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Tag: public service

Talk-ED: A chance for education to score – or kick an own goal!

Stuart Middleton
14 May 2012


Education has surely moved into centre stage in a way that is spectacularly ahead of any time that I can remember.

In setting the Better Public Service Goals for the performance of government and the public service generally, the Government settled on a set of goals that are making a clear statement – Education has to perform! And it has to deliver by 2016.

 Clustered under a set of five headings those goals are:

 Reducing long-term welfare dependency

1.     Reduce the number of people who have been on a working age benefit for more than 12 months

Supporting vulnerable children

2.     Increase participation in early childhood education.

3.     Increase infant immunisation rates and reduce the incidence of rheumatic fever

4.     Reduce the number of assaults on children.

Boosting skills and employment

5.     Increase the proportion of 18 year olds with NCEA level 2 or equivalent qualification.

6.     Increase the proportion of 25-34 year olds with advanced trade qualifications, diplomas and degrees (at level 4 or above).

Reducing crime

7. Reduce the rates of total crime, violent crime and youth crime.

8. Reduce reoffending.

Improving interaction with government

9. New Zealand businesses have a one-stop online shop for all government advice and support they need to run and grow their business.

10. New Zealanders can complete their transactions with the Government easily in a digital environment.

On first glance it might appear that No.5 and No.6 are the key education goals. NCEA Level 2 for 85% of all 18 year olds seems certainlynow to have been accepted as the goal in terms of school leaving qualifications. The target for trades qualifications is appropriate even if expressed in rather softer terms. Both are tough goals and I will come back to these at some later date!

But it is the other eight goals that excite me today.

Getting people off benefits can only be achieved by training, retraining and education. There are jobs out there but there is a dearth of people especially among the benefit dependent with the skills to get them. Education and especially trades education and training will be central to Goal No.1. Education that succeeds will create more jobs as the increased supply of a skilled labour force will drive and increase demand.

Early childhood education is the very foundation for success in education generally and subsequently in life. This is recognised in Goal No.2 while Goals No.3 and 4 would be more likely to be attained in a well-educated and knowledgeable community. Perhaps the role of education is more peripheral here but it is among the poorly educated and ill-trained and those without skills that these issues are at their greatest.

We know the statistics for crime, youth justice, incarceration and general evil doing track closely the statistics of educational failure and disengagement. Goals 7 and 8, while not a direct consequence of what we do in education are certainly able to be impacted on them positively by what we could do in education. It is the best investment if we are serious about crime and offending.

That leaves No.9 and No.10 which at first glance seem to be the least connected. But business performance is greatly helped by a well-educated workforce and management skills are enhanced by education. Capability to deal with the mechanics of business development and growth from a government point of view is susceptible to an improvement through education.

So overall the 10 goals are a very strong statement about education. They are also a very tough ask.

But if we improve levels of educational success and engagement, if we make inroads into the NEETs in New Zealand, if we can knock truancy on the head, if we can get all students to a secure point for moving on from school and then get them successfully through the next qualifications – then and only then will the Better Public Service goals be met.

Education has moved to centre stage, the lights have gone up and the show has begun!

Are we up to it?



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Talk-ED: A double helping!

Stuart Middleton
20 March 2012


The Entree:    What’s not local about education and training?

Local Government Minister Nick Smith is wide of the mark when he calls for local government to get “out of education” and uses the example of “a council that sets a target of Level 2 NCEA”.  He goes on to say that local government has no business doing central government business. This is referring to the Auckland Council’s clear target for education and skills in the region.

He is right to say that local government should not be doing central government business but misses the point that local government has a role to play in seeing that central government does its business. There is no issue with the Level 2 NCEA goal – last Thursday Prime Minister John Key clearly set exactly the same goal for the government and his Ministers (see below).

The role of local government with regard to this target is to advocate for central government to deliver on it. It might also have a role in facilitating collaboration and innovation across the region to support the goal. Such a goal, and this is clear to the Government and certainly the Prime Minister if not to Minister Smith, is at the heart of economic growth and development. When the Auckland Council and the central Government sit down to talk about such matters, it is exciting to think that they will share the same goal.

One party (central government) will be held to account in that discussion for delivering on it while the other party (local government) will be showing how it contributes to a region that is similarly committed to it and which contributes in appropriate ways to it. No local government has an appetite to do the government’s work!  But if unitary councils are to be taken seriously, central government has to see that its work is contributing to regional aspirations.

Minister Smith needs to get up to speed on education and training, its performance and its role.


The Main Course:  Whose will be done?  Education must respond.

The recent speech from Prime Minister John Key outlined some directions that will impact on education and training.

Education will have a key role to play in the reduction of numbers of people on a “working age benefit”. Many of this target group will through in some cases no fault of their own – life dealt a pretty rough hand – require additional training and education before they are able to work. The skills of employment may have moved beyond the level of competence that they were able to reach in previous employment or in their education (IT springs to mind).

This raises the issue of transition – just how are people assisted to move from benefit dependency to self-reliance in employment as a wage earner. It is not black and white, one minute you have a benefit, the next you are in sound employment. And certainly an interview in a WINZ office will not achieve it. Education institutions should get their thinking caps on.

It is interesting to see access to ECE placed into a “supporting vulnerable children” set of responses – increasing access, increased immunisation and reducing the rate of assaults on children. I hope the goal is to reduce assaults on children down to zero!  Again education is a key.

And it is also an explicit player in the goal to boost skills and employment. NCEA Level 2 (or an equivalent) will be a key marker of a platform from which 18 year olds can launch the pathways into the world of further education and training and of employment. This is sensible. It sets a clear target that should be attainable by all students without requiring them to continue along a track headed towards university when this is not the goal. But it is also a big ask for us to achieve!

Add to this the development of “Vocational Pathways” within NCEA and the promise they have to bring integrity and cohesion to the programmes of many students not heading towards university. We are starting to see shape in the senior levels of schooling with these proposals.

It therefore makes sense for the performance of 19-24 year olds to get some attention. The goal has been placed at an excellent level – advanced trade qualifications, diplomas and degrees (at Level 4 and above). 

Evidence supports this goal as one which will lead to employment, to a family sustaining income and to allowing a person to make a positive contribution to society. For it is a fact that a person qualified to at least this level is highly unlikely to be engaged in the dark arts of crime. It all ties together.

Get a well educated and knowledgeable community and you will get one which is less dependent of benefits, less likely to bash children, be more assertive about getting education for their children and looking after them and, of course, will be both employable and employed. So the challenge is there to all of us in the education community and we simply have to be up to it. With the clear connections now being made between education and social and economic development clearly and in measurable terms, we will have nowhere to go if we don’t perform on such measures. Certainly we cannot sit back and blame it on the government – this government or any government for that matter.

Finally, there must be at least a touch of interest in the creation of the “Super-Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.” Of course there are cost-cuttings and efficiency considerations in this expression of the latest attempt to clean up the Public Service. But there might also be quite a lot of good sense in seeing new connections and taking a multidisciplinary approach to public policy and oversight. The inclusion of Building and Housing also seems more like a continuation of a search for a safer pair of hands. But to group economic development, labour, science and innovation seems to create a potential for increased impact and progress in those areas.

Will the spotlight turn next to education? Bringing together the Ministry of Education, the Tertiary Education Commission, the Education Review Office and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority would at least be an interesting discussion and might well have legs. Perhaps the Careers Service could also be included. Have I left anyone out?

We talk a lot about connection and transition in education and how the lack of smooth transitions gets in the way of education success for too many and yet we all work within an education system that is built around a lack of connection.

Connections, transitions, lifting education access and outcomes – a lively setting for education is emerging.



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