Skip to content

Tag: schools

Success in Education – The Only Lifetime Guarantee that Matters!

So Youth Guarantee is not working according to those TV experts (TV1, Sunday, 18 September 2016), a view supported by some political statements, refuted by others, and brought to the attention of the education community by Ed Insider (19 September 2016).

The TV story was a mishmash of confusion between Youth Guarantee as a policy, the Youth Guarantee Fees Free Policy and the Trades Academies that are separate from the Fees Free places but are under the Youth Guarantee Policy setting

A key reason for giving young people the opportunity to continue their education and training up to the age of 19 years without cost to them is one of providing an equitable opportunity for them to have positive outcomes. It was always wrong that students could stay in a school up to the age of 19 years and fail elegantly for free while a decision to leave at 16 years (when they legally can) to pursue their education and training in a place other than a school would cost them a great deal.

Why should schools have a monopoly on free education up to the age of 19 years?

Then there is the clear truth that many 16 year olds are ready to leave school and get on with a career especially if they perceive that their chances of scholastic success in a school setting are not strong. So many of the Youth Guarantee students who pick up the opportunity to continue at an ITP might not be the strongest group of students, but many will discover strength as a learner when they are immersed in an applied educational setting.

The whole point of understanding a multiple pathways approach to education is to see the value in students’ being able to match the pathways to their needs, their aspirations and their views of where they are headed.

The TV News reporter and others have complained that “they do not stay in the course”. A simple enquiry would have enlightened the commentators to the fact that one of the key outcomes for YG places is to see them undertake study at a higher level and that is usually not a YG fees free place. The fees free place is a point of entry. Actually the successful outcomes, while they do vary somewhat between providers, are in many instances above 75% of students and Māori and Pasifika close to these levels. These are typically students not likely to achieve these results in a school setting.

The outcomes for trades academies should be viewed a little differently as many students undertake a trades academy programme at Year 12 and return to school for Year 13 with renewed engagement – a positive outcome. Nationally students in trades academies are out-performing comparable students in the schools.

The growth of secondary / tertiary programmes is an important channel through to employment but it is an even stronger weapon in the fight against the western education systems’ ugly statistic – those who drop out completely – and join the group called NEETs (Not in Employment Education or Training). It will take a raft of initiatives to first stem the flow of young people into that group and then undertake the huge task of moving those already in the NEETs group on into productive employment and a better life.

The Youth Guarantee policy setting is not a panacea for the considerable issues education faces, nor is it on its own going to meet the BPS goals. But it is working for a considerable number of students who do not deserve to have such opportunities denied them because of the ideological whims of others who have benefitted from a sound education.

Giving young New Zealanders a guarantee that their education will prepare them for a satisfying life, a family sustaining wage and an opportunity to make a useful contribution seems the least we can do.



The Tertiary ICT Conference theme for this year is  Bring IT On which focuses on identifying and sharing the key issues and opportunities for ICT in secondary and tertiary education, now and into the future.  A must for those in ICT Management, Teaching personnel and Service delivery teams.

For more information and to register, please go to: 

Leave a Comment

Investing in student futures

Stuart Middleton


16 August 2016



It is looking as if the teacher organisations are simply allergic to any discussion about school funding. Mention funding and any changes as to how funding is currently delivered and they break out in a rash of anger, predictions of doom, and greatly exaggerated accounts of the impact of any change.

The logic is clear. The schooling system is bringing success to a good proportion of the students who attend schools and there are incremental improvements to the groups that have not been traditionally well-served. Further improvements in student outcome will require the school system to work differently. To work differently funding will need to be delivered differently so as to be more flexible and managed closer to the student, their needs and their aspirations rather than be squirted out in a formulaic manner centrally.

The argument is persuasive. We have been dining out on our “self-managing” school system for nearly thirty years but have yet to allow Boards of Trustees to have a real responsible role in managing the key resource – funding.

The teaching organisations can’t have it both ways. It simply doesn’t cut it to be nervous about schools based on a different model of funding (e.g. charter schools, independent schools etc. for instance) which allows them to work differently while at the same time blocking changes in the state school system that might also allow the state schools to work differently. The role of charter schools (still in its early days in this country) have across the world been given space in which to emerge largely through the performance and rigidity of the respective state schooling systems. This of course is a little less clear in Scandinavia and Europe where the state systems of schooling have flexibility, a greater ability to reflect individual student need and multiple pathways to achieving outcomes we envy.

