Jacinda: Labour’s school education reforms look set to fail

Memo:

Other than the abolition of national standards, the last time I heard anything hopeful and inspiring about Labour’s school education reforms was when you said that creativity and imagination was about to return to schools.

Your minister of education categorically failed in the lead-up to the election to explain how and why New Zealand school education was in difficulty. He will think I’m picking on him, but I’m not, I’m pointing out stark reality. I have waited and pressed for this political opportunity for decades and Labour is fumbling it.

https://networkonnet.wordpress.com/2017/04/15/if-chris-hipkins-cant-do-it-give-it-to-kelvin-davis-part-1/

https://networkonnet.wordpress.com/2017/04/16/if-chris-hipkins-cant-do-it-give-it-to-kelvin-davis-part-2/

Politics is about politics, even, indeed especially, the politics of education. And by politics I don’t mean lying or exaggerating, I mean putting previous governments to honest but searching scrutiny. Where was the intensity and passion?

School education, especially primary school education, is in a spiral: where has been analysis of Maori and Pasifika achievement? Education is Labour’s nominated partner-in-solution to poverty (along with improved income) but it is a faltering one.

You are right, the outlook on creativity and imagination is a desiccated one.  And under the previous government, in the basics, their supposed priority, primary schools slipped to the bottom of the Western world. But only a fainthearted peep here and there from Chris Hipkins. He was, I think, concerned about offending the teacher organisations.

Chris Hipkins should have been out there kicking up merry hell but he is utterly unable to do so, his personality, it seems, won’t permit it, perhaps he doesn’t feel the pain – he much prefers the cosy world of the teacher organisations.

The abolition of national standards was well accepted but their abolition did not have a dynamic impact because no context had been or was provided.

But I don’t want to dwell on that calamitous lack of a critical contextual launching pad for Labour’s reforms.

The announcement of the abolition of national standards came and went; followed by bits and pieces: one of those bits and pieces being when children can begin schooling (and fair enough) but where was the accompanying persuasive laying out of the argument for the return to long-established practice? Then the minister of education felt it incumbent to say schools can continue with national standards if the feel they want to – I agree – but why bring it up? Then there was a titbit about NCEA. All this and more is an ominous augury for what is to come.

Where is the overall strategy to go with the key reform of the abolition of national standards? Most teachers and principals have only experienced the paralysing hold of the review office and national standards. They are being abandoned. They need both practical and inspirational help to lift themselves out of the curriculum rut.

The overall strategy for Labour to follow is not difficult to establish: it is locate the key neoliberal educational policies and change them to democratic and progressive ones.

By definition, neoliberal education policies cannot be good for children or democracy, so Labour should track the main neoliberal drivers and replace them.

In this respect, above all, the review process must be restructured with each team for a school visit comprising a permanent member and principals and teachers trained for the purpose. You cannot have creativity and imagination fostered if the present personnel and the present review practices are persisted with.

The review process should also be brought into the ministry – separating policy function from the review one is pure neoliberalism.

A sharing of the control of knowledge is central.

Where are the advisory teams of top-notch creative teachers attached to universities? Surely Labour is not relying on those purveyors of commodified knowledge – the private companies?

The major teacher organisations are important in this. I know this might seem at odds with my warnings about Labour getting too close to the teacher organisations, but they are what we have and, who knows, their open involvement in curriculum policy might be formative for them and eventually beneficial to education.

A monopoly of education knowledge by bureaucrats and selected academics must be ended and university appointments and courses changed.

Communities of Learning, which originated with John Hattie and Treasury, were clearly being converted to neoliberal purposes (and will be again if Labour doesn’t act decisively); Labour must bite the bullet and abandon them or scale them down mightily, with the money saved being spent on drama and arts specialists working amongst a designated group of schools, also Maori and Pasifika languages, mathematics and science. (Teacher aides and children with special needs must also be a priority).

In a sense, it is not too late to rescue the reforms, but in contemplating the record and personality of the minister of education, it looks near hopeless. This warning, I know, will be dismissed as the declarations of a noisy, uncompromising commentator; while that may, indeed, be my personality, I invite my critics to contemplate my record.

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Posted in Education Policy, Political | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Laura Walters and Simon Collins: wayward and biased reporting

Laura Walters should give up altogether, her writing spirals unobstructed by any semblance of originality below that which an intelligent 15 year-old could produce – there is a breathless, girl’s adventure quality to her writing, a hugely misplaced confidence, demonstrating a lack of any apprehension of the dross she is producing. Her scrap (article would dignify the writing seriously beyond its worth) is based on bits-and-pieces she has picked up from newspaper headlines and put together in a mishmash to ludicrous effect.

She is Hub writer for Stuff.

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/98896428/its-easy-to-talk-the-talk-in-opposition-why-is-it-so-hard-to-walk-the-walk-in-government

To compare this rubbish to what you can get from any writer listed on Public Address is to make clear its Lilliputian worth.

Simon Collins – a respected senior journalist for the NZ Herald – is setting out on a weird course in his writing on education. I track him.

