Educated questions over changes

CIARA PRATT
Last updated 05:00 01/08/2014

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One of the biggest changes to education in 25 years is coming next year - but principals affected are still unsure as to how it will be implemented.

The Investing in Educational Success policy was announced by Prime Minister John Key in West Auckland in January.

The policy will invest $359 million in educational leadership over four years and new, higher-paying roles will be created in schools to boost student achievement and encourage collaboration in school communities.

West Auckland Principals Association president Martyn Weatherill says six months on, principals are still struggling to see how the policy will be put to work in schools.

"The detail is lacking, the process is lacking and the timeframe is incredibly tight. Principals are not simply digging their toes in because they don't like change, I think they've tried to engage with this policy."

The Laingholm Primary School principal says he's concerned that the introduction of new roles, such as expert teachers, could mean associate principals and deputy principals might be paid less than an expert teacher, but still have more responsibility.

Another concern is the disruption to learning when expert teachers leave their classroom for two days per week to teach at another school. Other roles include "change principals", who will work with low-performing schools and lead teachers, who will be expected to mentor and boost good practice.

There will be about 250 communities of schools, consisting of a mixture of 10 primary and secondary schools.

"There are parts of the policy that have real merit, such as the innovation fund. But we've asked questions and we're not getting any answers," Weatherill says.

Auckland Primary Principals Association president Deirdre Alderson says the group wants to see a complete redesign of the policy, but they like how it encourages more collaboration between schools.

A survey put out by the New Zealand Principals' Federation found that of the 1000 principals who responded across the country, 55 per cent "flatly rejected" the policy.

"We do not believe it has had the debate and discussion it deserves - particularly in regards to parents and boards of trustees," federation president Phil Harding says.

Katrina Casey, the Ministry of Education's deputy secretary for sector enablement and support, says work is continuing on the policy in collaboration with all the main education groups.

"The policy will also develop further as a result of collective bargaining with unions," she says.

Collective bargaining is under way with groups including the Secondary Principals Association of New Zealand.

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She says the ministry is listening to the concerns of the education community and schools are being consulted.

The policy is expected to be operating in the first communities of schools in 2015 and will be fully rolled out in 2017.

- Western Leader

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