Vote looms on future of $359m education fund

LIBBY WILSON
Last updated 05:00 12/08/2014
Ross Tyson
PETER DRURY/Fairfax NZ
DECISION TIME: Cambridge Middle School principal Ross Tyson.

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Waikato primary and intermediate principals have gathered for information on the Government's $359 million education plan before a union-organised "reject or negotiate" vote must be cast.

The Investing in Educational Success (IES) policy will involve schools collaborating in community groups, new teaching and leadership roles across those groups, and a teacher-led innovation fund.

It was the topic of discussion during a panel at the end of the Waikato Principals' Association catchup day last Thursday, attended by about 120 principals from the region.

Among the panellists was New Zealand Association of Intermediate and Middle Schooling president Ross Tyson, who is part of the sector advisory group consulted on the policy.

The Cambridge Middle School principal said some of his peers around the country thought the $359m should be spent differently.

"They have to vote soon on whether they want the union, NZEI [New Zealand Educational Institute], to continue talking to the Government about IES or withdraw completely."

Choosing whether to reject the policy or negotiate the finer points is part of a vote NZEI members will take by this Friday.

The panel discussion revealed some in the education sector had thought the new policy would be compulsory, Tyson said.

"It's optional, but if you're not in you don't get funding."

The policy would provide an opportunity for many schools, such as his, which were already working in communities and organising and funding it themselves.

There was a variety of concerns, including how the communities of schools would work and the level of extra funding for the new roles.

"A lot of people like the concept of communities and collaboration but they don't want to give $40,000 to one principal," Tyson said.

"They'd rather spend that money inside the community, to maybe get a facilitator in to operate the group."

Waikato Principals' Association members came looking for more information about how the policy would play out in schools, executive member Hamish Fenemor said.

"Trying to achieve what the policy is setting out to do and to have that collaboration, that sharing across schools, is going to be difficult under what we believe the current format is," he said.

That included how release time for principals and teachers working across schools would affect their home school.

Fenemor also wanted to know how success would be measured, although Tyson had ruled out it being tied to national standards.

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"There's always going to be accountability when you're throwing $360m at a sector," Fenemor said.

"How we measure success of the IES is going to be something we need to find more detail around."

libby.wilson@fairfaxmedia.co.nz

- Waikato Times

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