'Spend $359m on kids'

LUCY TOWNEND
Last updated 12:00 05/06/2014

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Manawatu school principals have serious concerns about how controversial new school leadership roles will work, with some saying there are better ways to spend $359 million than pouring it into educators' pay packets.

The details of the Government's multimillion-dollar plan, dubbed Investing in Educational Success, have been outlined in a recently-released report.

The 41-page write-up says the aim is to improve outcomes for students, encourage co-operation between schools, create better leadership pathways and support teacher-led innovation. The initiative will introduce three higher-paying roles, including "executive principals" and "expert teachers", who would receive bonuses to spend two days a week working in other schools in their community. There will also be "change principals" tasked with intervening in failing schools.

Manawatu principals have raised questions about who appoints key people, accountability, how schools collaborate, how progress is gauged, and whether the "one-size-fits-all" plan ignored schools' individual circumstances.

Ashhurst School principal Nick Reed said the education fraternity was cautious over the implications of the new positions, with the "real bone of contention" surrounding spending. "The disappointing thing for me was there was no initial consultation with key stakeholders - are schools wanting their ‘change principal' or ‘expert teacher' released from their schools for large chunks of time?

"I know as a parent myself I want my child's teacher in front of the class as often as possible."

Collaboration taking place across sectors was confusing when self-selected teamwork was more effective than having unity "thrust upon" schools, he said.

Colyton School principal Colin Martin said some primary school principals could have salaries boosted up to $200,000.

"The volume of money being spent in remuneration for individuals with no clear understanding of how or if the system will work is concerning - there are no trials or precedents," he said.

"Schools can always do more and we want to do better, but the funds could be spent in so many better ways, let's spend it on the kids rather than experiment on paying the adult leaders more.

"I'm sure this could be done a lot cheaper, and free up resources for children and their families."

Ross Intermediate principal Wayne Codyre said the money being given to educators was the wrong focus and paying some teachers more ran the risk of decreasing collaboration. "Why line our pockets?

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"Give the money directly to schools and clusters to best meet the needs of their communities," he said. "It needs to be invested into schools directly, or into clusters of schools to resource programmes and professional development - it should not go to teachers and principals who are already paid a fair salary."

Sanson School principal Jude O'Keefe said the funding could be better spent providing a teacher-student aide or fixing social problems schools encounter every day.

- Manawatu Standard

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