Stick to knitting, teachers tell Treasury

JOHN HARTEVELT
Last updated 05:00 21/03/2012

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More accountability for teachers and larger class sizes are again on the political agenda as Treasury Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf shapes up for a scrap with education unions.

He was urged yesterday by a teachers' union, the New Zealand Educational Institute, to "stick to his knitting" after he went on the offensive, saying it was the quality of teachers that made the greatest difference to student achievement.

Research suggested the impact on student learning of a "high-performing teacher" compared with an average teacher was "roughly equivalent" to the effect of a 10-student decrease in class size, Mr Makhlouf said.

He suggested "a number of ways" to assess teacher quality, including in-class observations by other teachers, direct observations by principals, and feedback from students and parents.

A boost in class sizes of one or two students per classroom could free cash to invest more in quality teachers, he said.

The "central theme" of Treasury's advice in a paper made public yesterday was that, within schools, quality of teaching mattered most to lifting student achievement.

Though government spending on schooling had increased by 20 per cent, student achievement had "remained relatively static" over the past decade, the paper says.

NZEI national secretary Paul Goulter questioned the expertise of Treasury in trying to shape education policy.

"Most people would agree that while teacher quality is very important, teacher quality alone cannot raise student achievement."

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