Allowing some funding to follow students is the next step – in fact it is already happening. On the one hand with Trades Academies at Year 12 (Level 2 – a 4 day + 1 day model) it is managed professionally and without heat between the schools and the ITPs. On the other hand with the Year 13 (Level 3 – a 3 day + 2 day model) will be funded on a simpler model where schools will receive 60% of the funding for the student who will be at school three days a week and the ITP will receive 40% of the funding it would normally receive from a full time enrolment.

Once again, New Zealand makes progress through a simple solution to issues which have dogged other jurisdictions for a long time – especially North America. It solves the issue of trying to work across the boundary of two dissimilar funding methods.

And guess what? These developments will result in increased school rolls and the more astute school leaders understand that 80% or 60% of a student’s funding entitlement is better that 80% or 60% of a disengaged student who is not on the roll. These flexibilities are keeping students in school, returning those facing possible disengagement and exciting those who might be incipiently disenchanted.

The prediction I made when developing the MIT Tertiary High School was that the Multiple Pathways approach would be a powerful tool to keep students in education and training. The changes made to the Education Act at that time have allowed the Youth Guarantee Policy to flourish and that prediction is being confirmed by the evidence in our part of the world.

So, let’s have that discussion about funding understanding that it could lead to increased retention in the schools, higher levels of successful outcomes for students and a better future for many of our young people.

It is said that some allergies can be psychosomatic.


Leave a Comment

Rushed justice is crushed justice

The issue of the miscreant rowers was overlooked in amongst all the fuss. The issue was not the appropriateness of the school’s response nor was it the insertion of lawyers and injunctions into the process.

Put simply the issue was this: Why do some young people not sometimes seem to have an innate sense of right and wrong.  Here were two kids – let’s not be impressed by their athletic prowess – who took it upon themselves to leap on the baggage system at Auckland Airport, an act that was in itself contrary to the law, reckless in its lack of regard for safety, plainly stupid on every count and quite the sort of thing we have come to expect in the YouTube obsessed and hyped-up environment that young people grow up in and lust after.

So what is a school expected to do in response to this?

Well taking them out of the rowing boat at the last minute would be an excellent punishment but more so on the seven others than on the offenders.  Collateral damage doesn’t just happen in war!  A hastily put together process to consider and administer justice seldom works and even less so in the heat of the moment.

Placing them under “house arrest” might have been considered.  That would see them denied some of the pleasurable moments that the other members of the team might have. This a sort of remand on bail because ahead of that they would face the hearing and the sentencing. To try and conclude the matter away from the school and in a hurry was ill judged.

If the ongoing safety of the group had been an issue the perpetrators should have simply been stood down and sent home but it wasn’t so no useful purpose would have been served (see above).

It was my experience that often when there is an incident in a school environment or activity, there is often a demand for swift action – “justice must be dispensed and seen to be dispensed”.  In a way that is somewhat reminiscent of the British District Officer in George Orwell’s Shooting an Elephant, the decisions made in school discipline cases seem often to be made pour encourager les autres rather than to treat with fairness, balance and appropriate severity the miscreant student or students. I remember on a number of occasions as a Principal in a discipline hearing arguing along the lines that “this sort of behaviour can’t be ignored, we couldn’t run a school if everyone behaved like this.”  Was I on these occasions just a little bit scared? Just like Orwell’s officer?

The judge that granted the injunction simply decided that the punishment did not fit the crime and the situation took a couple of Gilbertian turns as newspaper columnists waded in with demands which suggested that Guantanamo Bay was too good for the likely lads and /or that this was the end of the power of Principals and the Boards and perhaps western civilisation with it.

It is probably a good thing that Principals and Boards are reigned in now and again. I am told that it is not unknown for disciplinary hearings to be attended by lawyers. I am told that sometimes that they are necessary.

There is an old saying that “justice delayed is justice denied.”  It might just as much be the case that justice rushed isn’t justice at all.  The quick trip by the Principal with lawyer in tow didn’t seem to help much in this case.

