Education overhaul targets top teachers

23:18, Jan 22 2014

Prime Minister John Key has announced plans for a major overhaul of the teaching system, including a $350 million carrot to top teachers and school principals.

Key announced the changes in his annual State of the Nation speech to a business audience in Auckland.

They include lucrative allowances for a raft of newly created positions in schools including executive principals, expert teachers, lead teachers and change principals.

Key said education would be the Government's big focus this year "because I believe every New Zealand child deserves the best education possible".

Under the changes four new positions have been created, but they won't be installed in every school.

* An executive principal who would provide leadership across a community of schools while remaining in their own school. About 10 schools on average would be involved and executive principals would be paid an additional allowance of around $40,000 a year. They would have to be proven performers and would be freed up for two days a week to work with the other schools in their community.

* Expert teachers to work with executive principals who would include experts in areas like maths and science, digital technology and literacy. They would also be appointed on a two-year basis and would receive an extra $20,000 a year in additional allowances. Around 1000 expert teachers would be appointed once the scheme is fully underway.

* Lead teachers would be what the Government labels "highly capable" school teachers, who would act as role models for teachers within their own schools. They would be paid an additional allowance of $10,000 a year in recognition of their status. Around 5000 lead teachers would be in place eventually.

* Change principals would be employed to lift achievement in schools that are struggling and would be paid an additional $50,000 a year on top of their salary to encourage the best principals to take on the challenge.

The positions would be offered on a three to five year fixed term.

The changes could put the Government on a collision course with teacher unions, however, because of their opposition to performance pay.

"There's no doubt we have a good education system. But it's not as good as it could be. We need to make some changes," Key said.

"For some time, the Government has been looking at what international research and evidence in education tells us, what the best performing countries are doing, what teachers and principals are saying they need, and what initiatives have been working here in New Zealand."

Key said the Government wanted "to keep top teachers in the classroom rather than having to go into management positions" or leave altogether to further their careers.

"At the moment, our best teachers work their way up the career ladder by doing less teaching, and that shouldn't be the way it works."

He added: "We want to support a culture of collaboration within and across schools. That means the really good principals and teachers spending a lot more time sharing what they know, and how they work, with other principals and other teachers."

Education Minister Hekia Parata said the new system would be in place by 2017 and would cost $359 million over four years.

Parata said the changes were the next step in the Government's plan to raise student achievement in schools.

"While our eduction system is doing a great job for many kids, on an international scale our achievement ranking has been gradually declining since the early 2000s.

"We need to enhance the teaching and leadership in the system to raise achievement for five our of five young New Zealanders."

The new roles announced today would "recognise and use talent where it's needed most".