In a posting to come later I will describe that in my living memory, no writer, no permanent TV or radio commentator or interviewer (no, not even Kim Hill, Katherine Ryan, or John Gerritsen – worthy as they may be) has ever demonstrated a genuine understanding of primary education. The closest anyone has come is Kirsty Johnston of the NZ Herald, not so much with her dazzling ‘Under the Bridge’ series but when she came close to the real thing in her exposure of relationships between the ministry and education review office. After a tactical pause (or so it seemed to me), the Herald editors acted on their long-established education line and pulled the carpet from under her (accomplished with the utmost consideration I’m sure), to be replaced by Simon Collins who, though a respected writer on social issues, is a considerably unreliable one on education.

(There might be some who think Brian Bruce’s documentaries demonstrate the qualities I’m looking for, but I categorise them as I categorise ‘Under the Bridge’. Heart in the right place, instincts good, but presentations that go straight for big feelings and big ideas, instead of working surely towards them, invariably go off track.)

But how could media people know anything on education, relying as they do on an ‘understanding’ gleaned from their own experiences, prejudices, other media opinion and headlines and, above all, on official releases. Under National, nothing emanating from the ministry leadership or the swollen ministry media section, leaving aside the copious straight lying or deception, was, in fact, ever straight, most of it vulnerable to exposure from the most cursory of examinations, but reporters are so uncaring, so lazy, so biased, or affected by concerns for vocational security, that nearly all media releases, leaving aside the occasional routine other comment, are left undisturbed. The rationalisation might be, an intention to return to the matter, but that doesn’t do because first and official word wins. The profound problem is that in the media, serious attention to school education rarely occurs and when it does, it begins with secondary, yet by the time children get to secondary the die has been cast (which is why secondary teachers in a mixture of humanity and career protection, blatantly and universally, falsify and fudge NCEA). Whenever has any media person shown any signs of searching for the reality of primary education with an attitude that there is something deeply significant to know, that reality won’t come easily, that a strenuous humility is required, that academics don’t know (only isolated bits of it), and that that reality, if uncovered, might well be antithetical to their existing beliefs, therefore susceptible to the bane of primary school education, a resort to academic last word.

The media, in education, display their shallowness in the wild fluctuations in directions, for instance, when Simon Collins finally got round to a recognition (though timorous) that internal NCEA does, indeed, put pressure on teachers to manipulate nearly all students through – the next day he presents, in a feature article, an example of inspirational teaching of a principal displaying the photographs of a number of children he wants teachers to put an ‘extra effort’ into passing.

To put together her mishmash, Laura Walters introduces it with the callow sentences ‘Walking the fine line between principles and pragmatism can cause governments to become hypocrites. Seems it’s much easier to talk the line in opposition than walk the talk in government.’

I’m not going to waste my time on the rubbish assemblage of ‘examples’ Laura Walters chooses, but in introducing her choices for hypocrisy she does not, of course, refer to any of the numerous exceptions to such ‘hypocrisy’, for instance, the ban on non-residents buying houses in New Zealand, even though National said it couldn’t be done.

To accuse Jacinda Ardern and the Labour government of hypocrisy just doesn’t fit and if Laura Walters stood back from her breathlessness, even for a moment, she would recognise that.

But it is on her education example for Labour hypocrisy I want to concentrate.

Labour was hypocritical she implies in that ‘One of Labour’s flagship education policies during the campaign was to promise to scrap National Standards.’ And now it was saying, she exulted, that ‘schools could continue to use them’. This she pronounces is ‘a big U-turn’.

National standards she reports ‘are highly unpopular with the unions, and teachers who feel the administrative workload impede on their classroom time and teaching.’

‘They’ve also been called simplistic, and focus on literacy and numeracy …’

But Laura Walters avers ‘… parents like National Standards – they give them insight into their child’s progress: they set a clear measure, and the updates come twice a year.’

When reporting on what the unions and teachers had said about national standards, it was what teachers and unions said – when it came to parents, Laura Walters is rampantly decisive on their behalf: national standards ‘gave insight into their child’s progress’; and ‘set a clear measure’. Has our junior reporter (surely so) run a poll of primary school parents or had access to such a poll?

(I’m not saying the word union can or should be avoided but any reference to teacher unions is often motivated by, and plays on, a deep-seated political and community prejudice – a prejudice unrelentingly embedded by the major newspapers over decades and fervently picked up on and cruelly developed by neoliberal advocates.)

Before becoming a seer on primary school characteristics and structures, I assume Laura Walters had knowledge of, and therefore took into account, the work of the government-funded Dunedin Monitoring Unit which has found that national standards reported results were 15-20 per cent above the results reported by the Unit.

And during the time of national standards, this assiduous burrower for the truth would have found that New Zealand has slipped from near or at the top to at or near the bottom of the Western world.

‘… and the updates come twice a year’ – oh happy days and the birds atweeting.

In discussing national standards, reporters like Laura Walters, through ignorance or caring more for their story than the truth, approach them as if they had no past – which slews the facts of the matter – because their past is one of abject failure in the validity of their measurement, destruction of New Zealand’s international standing, and wreaking of considerable harm on children, especially the most vulnerable.

But you have, I know, already worked out, the mistake our breathless reporter has made.

Laura what are we discussing? yes national standards. How many words in the label, national standards? yes, two. Worked it out yet?

Oh well, I will continue.

Chris Hipkins, in referring to school assessment, is reported as saying ‘What tools (schools) use to do that is up to them.’

Our reporter then triumphantly announces that this ‘appeared to be a big U-turn for Labour’.