Leave a Comment

All students are special, but some students have special needs

I think the 21st Century will be characterised by a phenomenon that might be called “condition creep.” This is where a condition starts to be redefined to such an extent that the clearly understood condition becomes obfuscated and the search for a “new” condition begins.

This occurred to me when listening to several speakers on the radio who were talking about the Dyslexia Awareness Week. In the course of this I learned that 45,000 New Zealanders suffer from dyslexia. This seemed rather high to me. But then it became increasingly apparent that the condition was now not simply the impact on reading of some neurological process that sees people confusing letters. It now seemed to apply to a lack of co-ordination, a series of learning difficulties and being a little bit off track in terms of teacher expectation.

I was reminded of the trouble that a UK academic got into a few years ago when he argued that dyslexia was often no more than a description by middle class white that sought to explain why Sally or Charles were having trouble getting the hang of reading or perhaps even being a little slow to pick up maths.

Of course he was wrong and his comments were a disservice to the young and old people who really do have dyslexia – there is no doubt that it exists. But in my time as a teacher of English and all my time working in education, I have to say that the clearly and genuinely dyslexic (in terms of the original definition) seemed to me to be quite small in number.

There is also the puzzling feature that white middle class communities have higher levels of reporting of dyslexia than the poorer areas where there is a significantly increased number of people with literacy issues. One wonders about this!

Some years ago I felt that the same condition creep was occurring with “ADHD” and right now I have to wonder about the spread of “depression”. What is it that makes us want to blur definitions? It can’t be a simple attempt at inclusiveness. Rather it seems to me that it might be a symptom of a community that has a number of people who are asking for help and of people who are seeking explanations by way of labels. In short, what is described as a condition might well in fact be a symptom for something else.

Another strange fact is that high decile schools access special assistance for students with issues when it comes to external assessments more than low decile schools and by quite a margin. The radio report I was referring to earlier noted that 17% of candidates from high decile schools compared to 1.0% of low decile school candidates were recipients of NZQA funded support at assessment time. It takes my mind back to the days when “equity funding” was dished out to institutions on the basis of the total EFTS. How’s that for targeted resource?

No-one sets out to rort the system on the one hand nor to deny a student that to which they are rightfully entitled on the other – but it happens. The swirl around the whole business of “special needs” and the support of students suggests a situation where we might have got something somewhat wrong.

Perhaps we should seek guidance from countries where they get it right?


1 Comment

More blessed to give donations than to receive a compulsory fee?

Something seems to have gone a little awry when the principal of a large Auckland school calls for state schools to be allowed to charge a compulsory fee especially when that school collects $1.9 million from 78% of its families through school “donations”.

The claim is made that a student in a low decile school gets $932 more than a student in a high decile school.  This might be true but I do know that some time ago I did a little exercise to compare the low decile school of which I was Principal with a particular Decile 10 school and, when roll numbers were equalised and other factors such as incidental costs and other forms of income taken into account, the high decile school had an overall funding advantage of about 25%.

Now that was a long time ago (mid-1990s) and I accept that the gap has narrowed a little as governments have set out to address the differentials in student achievement and student need.

That is why it is a little less than the whole picture to claim advantage for low decile schools – that is perhaps why the principal was careful to note that the differences were for state funding. The whole picture needs to include:

  • the capacity of the school to collect “donations” from its parents and a high level of fee (oops, that should read “donation”) from a very high percentage of parents;
  • the capability of the school to attract international fee paying students which is generally income at the margins with perhaps additional support with English – but it is a worthwhile income stream for high decile schools;
  •  the willingness of parents to pay the costs of participation in many activities;
  •  the support that is derived from alumni of the school;
  •  the response of parents when asked to provide digital devices for the students
  •  the generally large size of the high decile schools’ rolls;
  •  and so on…

The fundamental principles of the New Zealand education system are that it be universal, free, and secular.

The first of these, universal education, is clear and remains the goal. The level of children under the school leaving age who disengage from school challenges the system in achieving universal education which could well be better measured in terms of outcomes rather than the simplistic and now inadequate measure of whether they can get to a school.

