Hipkins misses mark

Last updated 05:00 13/06/2014

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OPINION: Labour's education spokesman, Chris Hipkins, has given Education Minister Hekia Parata a low mark for trying to introduce the expert teachers policy, "Investing in Educational Success".

Because of the lack of input from school leaders, he said, she "has failed spectacularly" and "clearly needs to go back to school to learn what consultation actually means". But perhaps Hipkins has failed to assess all the relevant material. Earlier this month, Parata released a report on the shaping of the $359 million policy to create a new career structure for teachers after consulting with the education sector.

The New Zealand Educational Institute, the primary teachers' union, claims to have a better plan for spending the funds than the Government's plan to identify "expert" and "lead" teachers and pay them extra to act as role models across several schools. The NZ Principals Federation sees flaws, too. This does not mean it was not consulted and Post Primary Teachers Association president Angela Roberts described the dialogue as "comprehensive, robust and genuine". It was neither performance pay nor a lolly scramble. It was an investment "that will have a positive impact on our schools and our students".

The PPTA has no track record for being a Government apologist. But it has taken issue with critics' claims the policy is unacceptable and unworkable and would remove highly rated teachers and principals from their schools for two days a week, adversely impacting on children's learning. A PPTA blog post says there is plenty of evidence on the professional benefits of mentoring and the positive results to come from focusing on collaboration rather than competition. More telling, the blog post said any disquiet and concern about the policy can be found "only in a small part of the beltway in Wellington".

Elsewhere schools are thinking about what clusters they are already in and what they need to do to be ready to pick up the extra staffing and funding next year. Hipkins' report card on Parata's handling of the policy said a Labour Government would "almost certainly" dump it. Labour's own model (to be announced within the next two weeks) would draw on teacher expertise to improve educational outcomes. But, according to the PPTA, that's what Parata has done - and it welcomes the results.

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- Waikato Times

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