If you put the adjective ‘big’ in front of ‘U-turn’ then the use of ‘appeared to be’ must surely be inappropriate.

Laura, Laura, as was sung in Pinafore:

‘Things are seldom what they seem,
Skim milk masquerades as cream’.

Under national standards Laura, did schools have a choice?

From now on they will.

So you see Laura, they are not national – they are simply something a school has decided to continue.

Will the media feast on the results of the handful of schools that continue to use those standards?

Of course they won’t because they aren’t national therefore can’t be compared (actually because of high stakes inflation they were never validly able to be anyway).

Will the education review office insist on studying those standards to the exclusion of even entering classrooms (as has become the practice)?

With the high stakes national standards gone, will those schools feel the inclination to inflate the results?

Will those schools feel the pressure to let children know after a few months at school that they are below standard?

Will schools neglect children well below the standard and well above the standard to concentrate on those round-about it?

Will those schools feel the overwhelming pressure to neglect creativity and imagination in their teaching?

Spot any differences Laura?

Enough with Laura Walters, now for Simon Collins who seems to have succumbed to the Herald’s long-established use of Auckland Grammar as the education yardstick?

My concern with Simon Collins is not an overall bias, on social policy he is sound, a soft, diffuse style, perhaps, but studiedly fair; it is in education that I have found him seriously wanting.  I believe the Herald editors delight in their obscurantism in relation to primary schools. For decades they carried attacks on the imaginative, differentiated teaching philosophy established by Clarence Beeby and Peter Fraser and which, despite the Herald (including Minhinnick), was to carry New Zealand to the top of the primary school education world.

I refer first to ‘Election Policy series’ and headed ‘Can we trust teachers?’

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11901068

So according to Simon Collins the issue is not can we trust parents but can we trust teachers? Really? – my query is moot given the spotty record of boards of trustees.

It is not can we trust politicians? Really? – moot again given the undemocratic way Labour forced Tomorrow’s Schools on the system and the nine years of undemocratic National government in which never a straight answer was given.

It is not can we trust bureaucrats? Really? – moot once again because they have entangled education and made it the misshapen mess it is.

The implication in Simon Collins’ headline, is given the scintillating education success of the last 27 years can we risk moving away from trust in boards, politicians, and bureaucrats to giving teachers more freedom.

I move now to the Simon Collins’ article headed ‘Labour’s education plans revealed’.

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11937975

Simon Collins has a clever way of obscuring New Zealand’s school failure: instead of saying we are near or at the bottom of the Western world, he fudges:

‘Surveys show that our average 15-year-olds out-perform the global median, although we have been slipping from near the top towards the middle of the pack.’

Oh great, we need more of that.

However, of the international tests that cover national standards nary a mention.

This can’t be by accident.

This article overall is wandering and indecisive. Simon Collins’ heart is not in it.

The wonder is, Simon, who, in a social issues context, writes so sincerely about the effect of child poverty on education, meanders and loses focus when it comes to writing about primary school education.

He outdoes himself with his vox populi – but in being only one person, perhaps it should be vox personam.

I hope you are sitting not standing for the next one.

‘Axing national standards may be unpopular with parents. A Herald poll [now wait for it] when the standards were introduced in 2010 found that 73 per cent of parents with school-age children supported them.

Did I read 2010? Yes, you did. I remember the poll it was a swizz at the time and a swizz maximal now.

Simon Collins resorts to a 2010 poll which was held amidst furious support by the Herald, and intense propaganda by the government. Of course it was bound to get a majority, why wouldn’t it sound OK to a significant number of parents? But education decision-making by newspaper polls and government propaganda is no way to run an education system. But then as Simon asks – can teachers be trusted? Better to cut teachers out of it and let children take the brunt of it when things don’t work out. Did you pick up the result Simon, bottom or near the bottom in the Western world in international testing and children ill-prepared to succeed validly at secondary? Simon, that’s your Herald, your poll, and you.

The difficulty with reporters like Laura and Simon, and just about all the rest, is a lack of awareness of how unknowing they are. If I tried to communicate with them, they would dismiss it as moonshine; after all, they would think, how complicated can primary teaching be? and, in a way, they are right, their picture of primary teaching is uncomplicated, perhaps a bit messy at base, but given the right steer, not difficult to find their way through. They are wrong: effective and inspired teaching that sets children up to succeed in a democracy, and be prepared to defend it, requires a network of relationships of infinite sensitivity, involving striving and caring children, and a  teacher working in harmonious collaboration with all concerned. But with wayward and biased items like Simons’ and Laura’s, what hope do children have? If we had media possessed of an understanding of, and a respect for, primary education, we could have an education system that in its own way excelled in the manner of Finland. Instead, it’s a kind of generational dog fight to be able to do something for all children, but especially those who need it most.

Posted in Media | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A threshold timetable Part 4 – Mathematics and Conclusion

National standards have gone, but how will schools react, will it just be much the same but minus official national standards? will there be much scratching of heads? or will it be a return to holistic values, our education cultural heritage?

Some will express concern about a fall in standards occurring; others will know that standards have already fallen (as the inevitable effect of that imposition of standards). 