The third of these, secular education, was strengthened with the development in the early 1970s of the category of “state integrated” schools. Most school systems have their church school with varying degree of independence and that provides for parent choice in the matter of values and religious observance.

But “free” means “free” – no child should be denied an education because they cannot pay. It does not mean that those who can pay more shouldn’t do so, but in “state schools” parents cannot be forced to pay more. Of course schools all over the country test this principle with donations requested in a manner that implies compulsion, extravagant school uniforms that cost ridiculous sums of money, demands that students have their own digital devices, and increasingly charges associated with activities.

State schools are state schools. I am not troubled, as Chris Hipkins seems to be, by the thought that the schools raising the matter of compulsory fees would become more elite. Too late Chris. They already are. Look at housing costs in the XYZ Zone. The recent report in the newspaper about all this concluded that rather than buy houses at inflated prices to get into the XYZ Zone and taking into account the subsequent cost of schooling, parents might be better off to buy outside the zone and send their child to an independent school. That is a telling conclusion that surprised me.


Leave a Comment

And coming in at number five!


The New Zealand Government spends $13.3 billion a year on education and of that $130m is directed towards reflecting the increased needs of some communities when it comes to education.

Despite the relatively small size of this decile funding pool, the media is trying hard to get a beat-up going even before the actual impact of the recalculations are known. “Deciles” were introduced into our system to achieve one thing, provide a mechanism that would allow additional funding to be directed towards areas of greater need.  It is a relatively sophisticated approach that takes into account the multiple factors that compound to create educational disadvantage.

Deciles were not introduced to allow schools to have bragging rights.

Deciles were not introduced to make it easier for real estate agents to talk up house prices in some areas.

Deciles were not introduced to make possible the absurd level if daily flight that occurs (especially in Auckland) as parents drive their SUVs across and around the city to deliver the little ones at a “better school”.

But the most elegant aspect of the decile rating system is that it is based neither on untested assumptions nor on blind prejudices. It is simply a picture of the slice of the specific members of the community who attend a specific school.

So there is no need for the bleating that has started already about “losing” funding. Funding is what you get, no more no less. Schools get funding also on the number of students, the age and experience of the staff, the property needs and so on. The decile funding lags a little behind over the actual period during which a school’s demography changes to produce an increase in the decile rating. Such a school has probably been over-funded during the period when this change has taken place. On the other hand, a school that experiences a decrease in decile rating has had to get by on a little less than that they will have when their situation is accurately reflected in the rating.

The decile ratings were introduced for noble reasons. But have they fulfilled these? Probably not.

We still struggle with student achievement levels that only creep upward and certainly the gaps that still exist between schools, suggests that the decile tool has had little impact. No wonder, when 90% of the funding to schools is delivered with blatant disregard for decile ratings. If there is an issue with decile funding it is that it is too small a proportion of the education spend.

The answer would be to attach funding levels not to schools neatly lined up in ten groups, but to individual students. It would not be difficult to attach a dollar value to the provision that needs to be made for each and every student and the complexity of doing so would be lessened by the ability to engage technology to achieve it.

This would be a powerful lever to lift the schools that have to face up to the hard yards of underachieving students, that have high levels of transient student swirl, that have widespread language issues and so on. The provision of adequate services and assistance boils down to having the funding to provide it.

If the task of having an individual education plan for each student is too large a task, then have some lines below which all students have a plan. Start with next year’s intake at Year 1 and build up the development over the following years. At that point, decile ratings might be a thing of the past.

The media make an automatic link between decile ratings and white flight that has reached seriously troubling proportions. Aucklanders dream each day during the school terms of the bliss of less cluttered roads that will arrive when the school holidays are on. It is marked to such an extent that seriously tolling roads at higher levels during the school delivery / drop-off / retrieve periods of the day might have to be considered. And what are they fleeing from? The very same communities in which they live? Their neighbours? It is all symptomatic of a social issue that is not talked about.


Leave a Comment

When will we ever learn?

Shock horror revelations by the police last week had the country reaching for the smelling salts. “300+ students” truanting from school from just three high schools in southern Auckland. The story didn’t have a lot of merit – it was the last week of term. How many were explained absences? On what basis was this precise figure calculated.

