Schools stay divided on education plan

LIBBY WILSON
Last updated 05:00 16/08/2014

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The devil seems to be in the detail of the Government's flagship education policy, as opinion in schools remains divided.

Investing in Educational Success (IES) is a $359 million policy announced in January, which would include schools collaborating in groups, new teaching and leadership roles and a teacher-led innovation fund.

Education minister Hekia Parata says every effort has been made to include and inform the sector but many Waikato principals say they still want more detail on how the policy will play out.

NZEI union members yesterday cast the final votes on whether to reject the policy or negotiate on it.

Parata, who was in Hamilton yesterday, said the outcome of the vote was expected early next week. "That's nothing I can have influence over. We're just waiting to hear."

Bargaining was already underway with the PPTA.

The recurring theme among Waikato principals is a thirst for more information on the nuts and bolts of the policy.

Parata said detail was "freely available to the level it has been developed to so far.

"The reason why we can't say definitively ‘This is it' is because we're consulting with the very people that they're wanting us to consult with. So it's a process," she said.

Recommendations from a sector working group - including both teacher unions, different schooling levels and ethnic groups - had been worked on since May.

They included areas such as how communities would be defined and how tailored "achievement challenges" would be set and assessed.

Decisions on the policy had been published and meetings had been held around the country, Parata said.

Hillcrest High School principal Kelvin Whiting liked the concept of collaboration and said he was open to considering the policy.

"If there's opportunities with funding and resourcing that the Government is prepared to put into education in regard to raising student achievement then we're all supportive of that," he said.

"It's in the detail, really, about how it's going to actually work when the rubber hits the road."

But Waikato Principals' Association president John Coulam said he felt the proposal was being sped through.

"It's just typical. They create the policy and then they start working out the detail."

About half of the principals Coulam had spoken to felt they had enough information to work with the policy and the other half were opposed.

He said the ministry's plan to seek expressions of interest was putting the cart before the horse.

"What are you expressing an interest in if you don't know all the detail?"

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Parata said the ministry had received indications from between 200 and 300 schools.

And there could be a "basket of measures" for success under IES, Parata said.

"National standards and NCEA progress, absolutely they'll be part of it. . . but they will not be the only ones."

Success measures would depend on the achievement challenges, which could be areas such as foundation literacy and numeracy or student attendance.

Deanwell School principal Pat Poland was relieved and said using national standards to measure success would be "a farce".

But he said sector consultation on IES wasn't genuine.

"The decisions have been pretty much made."

- Waikato Times

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