On the narrow measurement of standards in international tests, even though we moved our programmes to focus on those narrow standards, New Zealand is at or near the bottom of the Western world – so it is because. High stakes inflation has worked to mask New Zealand’s true performance. The Dunedin Monitoring Unit, for instance, has our true results and that is around 20 per cent lower than our reported ones.

The holistic, based on a broad, rich, and informal programme, had its origins in the Beeby-Fraser period led by New Zealand’s senior teacher of junior classes. As a result of neuroscience, what New Zealand’s educationists knew about education then, has moved to be proved scientifically now; neuroscience has proved that a narrow, formal programme reduces a part of the brain and, in some children, makes them highly resistant to learning (children likely to be heavily represented in lower-socio-economic groupings); and a broad, rich, informal programme expands part of the brain making children highly receptive to learning.

(Please note: in three weeks my holistic publication – The File – will be available for purchase. It will include amongst other things a detailed description of two teachers and their holistic programme, one junior, the other senior).

About the threshold timetable

These are the expanded notes I used as I travelled the country after I had left the education system in 1990 to put forward a simple framework to encourage and enable teachers to get on to the holistic continuum. They are largely pre-computer times so, for today’s programmes, teachers would have to insert useful computer work into the various parts of the programme. These are not necessarily sophisticated curriculum ideas because the main intention is to get teachers and children going on a timetable that flows and provides children with the choice as to when, where, and how they undertake learning. Large numbers of teachers used this threshold timetable as a starting point then proceeded from there at a pace and direction that suited them and the children. 

Some key points 

  1. Once you have stepped over the threshold of the holistic, what is suggested, and what you devise, should be considered moves along the holistic continuum
  2. You do not need a modern learning environment (as commonly understood) to develop a broad, rich, and informal programme (far from it)
  3. You need to work within the realities of your situation – realities such as the degree of freedom likely to be afforded by your principal and senior teachers; your curriculum understandings, abilities, and personality; and where your children are
  4. A key part of a threshold timetable is the generative effect of timetable blocking
  5. The timetable, from time-to-time, should be blocked for all parts of the curriculum including mathematics, ways to use the computer, Maori language, and physical education activities
  6. The holistic continuum is characterised by choice, productive choice
  7. A key way to generate productive choice within the overall programme is using timetable blocking
  8. In art, for instance, children should have days developing knowledge about printmaking, clay, painting, and so on, to enable them subsequently to make productive and varied choices
  9. Choice does not mean fragmentation of learning: when children do science blocking in preparation for choice, the emphasis should be on the main values of science, that is curiosity, hypothesising, and honest investigation; this can be done informally or formally – an observant teacher can soon detect that a child has resorted to google 
  10. In social studies blocking, cohesiveness should be sought by children gaining ideas that get them close to the lives of people and, in the process, discovering that people have similar basic needs but different ways of meeting them, and by that means establishing a bond of humanity with the people being studied (refer to the techniques of the ‘feeling for’ approach)
  11. Blocking for drama should establish the need for sincerity and concentration, also the various drama techniques, as way for children in the choice programme to prepare honest drama for everyday presentation. 

Introduction

In the context of a discussion on developmental, a threshold timetable is one which places teachers conceptually on the developmental continuum. This writing is not intended as a deep discourse on curriculum areas but a way of encouraging teachers to make key curriculum decisions, and a timetable to suit, based on the holistic philosophy.

Developmental is the holistic in classroom practice – in another discussion, the whole school education system could be discussed in relation to the holistic, as Peter Fraser did with his main aim – but it is learning in classrooms that is addressed here; the holistic being teaching and learning organised by dynamic aims that are a combination of the cognitive and affective. An outcome of this is that evaluation occurs using criteria not objectives, meaning the dynamic main aim is systematically supported as the unifying driving force for teaching and learning, a single main aim for a curriculum area or an integration of areas (but care has to be taken with this last). A dynamic main aim is a main aim that has a powerful, unified, though discriminating effect, on teaching and learning. For instance, in expressive writing, a main aim could be writing with sincerity – dependent matters occurring in the course of pursuing that main aim then expressed as criteria – if they are not dependent then they should be omitted. A dynamic main aim is powerful in guiding what should be both included and excluded. (In reading, a main aim could be children becoming independent readers; or in mathematics, children’s ability and willingness to solve mathematical problems.)

For the teacher, developmental is a state of mind, that once held allows the teacher to go in many directions but unified in overall effect by the holistic philosophy.

Mathematics

Shortly after lunch, perhaps following a story read by the teacher, could come mathematics.

An organisational practice has taken hold involving the streaming of children and their resulting movement to different classrooms.

Such a practice is disruptive, status confirming (winners and losers), and a cause of isolating maths from the rest of a class’s programmes.

The contrary should be the practice, with children socially grouped for mathematics based on problem-solving possessing gradients of difficulty allowing children of all abilities initial entry.

A particular challenge comes from the nature of the curriculum area:

It seems to encourage overly structured responses from those who develop textbooks and programmes of work for teachers

Textbooks, templates, worksheets, and mathematical programmes developed, often seem to be based on the idea that the sum total of a number of small steps will lead to satisfactory overall understanding

However, it doesn’t, it leads, at best, to a satisfactory understanding of a number of small steps

What can be theoretically logical on paper can be educationally illogical for children

The overly structured response to the nature of the curriculum area often leads to mathematics becoming a learning of mathematical labels rather than an understanding of the meanings they encompass

As well, it tends to encourage teachers to become dominant in proceedings, which results in children being unable to see the mathematical rules for the explanations.