But the issue it raised was a critical one – if students aren’t at school, they are less likely to learn, more likely to fail and inevitably join the ranks of the NEETs and rather than be unemployed, end up as unemployable.

Talkback callers should fasten their seat belts at this point.

It has been estimated that on a daily basis in New Zealand in excess of 30,000 students are truanting. They are not all from secondary schools either. If a large school is one of a thousand students then every day thirty large schools in New Zealand are empty.

First reactions are generally to blame the parents and caregivers. Fine them! Take them to court! All of this is just hot air for how can parents and caregivers who have failed to get their young ones to school and keep them there, start doing so because of a fine or the admonitions of a judge. Quite simply, by the time that such actions are taken something has well and truly broken down.

Truanting is a process and not an event. Zero tolerance from age 5 for any unexplained absence would be a good start. But this probably requires skill sets that are different from those of teachers and, dare I say, current truancy services. This is where the social worker presence in education should be targeted. Going to school each day and staying there is a habit as much as anything else based on routines in the household. Schools and teachers have a role to play in making the programme relevant and interesting and they should be left to get on with that.

The issue with older students is more complex. Disengagement is also a process rather than an event (and truancy plays both a part in this and is a key indicator of likely disengagement). Teenage persistent truants fall in to two categories – on the one hand there are those disillusioned with school, not making progress in learning and probably at war in their own little way with the authority of the school and, on the other hand, middle class students who rather than truanting are attending selectively. Yes, there is quite a bit of this as well.

It is the first group – the likely disengagers / drop outs – that should concern us greatly. If they are in Year 10 or higher it is most unlikely that any attempt to return them into a school will succeed. At that point it is the environment of a school that has become toxic and they need to be placed somewhere else. This is not a criticism of teachers or of schools but simply a conclusion that when disengagement has reached a point where dropping out has occurred or is incipient and truancy has become persistent, schools are almost certain not to be able to effect a change.

The provisions of alternatives for education (and I don’t mean “alternative education”) for such students exist through the development of secondary tertiary programmes such as the Tertiary High School at Manukau Institute of Technology and if they are 16 years old, rather than happily washing them off the hands of the system we should be guiding them into the fees free places under the Youth Guarantee policy in tertiary providers. Such learners respond positive to the opportunities to undertake applied learning and to experience success in doing so.

Of course this has implications, NCEA would clearly become a qualification common to providers other than schools, many “secondary school age” students would learn in settings unlike a school and free of the irritations that those seriously headed towards disengagement have no appetite for wanting to put up with any longer.

The discussions of truancy are dogged by an obstinate belief that schools as they are constitute a good place for everyone and for all levels. It simply isn’t true. A more flexible approach to provision of schooling will lead to a more flexible range of responses to issues such as truancy.

It is only in the past few years that we have asked: “Where have all the students gone?” As unpalatable as the answers might be we do need also to ask “When will we ever learn?”



Leave a Comment

The first of several chats about policy



As promised folks, here are some thoughts on the Labour Party’s education policy.

It starts at an excellent place, reminding us of the Fraser / Beeby commitment to have an education system that offered choice, that offered equity and which respected all learners. This is a mighty aspiration for an education system to have and action is needed now if it is to fade away to become simply the rosy glow of Shangri La.

So with this in mind, what are the highlights as identified by the Labour Party and featured on the front page of what is a bulky document and will these key policy planks significantly contribute to those aspirations? Yes, A Little, Maybe, or No.

1.            Reduce class sizes


We have been over this before. They need to change the tune from “Kumbaya” to “When will they ever learn?” on this one. Let me repeat myself – more teachers doing the same thing will get the same results. It is not the number of teachers that will make the difference but what they do. It is not the number of children in the room but what the teachers do and how well they do it that will lift the quality of the outcomes. Class sizes as an argument has no credence any longer.

2.            All school children to have access to digital devices


This seems a big ask but do we have an accurate idea of the current levels of access across the different communities that goes beyond wild guesses and untested assumptions? It might be able to be achieved easily and quickly. On the other hand….. And again see above. The impact of this, which is inevitable somewhere ahead of us, will largely be the result of the use teachers make of the technology. Using new technology to replicate old practices will not work. But the excitement and possibilities of this policy are huge.

