Positive reception for schools plan

STACEY KNOTT
Last updated 12:41 10/06/2014

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Some Nelson schools say government plans to raise student achievement by getting them to work collaboratively could work well in the region.

A working group has released its findings on a report looking at the Government's plans raise student achievement by getting schools to form "school communities" and creating new roles within those communities. Called Investing in Educational Success, the scheme has been funded $359.24 million over four years and $154.83m after that.

A working group made up of union and education group representatives had been discussing the policy proposal and suggesting changes to it.

Area Schools Association and former Collingwood Area School principal John Garner, who was part of the working group, said it was a collaborative environment and had met about six times.

He said the initiative needed "careful refining" for it to work.

"The Government has made a decision. It's going to spend money in this way and now our responsibility is to make it work as well as we can, given the big picture."

He felt ideas were "generally in the right direction" but schools needed to be consulted on how they would implement changes.

He said it would be up to the Nelson schools to decide what the want, but clusters looked to be made of about 10 schools.

Hampden Street School principal Don McLean said there were "really good opportunities" in the scheme and it would help schools support each other. Schools in Nelson were already working together.

He said the scheme would get schools to share skills with each other to raise achievement levels.

He also said working with intermediates and colleges will help students transition more easily.

Nayland College principal Rex Smith said the scheme "has merit", but he needed to see more detail on how it would work.

The proposal would see communities of schools, which would have voluntary membership and likely be defined by geographic location, form to "encourage collaboration between school governance, leadership and teachers to improve their practice and deliver shared achievement objectives, which they would collectively set".

The report said communities should be self-selected, or already be working together, but the report found there needed to be more work done on design and implementing of school communities.

The scheme also wanted to see a range of schools grouped together to support the progress of students through the education system.

The proposal would see new teaching and leadership roles under the scheme, originally being named executive principal, expert teacher and lead teacher. However, the report said these names should be changed, but did not offer other suggestions.

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The new roles would be filled by a selection panel, though the makeupof the panel also needed to be discussed further.

The scheme also allowed for a principal recruitment allowance, a payment to support boards of trustees of the most high-need schools to broaden their recruitment pool and assist them to recruit a high quality principal.

For a school to get this allowance, it would need "significant underachievement" problems with student and-or staff wellbeing, high principal turnover and financial issues.

There was also a teacher-led innovation fund within the scheme, which Garner said would be for clusters to draw on if they needed funding for "innovative" ideas to better learning.

However, the proposal has been met with some criticism.

NZEI, the primary teachers union, said the report was "very disappointing". The union was also part of the working group.

Immediate past president Ian Leckie said parents, teachers and school communities had been left out of the discussion, even though IES represents a huge shift in the way schools will be managed.

There was no evidence the policy would improve educational outcomes and it may even be detrimental to schools and students that lose their principals or teachers for two days a week.

It will also impact on the role of boards of trustees, school-community relationships and teaching.

- The Nelson Mail

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