'Trust teachers to teach your children'

Last updated 05:00 18/03/2014

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What needs to happen in New Zealand education to win your vote this election? Mike Boon says policies need to focus on the kids.

Since the current National Government introduced a policy on charter schools as part of its deal with the ACT Party, the education system in New Zealand has started to resemble a chaotic mess.

I believe this chaotic mess was started not to benefit New Zealand children, but to open the education system up to wholesale privatisation. It has nothing to do with educating children or improving standards or anything of that nature.

These education policies are drawn directly from Neoliberal Education Policy 101. They are utterly ideological and utterly doomed.

National's policies are full of contradictions. On the one hand the Government says teacher quality is the single most important contributor to student success, yet they are allowing unqualified and unregistered teachers to front classes in charter schools.

National standards have been the flagship policy for this government; raising standards will lift students out of poverty.

Despite this mantra, charter schools are not required to adhere to set standards. As well as this, they are not bound by the Official Information Act.

Since our national standards are all written by individual teachers and not assessed using a standardised system, they are nonsense. Nobody - teachers, media, ministry officials or politicians - can draw any valid conclusions from them.

What about performance pay? Good teachers get more cash.

Hekia Parata plans to  measure teacher performance on the performance of their students against national standards. As I've said, our standards are far from statistically robust.

I can teach my kids for the six hours they are at school, but their home life, the other 18 hours, is going to have a far greater impact on their day-to-day performance at school.

Kids who are living in poverty and those with special learning needs have much greater things affecting their learning than just teacher input. Those  factors outside the classroom have effects, sometimes huge ones.

To have part of my pay or part of my school's funding tied to the achievement of students is totally unfair.

It is no coincidence that the often quoted figure of 20 per cent of children who are "failing" is closely aligned with the figure of children who are living in poverty - 20-25 per cent depending on which government statistic you read.

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The most crucial thing affecting education at the moment is the complete dismissal of the teaching profession by those creating the policy.

You can see it in the United Kingdom as Michael Gove regularly alleges teachers are lazy or suggests they cut down the number of holidays.

Hekia Parata and others supporting her policies seem to have the same belief, that somehow teachers are a lazy profession full of unionised workers who care nothing for the children in their care and everything for their extended summer holiday.

This is demoralising. It sends the message that they do not care a jot for us, our practice or our profession.

It all comes down to this: none of the people promoting the current moves in education, none of the bloggers, the politicians, or the media, have been in a classroom since they were at school themselves.

No offence but they have absolutely no idea about 21st century learning and where schools are heading.

They are developing policies not to benefit children but to benefit those who wish to invest heavily in a privatised education system.

Please trust teachers to teach your children. We all love teaching. We all love creating fantastic learning experiences for your children.

We will continue to create fantastic, enriching learning experiences for your children in spite of the next load of nonsense that the Government will throw at us.

It's because we love what we do and the children in our class are at the heart of every decision that we make in our jobs.

The same cannot be said for the current government. 

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