A key issue might turn out to be the provision of equipment using public funds that could well have even greater use outside of school and in that sense could be seen as public funding of private activity. But perhaps that would be an excellent thing as well.

3.            Funding schools that can’t get “voluntary” donations (aka School Fees)


I would have preferred to see this “inequity illness” being tackled directly rather than seeing the symptoms being treated. Yes, the schools that can’t get school fees out of parents will benefit a bit but this will not address the inequities created by the practice of flouting the rules and laughing all the way to the bank or the trust fund.

4.            25 hours quality ECE for all 3-5 year olds


There is no argument about it – quality ECE makes a difference. But Labour has done it before and could be about to do it again. A resource of this kind that is untargeted will increase inequities of access. Just observe the growth of palatial ECE centres being built

5.            Fund education to maintain it ahead of inflation and population growth 


There is a fairness about maintaining funding at levels that reflect inflation and population growth but this is simply prudent management of the system. Actually it is a little absurd to bring population growth into the equation when schools are funded substantially on the basis of roll numbers!

So those are the “highlights” identified by the Labour Party. But in the excitement of The Shopping Channel – “Wait! There’s more folks!

·         Cancelling the Investing In Education Success (IES).

The Labour Party perceives issues with this Government programme which will see top teachers and principals helping schools to lift their performance through best practice, proven management experience and demonstrated extra flair that such IES persons will be expected to display and indeed will have been chosen on that basis. The real trouble that the Labour Party has with it is that the teaching unions and some other teacher organisations don’t like it and when it comes to Labour Party policy they like to have things as they would wish them to be. And their wish is their command.

When IES is rolled out, wait for those who now are strong on their condemnation crying out “Pick me! Pick me!”

Ironically a Labour Policy is to establish a comprehensive school advisory service to share best practice and act as a mentor and advisor to teachers throughout New Zealand. And, what’s more they will “establish a College of School Leadership that will operate as part of the school advisory service, establish the minimum qualifications required of those applying for school leadership positions, ensure that quality professional development programmes are available for all new and existing school leaders, have the power to second up to 100 existing school leaders into the College for a period of up to 2 years to act as mentors and trainers.”

Finally, there is a commitment that will see it “RAISING THE STATUS OF THE TEACHING PROFESSION!” A great first step in achieving this worthy idea would be to ask the education organisations and especially those who work for them to stop lowering the status of the profession by their déclinologiste behavior (i.e. adopting a constant anti-everything-that-is-suggested stance and their concerted ad hominum (and ad feminum) attacks on people).



Leave a Comment

The walled pity of it all

As I drive work I note yet another school where a fence has been put up – one of those things with little venomous spikes on top. It’s high enough to keep people out (and, I suppose, to keep them in!).

At a time when there is an increasing emphasis on partnerships this seems anachronistic.

Years ago when I was a Principal there was a problem with all sorts of people using the grounds, with graffiti and the occasional bit of vandalism. The cry went up – “build a fence!”, ‘repel the invader!”. But we found a much greater and more powerful approach – we invited people in.

Through an agreement with the local authority, the then Manukau City Council, we saw our grounds become part of the city network of public spaces and sports fields. People could book the grounds through the City Council who would agree to undertake all the annual maintenance on the grounds while the school continued with the weekly and daily chores.

It was an excellent arrangement for both parties. The City Council got additional sports fields while the school got organized use of its grounds by people who by and large were greatly more responsible than those who would wander in because they were at a loose end. Vandalism dropped, graffiti lowered and it was in every sense more orderly – park rangers would regularly visit the “school / park.” The Council came to consider it as one of their most successful “parks” having in excess of 80,000 planned and authorised users each year in those early days.

In Auckland there are current plans to slice land of the only public golf course because of a shortage of sports fields. It would be a safe bet to put money on the fact that there is a huge acreage of school grounds that lie idle – many behind spiky fences. How absurd!

I frequently take a walk though a local school that is open to such activity and it is great to see the grounds and outdoor basketball courts getting some use. The school doesn’t appear to suffer as a result.