A further challenge becomes evident when the nature and practice of mathematics is compared with the nature and practice of reading:

To start with, but as an aside, nearly all teachers are enthusiastic about meaning expressed in words

Far fewer about meaning expressed in algorithms

More particularly, compared to mathematics, reading, as a curriculum activity, has far fewer major concepts inherent in it

As well, reading concepts are strongly and clearly interrelated

This means that when children read a book they are learning all the reading concepts in a cohesive way, all the time

Cohesiveness is further added by the nature of the basic reading resource – the book

The purpose of a book is obvious, it can be immediately attractive, and is easily obtained, stored, and carried around

And when it goes home, it can be readily understood and supported by parents.

What then should teachers interested in a threshold timetable do in mathematics?

To start with, teachers should recognise that children fail in mathematics not because of a lack of competence in the mechanics, but a lack of understanding of the big ideas

The emphasis, as a result, should be on discovery and understanding

Next, teachers should take more control of their mathematics programmes, the syllabuses, textbooks, and other resources

From there, using a few major concepts, they should reorganise their mathematics to make mathematics more interrelated.

It would give more scope for:

  • Exploration and discovery
  • Problem-solving
  • Children to find their level
  • Understanding to be developed and extended
  • Learning cohesiveness
  • Children’s weaknesses to be exposed and corrected
  • Learning to be related to the everyday world
  • Groups typically disadvantaged in mathematics to perform better
  • Mathematics to be a way of viewing and explain their world, rather than just something that is done at school, at a particular time.

In mathematics, as for all curriculum areas, but often overlooked in mathematics, a key is the open-ended discussion, with the children being challenged, being invited to hypothesise, but not being told, and then, with interest high, going off to contemplate, explore, and finally to make decisions.

As an ideal, and along the developmental continuum, mathematics should occur during most of the day as it does in reading:

Children, for instance, could have individual maths boxes (or storage places) in the way children have individual reading boxes in junior classes, with resources organised around mathematical big ideas selected by teachers.

When an idea is being studied, children should use a variety of experiences and approaches in their activities:

Children should, as much as possible, choose their mathematics activity

Often this would be done within a designated range

These activities, problem-based in nature, could be on task-cards, on charts, in parts of books, on display tables, and inherent in materials.

In mathematics there is a step beyond using basic ideas for organising programmes:

That step is made by basing programmes on problems, situations, and themes.

As part of learning, children should develop learning activities for themselves and other children:

For instance, they could be asked as part of homework to find a mathematical situation from everyday life and then work it through. This situation could then be written up on newsprint sheets as a problem for other children to do

Games and puzzles should be an important part of mathematical learning.

On a regular basis, say once a fortnight, mathematics could run for a good part of the day, for instance, from morning play onwards:

Teachers should be alert for learning opportunities that occur throughout the day.

To help them in this, they could draw up a list with an introduction saying:

We are learning mathematics when …

Children should be reminded that in classroom practice, as described above, there are times when rather than working with the rest of the class in another curriculum activity, they can pursue, for instance, mathematics (what a marvellous signal about that child and your teaching).

Teachers should use the choice time to challenge children in mathematics, to encourage creativity, and to meet individual needs:

Teachers should regularly sit beside children and talk with them about mathematics

Indeed, they might develop a list of questions and activities which would act as a kind of mathematics running record

Children might develop newsprint booklets for younger children and do a form of partner (or buddy) mathematics with them

Alternatively the partner might simply use younger children’s current mathematics books for discussion

Children should be able to read mathematics around the room – it should ‘speak’ to children from the walls.

Conclusion

As has been discussed above, there is a centrality to the function of the threshold timetable and that is to regularly block the timetable so that curriculum areas can be pursued intensively in the interests of further child choice and learning depth.

All curriculum areas benefit from timetable blocking: mathematics, health, Maori language and culture, music, computers, and physical education, as well as science, art, language, and social studies.

Timetable blocking encourages:

  • Programme flexibility
  • Innovation and creativity
  • Learning depth and coherence
  • Children’s control of learning
  • Programme individualisation
  • Authenticity and variety in child choice.

Blocking needn’t always be planned for, it will sometimes occur out of circumstances, for instance, teachers may see children so well involved that they decide to let matters run. It can occur at key times to build-up or sustain programme momentum. These times will often be at the early stages of topics, but they can also be near the end as a way of weaving together various learning strands.

At a basic level, the threshold timetable is a way to free teachers and children from the stop-start, teacher direction emphasis often typical of classrooms. Such a process becomes a career-defining behaviour for teachers and a routine series of little commotions and minor hectoring for children.

At a practical level, the threshold timetable provides children with more control over what they do and more continuity in doing it. At a fundamental level, it can free teaching and learning to consummate process and transcendent outcome.

Posted in Curriculum, Education | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

A threshold timetable Part 3 – Choice

National standards have gone, but how will schools react, will it just be much the same but minus official national standards? will it be many scratching their heads? or will it be a return to holistic values, our education cultural heritage?

Some will express concern about a fall in standards occurring; others will know that standards have already fallen (as the inevitable effect of that imposition of standards). 

