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Sunday, 29 June 2014

What the PPTA wants you to know before the next election

With the next election now firmly on the horizon, read more about the PPTA's priorities according to Angela Roberts, PPTA president in this guest post!

PPTA believes that quality education for all is a social and economic necessity.   We need our political leaders to collaborate with communities, families and teachers and to devise a plan for education based on the best research from New Zealand and overseas.  The plan for change needs to be coherent, long term and properly resourced.

This plan needs to address three priorities. First, we need education policy to make equity for learners our top priority. This is what countries like Finland have done and it leads to better outcomes for everyone. To do this we need a more fair funding mechanism, and we need the government to be serious about tackling the out of school determinants of achievement.  Something that would help with this is resourcing schools to be able to work as community hubs, which can allow them to push back against the impact of poverty.  New Zealand has for a long time funded compulsory education at a relatively low level – we spend less than the OECD average per student and as a proportion of GDP on primary and secondary education.  Increasing funding to the OECD average and making sure that it is well targeted for the learners in greatest need would make a huge difference.

Second we need to raise the status of teaching. Teaching should be a first choice career, one that young people aspire to. Currently teacher work-load and stress are increasing and undermine this. Politicians should focus on building the capacity of the teaching profession, developing the opportunities for good practice to be shared and allowing all teachers to be able to work to their potential. The government initiative, Investing in Educational Success may hold out some promise in this regard.
Finally, we need education policy to promote collaboration, not competition, between teachers and schools. Tomorrow’s Schools has led to a fracturing of the system, and has not led to improvements in teaching and learning. Schools and teachers should be enabled to work together for mutual benefit, not encouraged to compete as they are too often now

These are the three overarching goals that PPTA would like to see all the political parties addressing this election. It has been heartening to see various parties already responding positively to these ideas.
When it comes down to the nitty gritty, here are a few particulars.

If a political party is serious about addressing equity in education, the Secondary School Staffing Group report of 2012 is a good place to start. This report, agreed to by PPTA, the School Trustees Association and the Ministry of Education committed to work on developing a needs based model for school staffing. This hasn’t happened.

Another crucial, and relatively cheaply fixed, matter which would improve equity in schooling is removing the quarterly funding model. Currently this means that schools which lose students during the year, which are almost overwhelmingly low decile schools, have great uncertainty around their operating budgets. This could be reversed for a cost of around $5million a year.
In regards to raising the status of teaching, something that is painfully obvious at present is how the Education Amendment Bill which is at Select Committee at the moment achieves the complete opposite. A professional registration body which could have no practising teachers on it, and which teachers have no say over its composition shows a remarkable lack of respect for teachers – and puts us at a lower status than any other similarly regulated profession, even Real Estate Agents.

Finally, if a party is serious about promoting collaboration, charter schools must go. The fundamental premise of charter schools is an education marketplace, which relies on competition and choice. But it’s an unfair choice, with charter schools funded at a rate three times that of most public schools, allowing class sizes of 15 students.  This ideological experiment is incompatible with a fair, collaborative system.
Education has long been a political football. Since the upheavals of Tomorrow’s Schools in the 1980s, bulk funding battles of the 1990s, the introduction of NCEA in the 2000s, and National Standards in the 2010s – every decade has its defining educational issue which the various parties have kicked to and fro.

It’s my hope that we can do better than this. That’s why PPTA is asking all the political parties to take these three priorities seriously and go into the election with education policy that addresses them.

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