Deciles 'proxy for quality': Minister

LIBBY WILSON
Last updated 08:37 18/08/2014
 Hekia Parata , decile meeting
BRUCE MERCER/Fairfax NZ

EDUCATION CHAT: Minister Hekia Parata covered topics from decile ratings to special needs at a Waikato meeting.

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Decile ratings, Novopay, Investing in Educational Success and students with special needs were the hot topics which fired up a public meeting on education.

Education Minister Hekia Parata has held several similar meetings around the country but said the one at St Peter's Cathedral church hall, Hamilton, on Friday, had the best turnout so far.

The crowd of around 100 included principals, parents, grandparents and board of trustees members.

Rhode Street School principal Shane Ngatai asked for Parata's view on the decile rating system.

The system was well-intentioned but a "blunt instrument", Parata said, and more consultation was needed on a system to meet schools' needs.

Deciles had also become a proxy for quality.

"We hear it far too often - ‘Oh, that's a decile one school. Oh that's a decile 10 school.' - As if that's an explanation of whether there's good quality teaching and learning going on there. And that is not true."

When questioned about the Novopay situation, Parata said the system had been "a bit of a dog".

But there was light at the end of the tunnel with a Crown-owned company set to take the system over, she said.

The education payroll was one of the largest and most complex and the ministry had been looking at improving the online platform.

But there also needed to be discussions with unions about simplifying the agreements - "Not losing anybody's rights and conditions, but simplifying them," she said.

The government's $359m Investing in Educational Success (IES) policy was behind Kaihere School principal Terry Casey's question.

He wanted the minister's take on the process as he thought there was a "degree of suspicion and scepticism" from NZEI, which felt it was brought in at the last minute to make superficial changes.

Parata said the working group included all interested and was a "coalition of the willing".

"There has been no conspiracy, there has been no unwillingness to work together."

The government had co-designed the budget initiative with the sector ahead of the budget - which Parata said was unusual. It had also invested in lifting the status and profile of teaching, and was now looking to raise the quality of teaching and leadership practice, she said.

"We're very serious about how can we support all of our teachers to develop their practice, to constantly improve," she said.

"When we were in surplus, a big chunk of it has gone into education [through IES]."

But Deanwell School principal said he'd prefer to see the money go to children with special needs because schools were "hopelessly under-resourced".

Parata agreed the demand exceeded the resources available and said special education needed to be looked at as well as IES, not instead of.

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- Waikato Times

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