On the narrow measurement of standards in international tests, even though we moved our programmes to focus on those narrow standards, New Zealand is at or near the bottom of the Western world – so it is because. High stakes inflation has worked to mask New Zealand’s true performance. The Dunedin Monitoring Unit, for instance, has our true results and that is around 20 per cent lower than our reported ones.

The holistic, based on a broad, rich, and informal programme, had its origins in the Beeby-Fraser period led by New Zealand’s senior teacher of junior classes. As a result of neuroscience, what New Zealand’s educationists knew about education has now been proved scientifically right; neuroscience has proved that a narrow, formal programme reduces a part of the brain and, in some children, makes them highly resistant to learning (children likely to be heavily represented in lower-socio-economic groupings); and a broad, rich, informal programme expands part of the brain making children highly receptive to learning.

(Please note: in three weeks my holistic publication – The File – will be available for purchase. It will include amongst other things a detailed description of two teachers and their holistic programme, one junior and the other senior).

About the threshold timetable

These are the expanded notes I used as I travelled the country after I had left the education system in 1990 to put forward a simple framework to encourage and enable teachers to get on to the holistic continuum. They are largely pre-computer times so, for today’s programmes, teachers would have to insert useful computer work into the various parts of the programme. These are not necessarily sophisticated curriculum ideas because the main intention is to get teachers and children going on a timetable that flows and provides children with the choice as to when, where, and how they undertake learning. Large numbers of teachers used this threshold timetable as a starting point then proceeded from there at a pace and direction that suited them and the children. 

Some key points 

  1. Once you have stepped over the threshold of the holistic, what is suggested, and what you devise, should be considered moves along the holistic continuum
  2. You do not need a modern learning environment (as commonly understood) to develop a broad, rich, and informal programme
  3. You need to work within the realities of your situation – realities such as the degree of freedom likely to be afforded by your principal and senior teachers; your curriculum understandings, abilities, and personality
  4. A key part of a threshold timetable is the generative effect of timetable blocking
  5. The timetable, from time-to-time, should be blocked for all parts of the curriculum including mathematics, ways to use the computer, and physical education activities
  6. The holistic continuum is characterised by choice, productive choice
  7. A key way to generate productive choice within the overall programme is using blocking
  8. In art, for instance, children should have days developing knowledge about printmaking, clay, painting, and so on, to enable them subsequently to make productive and varied choices
  9. Choice does not mean fragmentation of learning: when children do science blocking in preparation for choice, the emphasis should be on the main values of science, that is curiosity, hypothesising, and honest investigation; this can be done informally or formally – an observant teacher can soon detect that a child has resorted to google 
  10. In social studies blocking, cohesiveness should be sought by children gaining ideas that get them close to the lives of people and, in the process, discovering that people have similar basic needs but different ways of meeting them, and by that means establishing a bond of humanity with the people being studied
  11. Blocking for drama should establish the need for sincerity and concentration, also the various drama techniques, as way for children in the choice programme to prepare honest drama for everyday presentation. 

Introduction

In the context of a discussion on developmental, a threshold timetable is one which places teachers conceptually on the developmental continuum. This writing is not intended as a deep discourse on curriculum areas but a way of encouraging teachers to make key curriculum decisions, and a timetable to suit, based on the holistic philosophy.

Developmental is the holistic in classroom practice – in another discussion, the whole school education system could be discussed in relation to the holistic, as Peter Fraser did with his main aim – but it is learning in classrooms that is addressed here; the holistic being teaching and learning organised by dynamic aims that are a combination of the cognitive and affective. An outcome of this is that evaluation occurs using criteria not objectives, meaning the dynamic main aim is systematically supported as the unifying driving force for teaching and learning, a single main aim for a curriculum area or an integration of areas (but care has to be taken with this last). A dynamic main aim is a main aim that has a powerful, unified, though discriminating effect, on teaching and learning. For instance, in expressive writing, a main aim could be writing with sincerity – dependent matters occurring in the course of pursuing that main aim then expressed as criteria – if they are not dependent then they should be omitted. A dynamic main aim is powerful in guiding what should be both included and excluded. (In reading, a main aim could be children becoming independent readers; or in mathematics, children’s ability and willingness to solve mathematical problems.)

For the teacher, developmental is a state of mind, that once held allows the teacher to go in many directions but unified in overall effect by the holistic philosophy.

Choice time

It is suggested a highly individualised time follow reading:

This time could be called choice time, extension time, contract time, challenge time:

Choice time might appeal as a label to children

Extension time to parents.

There are three main purposes for choice time –

1. Choice time provides an opportunity for various contracts to be carried out:

Contracts to meet skill needs

For instance, those arising from printing or handwriting, grammar, punctuation, tables, and so on.

2. Choice time provides an opportunity for extension work in all curriculum areas:

Particularly in mathematics, science, social studies, language, arts, drama, music, and physical education

The timetable might have been blocked to go deeply into social studies, or an art topic, say, printmaking

Then, following the blocking, the children in choice could complete activities or explore ideas of their own in the topic

Or the teacher might have planned a topic on snails in science on the basis of, say, three days of individualised exploratory activities with the children doing more or less the same things, but at a pace, and in order, that suits them individually

Extensions could occur in choice time by having children select an aspect of the topic to investigate.

