Education overhaul receives a pass mark

IAIN SCOTT
Last updated 07:36 24/01/2014

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A $359 million plan to overhaul the teaching system has received a big tick from educators in the region.

Prime Minister John Key said in his annual State of the Nation speech in Auckland yesterday the money would be spent over the next four years to strengthen the teaching profession and school leadership.

"We want to keep top teachers in the classroom rather than having to go into management positions, or leave teaching altogether, to progress their careers," he said.

"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."

The Government would create four new roles to foster collaboration between and within schools.

Executive principals would be released from their own schools for two days a week to provide leadership across communities of schools and receive a $40,000 allowance on top of their existing salary.

Expert teachers, who would receive an allowance of $20,000, would be released from their schools for two days a week to work with other teachers to improve classroom practice and raise student achievement.

Lead teachers would receive a $10,000 allowance and act as role models in their own schools.

Change principals would go to a struggling school to turn it around. They would receive an allowance of $50,000 a year in addition to their salary.

"On the face of it, it is a positive move," said Palmerston North's Queen Elizabeth College principal Michael Houghton.

"An opportunity to share best practices and improve the performance of students can only be a positive thing."

He welcomed the creation of the new roles and said this would benefit the sector as long as they were properly resourced.

"There are really good teachers who have a lot to share in terms of best practice," he said.

Dannevirke High School principal Dawid de Villiers said the plan was promising.

"Any incentive that's going to advance careers is a good thing," he said.

"New Zealand has a flat structure which makes it hard for people to stay motivated.

"I know of teachers who are frustrated because they cannot advance."

At present the only way for teachers to advance was to go into management, which took them out of teaching.

"I'm a principal, but what keeps me sane is going back into the classroom."

He had some questions around details, such as what would happen to existing specialist classroom teachers who helped and supported other teachers, but these would probably be addressed as discussions around the plan progressed.

"John Key is right," said Feilding High School principal Roger Menzies.

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"The best teachers go into management. If the system is going to reward good teachers, that can only be a good thing."

He said the plan would create a career pathway for teachers that would help keep good teachers in teaching.

"That's the problem with teaching. If you want a good career, you have to go into management. The salary structure sucks."

He was optimistic the sector would benefit.

"The logic is right," he said.

However, Labour Palmerston North branch president Liam Rutherford criticised the plan for a lack of consultation and not addressing the real issues.

"John Key and his Government have missed the point of what is holding back student achievement," he said.

"It would be a lot better to put money towards issues like inequality and pull kids out of poverty."

He said this, like national standards, was another example of Government policy that was "being done to teachers" instead of being made in consultation with them, and it was a sign of disrespect that they had been excluded from the process.

"I also can't imagine parents being too happy with teachers being out of the classroom two days of every week."

- Manawatu Standard

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