We all love a good cliché – the problem is that there is always a element of truth in them. So we often hear educators spouting the old African proverb popularized by Hilary Clinton – “It takes a whole village to raise a child.” Too often this is used to excuse poor achievement or performance in a weak attempt to shift blame. But how can such claims have credibility when spiky fences ensure that the village is kept at arms length? How can the village feel welcomed when the physical messages say otherwise?

I know that child safety is paramount. I know that there are sad and pathetic people out there who do not share our concerns for safety. But this is not the US where school lock downs are practised and sadly activated quite often. But there are other ways in which schools can be kept safe. Invite the village in to help with creating and maintaining a safe environment.

I cannot understand why New Zealand has been so slow to consider and to use community-sourced assistance that would allow teachers to get on with practicing their craft. It is great in the UK to see the role that dinner workers and lollipop workers help out. Many stay-at-home parents would be thrilled to have an opportunity to help and if this was sweetened with a little remuneration, in some communities that would make all the difference. It also makes the management of “volunteer” workers that much easier.

Now I need to be clear, I work in a fenced institution but there is managed public usage thanks in large part to a professional security unit that manages the use of the marae (over 200 nights a year, opens the gates for people to get to the market each Saturday morning (and to the ATM machine), and so on.

The proliferation of a Checkpoint Charlie mentality (without the Charlies!) has no place in education.



Leave a Comment

The classrooms are alive with the sound of music!


I forget who said in a rather cautionary tone “When you consider the power of TV to educate aren’t you pleased that it doesn’t!”

I thought about that the other day when into my possession came a Schools Music Bulletin from the 1960s and I got quite nostalgic. I recall, all those years ago, when I was in the primers and the standards looking forward to those programmes. They were broadcast to us from that speaker up on the wall above the teacher’s blackboard, the same one that would bring messages from the Headmaster, an event once described by a friend as “old men doing their knitting over the air!”

The Schools Music Programme would seem pretty dull now but I was reminded that we tackled quite a range of songs which were, of course, sung clearly and beautifully by the unseen choir and rather less accurately by us. But it was fun and it gave us exposure to music regardless of the extent to which our teacher was tone-deaf.

And the pupils in Gore got the same programme that we got – it was in a sense using technology to bring quality experiences into each classroom.

There were other uses of radio too and I recall the weekly “Assembly” of the correspondence school, National Radio on a Friday around the middle of the day.  Ormond Tate delivered particularly sound homilies but he had an advantage over other principals who knew how many they were speaking to but never how many were hearing them who knew neither.

Then let’s not forget the National Film Library, that rich treasure house of fun, information, and enlightenment through the magic of 16mm film. I wonder if television has ever achieved the impact of that service – leather pizza boxes strapped securely arriving weekly and replenishing young peoples’ appetite to learn.

And yes, teacher skill was certainly required. When I trained to be a teacher I dutifully undertook instruction in how to operate a film projector and having passed the course and been duly certified, marched forth to show films to students.

I was a little surprised to hear the CE of Xero, that high flying tech company, recently say that getting skilled people in New Zealand was difficult. He questioned the schooling students were getting – “Don’t give them iPads, teach them to think and solve problems” he said or something along those lines.

The beauty of radio has always been that it requires effort from the listener. What comes out of the radio is half the story, the understanding and embellishment of the pictures, the sounds and the words is in the hands of the listeners. I grew up listening to the Goon Show – mad disjointed crazy stuff that was gifted to a listener to make of it whatever they might.

On the other hand, radio now is full of either celebrity chitchat or hosts inanely laughing at their own jokes seemingly unaware of how unfunny they are. You couldn’t play that sort of material to young people.

So do National Radio and the Concert Programme fit the bill for exciting young people? The best of it might but it falls away too quickly. I personally have long felt that the best of national radio is to be found in the rural broadcasting programmes – middle of the day to catch the farmers when they are inside having lunch. You get a flavor of real people doing important work through those broadcasts.

But the concert programme is as much articulate chatter as it is concert these days. Don’t you just love those stations committed to classical music that you can now access over the internet? Now that’s a funny thing, using the internet to get something we used to get from old radios with glowing valves!

And all that from an old journal for the Music to Schools Programme. I must get back to chortling my way through The Ash Grove.



1 Comment