Choice time provides teachers and children with the opportunity to try things out:

To generate ideas and ways of doing things and thinking about things

To break the bounds of what is considered usual for children at a particular class level

It also provides an opportunity for children to explore various technologies and resources – computers, libraries, sports equipment, videos, music equipment, and so on.

3. Choice time provides an opportunity for children to continue and complete work begun earlier in various curriculum areas:

The blocking of the timetable is undertaken to get a topic going in a continuous and insightful manner and to set up productive choices

Science can sometimes be a relaxed investigation of the life, say, of a piwakawaka, at other times a structured science investigation – but at all times the science should be carried out in accordance with central science values

Mathematics should be unstreamed and based on problem-solving – with a learning entry provided for children of all abilities – a mathematics corner should be established setting out all kinds of challenges, for instance, problems relating to big mathematical ideas, fuzzy problems, puzzles

Social studies should be the ‘feeling for’ approach because of the affective and cognitive challenge it poses, the way it works as well for new entrant children as it does for older children, and the way it avoids undue pressure on reading ability in the gathering of information

Physical education should break away from children standing around waiting their turn and be based on individualised task cards

Arts and crafts should be blocked to introduce teaching points and to set up activities that lay the basis for communication, expression, and problem-solving. Children should concentrate on their own local environment which should lead to an intensive use of Maori stories, culture, and values

Maori language should introduced in interesting ways using timetable blocking with an emphasis on how it can be used in throughout the day (including children’s names).

In choice time:

  • There would be children doing contracts to meet particular needs, often using task cards prepared in discussion with the teacher
  • There would be children doing extension work in response to teacher-prepared wall charts, task-cards, displays, carded displays, carded pages from books, child-prepared charts, and so on
  • There would be children doing activities following the blocking of the timetable
  • There would be children working at challenges they had decided for themselves
  • Finally, there would be children completing work from a number of curriculum areas.

Suggested for the threshold timetable so far have been written language, then reading, and choice time and, of course, a whole lot of choice, variety, and informality throughout influenced by timetable blocking.

Continued in Part 4

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A threshold timetable Part 2

Reading continued

Yeah-how!

National standards gone. Well – all-but. 

My principal and senior teacher already give me a pretty free rein. I’m going to go for it.

Back to me: These are the expanded notes I used as I travelled the country after I had left the education system in 1990 to put forward a simple framework to encourage and enable teachers to get on to the holistic continuum. They are largely pre-computer times so, for today’s programmes, teachers would have to insert useful computer work into the various parts of the programme. These are not particularly sophisticated curriculum ideas because the main intention is to get teachers and children going on a timetable that flows and provides children with the choice as to when, where, and how they undertake learning. Large numbers of teachers used this threshold timetable as a starting point then proceeded to take in various directions that suited them and the children. Full-scale examples of such directions will be made available. 

Introduction

In the context of a discussion on developmental, a threshold timetable is one which places teachers conceptually on the developmental continuum. This writing is not intended as a deep discourse on curriculum areas but a way of encouraging teachers to make key curriculum decisions, and a timetable to suit, based on the holistic philosophy.

Developmental is the holistic in classroom practice – in another discussion, the whole school education system could be discussed in relation to the holistic, as Peter Fraser did with his main aim – but it is learning in classrooms that is addressed here; the holistic being teaching and learning organised by dynamic aims that are a combination of the cognitive and affective. An outcome of this is that evaluation occurs using criteria not objectives, meaning the dynamic main aim is systematically supported as the unifying driving force for teaching and learning, a single main aim for a curriculum area or an integration of areas (but care has to be taken with this last). A dynamic main aim is a main aim that has a powerful, unified, though discriminating effect, on teaching and learning. For instance, in expressive writing, a main aim could be writing with sincerity – dependent matters occurring in the course of pursuing that main aim then expressed as criteria – if they are not dependent then they should be omitted. A dynamic main aim is powerful in guiding what should be both included and excluded. (In reading, a main aim could be children becoming independent readers; or in mathematics, children’s ability and willingness to solve mathematical problems.)

For the teacher, developmental is a state of mind, that once held allows the teacher to go in many directions but unified in overall effect by the holistic philosophy

Reading

If reading is, indeed, a highly valued activity:

Then the freedom to read should have considerable precedence throughout the day

Of course, it is not absolute freedom of choice

But teachers should go out of their way to accommodate that choice.

In a threshold developmental reading programme, children should have considerable choice in the materials they read:

A central reading philosophy will be the ‘I can read’ developed so beautifully developed by stjcs – a gift

Younger children should choose their Ready to Read and supporting reading materials, and have an even wider choice in their independent reading

Older children should always have an independent reading book on hand

And teachers should make it their business to know what it is, and celebrate it when completed

They should challenge children: What book are you reading at the moment?

They should further challenge children by encouraging them to widen the scope of their reading.

There are plenty of other opportunities for choice in reading:

If thematic reading is being taken, children should choose from amongst a list of journals, bulletins, books, articles, and so on

For activities at the end of reading there should always be a choice

Children should never do worksheets, templates, book reviews, written analyses, written-question answering, unless they have chosen to do so.

