I promised some more discussion on the policies of the Labour Party as we head closer to the election although policy is taking a bit of a back seat at the minute!
Here are a few other ideas that Labour has put into is Education Election Manifesto.
· Raising the standard of entry into teaching.
To start with “requiring the Teachers Council to” is to design the cart well before thinking about the horse. The standard of entry will not in itself be able to be raised without lifting the degree to which teaching is an attractive pathway for new graduates and for those seeking to change careers. A better place to start is to remove the significant differences between qualifications required for entry into different sectors, something which serves to narrow the options that adult learners should have open at the point of entry. The Scandinavian approach is to have a very standard level of first degree (usually a masters level qualification that is then given a small degree of specialisation for the levels at which a teacher wishes to teach at).
And they only accept into teacher education programmes about 10-15% of the applicants compared to the numbers taken in to programmes in New Zealand.
But perhaps the biggest impact would be had by current teachers and the organisations that represent them focussing on lifting the respect that the community has for teaching and for schools (this is the easy bit) and the parity of esteem that we hold each other in (this is a harder ask) and, finally, showing a degree of self-control as a profession that would see education issues discussed professionally in professional places rather than becoming nasty squabbles played out in the newspapers and on TV. Respect of educational leaders in any government and in our Ministries would also encourage good people to believe that they too might be respected with respect.
No issues at all with the sentiment, but simply “requiring the Teachers Council to a,b,c, and d” and increasing resources for schools won’t cut it.
A good idea in this policy is to revisit the supporting and bonding of teachers at the time of entry and progression into teaching. This need not be cash payments but might in fact be the forgiving of the debts incurred in training etc. and can be equalised between new teachers in some way.
· Support a self-governing teaching profession through the introduction of a democratic process for appointing the Board of the new Education Council.
This is a continuation of the teacher unions’ positions which have dominated the discussion about the new Education Council to this point in time. It is sensible for Labour to include it in its manifesto and to give this view an airing in this way.
· Scrapping National Standards and Charter Schools
Two questions are asked on these:
What assurances would Labour give to parents that the skills of language, reading, writing and mathematics are being adequately taught?
And I do mean a response that is stronger than either “Trust us we know what we are doing!” or “Never mind the quality, feel the warmth!”
What damage have Charter Schools inflicted on the system since their introduction?
We need to bear in mind a number of factors and remind ourselves that Maori needed to have their schools in order to have their needs more fully met, that Catholics have always had their own schools, that those who would believe in different ways of teaching such as Montessori approaches have their own schools. The international trend is towards difference in schools not increased sameness.
The US has its Academy Schools, its Charter schools, its Early College High Schools, its Lighthouse schools and so on. The UK has its Free Schools, its Studio Schools, its Academy classes, its University technical colleges. All of these are premised that working differently gets different results and that is something we certainly need. Here in New Zealand we have the MIT Tertiary High School, Trades Academies, Secondary Tertiary Programmes, Schools of Special Character, State Integrated Schools and Partnership Schools – all of which provide positive pathways in addition to those offered within the state system
I have visited many of these schools of difference in these countries and like state schools, the best are superb, the middle achieving ones are middling and the poor ones are just that! They aren’t silver bullets! But they can’t be simply written off either.
They do offer opportunities to many students – the gifted and bright, the struggling, the disengaging – that state schools of sameness cannot.
And, these alternate schools do have a message for the state systems – change or watch the change happen around you.
There’s more of course in the Labour Election manifesto and it deserves to be read.