Shakeup aims to make the most of teaching skills

JONATHAN CARSON
Last updated 05:00 24/01/2014

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Prime Minister John Key has announced plans for a major overhaul of the school system, including a $359 million carrot to outstanding teachers and principals.

But there is concern within the education sector that the policy is performance-based pay for teachers in disguise.

Key announced the changes in his annual State of the Nation speech in Auckland yesterday.

They include lucrative allowances for a raft of newly created positions in schools including executive principals, expert teachers, lead teachers and change principals.

The new roles come with extra allowances ranging from $10,000 to $50,000 a year.

The plan has the support of Waikato Principals' Association president John Coulam, who said it has the potential to lift student achievement.

However, he said the policy did appear to be performance-based pay under a different name and the process of selecting staff for these new roles needed to be transparent.

"I'm sure it is a form of performance pay. It does recognise excellence," he said.

"You just want a clear, transparent process to protect everybody involved.

"It would be better if a panel within the school made that decision," Mr Key said.

Mr Key said the Government wanted to keep top teachers in the classroom rather than see them go into management positions or leave altogether to further their careers.

"At the moment, our best teachers work their way up the career ladder by doing less teaching, and that shouldn't be the way it works."

Education Minister Hekia Parata said the new system would be in place by 2017 and would cost $359m over four years.

The changes were the next step in the Government's plan to raise student achievement, which has been "gradually declining" since the early 2000s, Ms Parata said.

Labour leader David Cunliffe said the initiative was "underwhelming" and Labour's education plan would go beyond what the Government has announced.

"We, too, will be looking at rewarding and incentivising the best teachers but we have a package that goes much beyond that as part of a whole package of measures around helping opportunity in our society."

Mr Coulam said rewarding expert educators and promoting collaboration between schools should be applauded.

"If schools need the assistance of expert practitioners to improve performance and bring about better results for children's learning, then hats off to the Government for recognising that and actually resourcing it."

The Green Party said the new roles would not address the reasons behind declining educational performance, linking the problems to inequality.

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Co-leader Metiria Turei said in a statement that lower-decile schools would "at best receive helicoptered-in help a couple of days a week".

"The policy is not a blueprint to address the real needs of kids in lower decile schools to help them learn".

THE NEW POSITIONS

Executive principals: Provide leadership across a community of schools while remaining in their own school. About 10 schools on average would be involved. Paid an additional allowance of about $40,000 a year.

Expert teachers: Experts in areas such as maths and science, digital technology and literacy. They would work with executive principals and receive an extra $20,000 a year. About 1000 expert teachers would be appointed once the scheme was fully under way.

Lead teachers: "Highly capable" teachers who act as role models for teachers within their own schools. Paid an additional allowance of $10,000 a year. About 5000 lead teachers would be in place eventually.

Change principals: Employed to lift achievement in schools that were struggling. Paid an extra $50,000 a year on top of their salary to encourage the best principals to take on the challenge.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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