Govt's education initiative welcomed

JAMES GREENLAND
Last updated 13:00 24/01/2014

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Nelson principals have welcomed the Government's plan to pay top-performing school staff more, but are wary of the "devil in the detail".

Prime Minister John Key kicked off the election year yesterday with his annual state-of-the-nation speech - and targeted schools for a big shake-up if National gets back into power.

Under the new plan, National is promising a $10,000 to $50,000 boost for top performers through the creation of four new positions - executive principals, expert teachers, lead teachers and change principals.

Lower Moutere School principal and Nelson Principals Association president Barbara Bowen said she had many questions about how the initiative would work.

While she was "thrilled" generally with the government's increased investment in education, she wondered what measures would be used to determine the effectiveness of staff or schools.

"How will staff be selected for these roles, how will teachers and schools be identified as needing support, and how will schools manage the sharing of staff without losing valuable classroom teaching time themselves?

"And most importantly, will student achievement data, in literacy and maths, alone be used as the measure for the effectiveness of staff or schools or will a more holistic and reliable approach be developed?"

Mrs Bowen said recently negotiated collective employment agreements between school staff and the government already acknowledged leadership and expertise, which could possibly be linked to the new initiative.

"I really do hope that the government's investment results in long-term, sustainable change for the benefit of all New Zealand children now and into the future.

"Raising the profile of teaching and educational leadership, attracting the right people into the profession, ensuring the quality of teacher training programmes, and supporting staff throughout their careers wherever they work, are steps in the right direction."

Waimea College principal Larry Ching also wondered how the initiative would be implemented.

"There are some really good elements in the concept, but it's hard to make judgments without the details," he said.

He looked forward to seeing

how the initiative was implemented over the next year and was cautiously optimistic. Although, the government had missed an opportunity to address some key factors that impact on student's success, including general poverty, engagement and attendance issues.

Nelson College for Girls principal Cathy Ewing said it was "fantastic that mentoring is going to happen, and it's wonderful that great teachers and principals are being recognised for what they do".

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"In the meantime I am waiting to see some of the detail about how that works."

Mrs Ewing said she had worked in education a long time.

There had long been talk about "master teachers", although this was the first time she had seen that idea put into a tangible, if indeterminate, initiative.

She said there remained other issues the government needed to address "to ensure that the achievement levels of students are the best that they can be".

But while various social problems remained a concern for schools and an impediment to some students' learning, this latest initiative was not intended to address those issues, she said.

- Nelson

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