of what we know now as secondary school, Year 7 – Year10. It is a transitional institution intended to be the level at which students make a gradual transition from the “primary” programme to one closer to the ways in which secondary schools teach; from holistic themed programme to the discipline-based approach of the secondary school. It will be where quality advice, education, guidance and information about careers is de rigueur and academic planning both taught and caught.

Senior College (Year 11 – Year 13)

This is the more radical part of this re-structuring because I would also argue that the Senior College would be removed from the Schooling Sector and placed in the Tertiary Sector. What are the key reasons for this last suggestion?

It is critical that the collaboration between tertiary and secondary be escalated to allow young students the opportunity to study towards career and technical education qualifications through those years. Those headed towards university might similarly benefit fron an earlier opportunity to start on their university studies in the style of the US early college high school.

Youth Guarantee, trades academies, service academies have loosened up the hard barriers between secondary and tertiary, it is now time to finish the job. Having the Senior College included in the tertiary sector would allow for some considerable gains:

The synchronising of funding approaches for both. This would remove the most ticklish issue in collaborative activity between tertiary providers and secondary schools – the development of a funding approach that is easy, equitable and within fiscal constraints. With Senior Colleges having the same accountability measures and levels, the same course development and approval processes and the same quality assurance processes as other tertiary providers, the senior curriculum could over time become a cornucopia of opportunity for young people.

Alongside and embedded into NCEA, Senior Colleges could be at least starting students off onto tertiary qualifications and in some instances actually have them complete industry recognised qualifications and get their NCEA. It can be done, it is being done!

Now, how can all this be accommodated – literally? The Senior Colleges would in many places be alongside a Junior College sharing a site that was previously a secondary school site. The teachers would be predominantly teachers who teach in our secondary schools although in the Senior College there is room for a greater variety of teacher-background and experience being available to students at that level. On shared sites there would be a single administration.

As I said the other day, it can’t be the people who are getting it wrong, it has to be the structure.

Our education system grew as it has largely by accident and the simple addition of new levels and different ways of working without an overall design. The time is right for a deliberate and future looking system, planned, cohesive and above all, characterised by widespread student success.

This is only an idea. What is your idea?

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