Children’s reading is enriched by having the stimulus of other children’s ideas –

As a result there should be:

  • Shared reading using enlarged print books or sets of books
  • Language experience
  • Story reading to children
  • Thematic reading
  • Drama
  • Partner reading
  • Interactive reading using computers
  • Story reading from tapes
  • Song and poetry reading
  • Investigative reading (using reference books and other reading material)
  • Reading material on display around the room (often associated with partner reading)
  • Certain reading activities within context (cloze, alphabet, matching, and construction of sentences
  • Own written language reading.

This variety of reading brings further opportunity for choice:

Children can choose to continue with an activity in preference to a subsequent activity suggested by the teacher

Or choose to do an activity produced on their initiative.

The concepts of print should occur throughout the reading programme in a contextual way:

There is a tendency for teachers to become overly involved in the ‘pathology’ of reading

That is, analysing and making moves to correct reading failure

Care should be taken not to allow techniques developed for children with serious reading problems to become techniques for general use in regular reading programmes.

Children with dyslexia (and all children with serious reading difficulties) should be taught reading within the same reading philosophy as all children are taught within, that is holistically, in context, and with meaning:

But there should be generous amounts of one-to-one reading (one-to-one provides a magic all of its own) with the same person, and the reading should maintain meaning and interest – compared with some other readers, though, more attention will need to be given to the parts of words

On the understanding that children with dyslexia should be taught holistically, children, if possible, should be taught reading within schools rather than through outside organisations (I know this can be very difficult to maintain given the meagre allocation of special teaching funding, but that would be the ideal).

The greatest challenge in reading is not to teach children to read, it is to get them to enjoy reading:

A major cause of children not enjoying reading is a lack of fluency in reading

And a major cause of a lack of fluency in reading is learning to read in a highly structured, rather than a holistic, naturalistic way

Highly structured teaching is an impediment to reading fluency and enjoyment in the longer term

Teachers should focus children on clusters of words and their meanings

Rather than on single words and their insides.

The best way for children to build up letter-sound associations is by participating in a range of holistic, contextual reading language activities.

The best way to achieve a holistic, naturalistic approach to reading is to:

  • Build on, and maintain the ‘I can read’ attitude to reading
  • Make reading enjoyable
  • Undertake letter-sound association and word study subtly
  • Encourage independence in reading
  • Allow reading to occur at most parts of the day
  • Use a variety of reading materials and experiences: enlarged print, shared books, individual readers, writing of language, reading of own written language, songs, poems, comics, language experience, tape recorders, computers, word processors, and so on
  • See language as something that occurs throughout the curriculum and the day
  • Make reading a highly valued activity.

That’s the threshold timetable so far.

Continued in Part 3

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A threshold timetable Part 1

Yeah-how!

National standards gone. Well – all-but. 

My principal and senior teacher already give me a pretty free rein. I’m going to go for it.

Back to me: These are the expanded notes I used as I travelled the country after I had left the education system in 1990 to put forward a simple framework to encourage and enable teachers to get on to the holistic continuum. They are largely pre-computer times so, for today’s programmes, teachers would have to insert useful computer work into the various parts of the programme. These are not particularly sophisticated curriculum ideas because the main intention is to get teachers and children going on a timetable that flows and provides children with the choice as to when, where, and how they undertake learning. Large numbers of teachers used this threshold timetable as a starting point then proceeded to take in various directions that suited them and the children. Full-scale examples of such directions will be made available. 

Introduction

In the context of a discussion on developmental, a threshold timetable is one which places teachers conceptually on the developmental continuum. This writing is not intended as a deep discourse on curriculum areas but a way of encouraging teachers to make key curriculum decisions, and a timetable to suit, based on the holistic philosophy.

Developmental is the holistic in classroom practice – in another discussion, the whole school education system could be discussed in relation to the holistic, as Peter Fraser did with his main aim – but it is learning in classrooms that is addressed here; the holistic being teaching and learning organised by dynamic aims that are a combination of the cognitive and affective. An outcome of this is that evaluation occurs using criteria not objectives, meaning the dynamic main aim is systematically supported as the unifying driving force for teaching and learning, a single main aim for a curriculum area or an integration of areas (but care has to be taken with this last). A dynamic main aim is a main aim that has a powerful, unified, though discriminating effect, on teaching and learning. For instance, in expressive writing, a main aim could be writing with sincerity – dependent matters occurring in the course of pursuing that main aim then expressed as criteria – if they are not dependent then they should be omitted. A dynamic main aim is powerful in guiding what should be both included and excluded. (In reading, a main aim could be children becoming independent readers; or in mathematics, children’s ability and willingness to solve mathematical problems.)

For the teacher, developmental is a state of mind, that once held allows the teacher to go in many directions but unified in overall effect by the holistic philosophy.

Written language

First, the day could begin with written language (yes, of course, you might prefer maths.)

If this becomes routine:

• Children can come in before school and carry on with their writing or some other activity they are engaged in

• Good use can be made of the part of the day when children are freshest

• Children’s enthusiasms and experiences brought from home can be a source of motivation

• And language needs that become apparent can be attended to later in the day.

Written language offers a straightforward way to involve children in independent learning in an emotionally supportive atmosphere.

And it fits comfortably with reading, the next curriculum area on the timetable.

But if a child begins with something else other than writing and wants to continue, that can be worked out or simply accepted. (This is what I call the fraying of the timetable – I love it.)

Written language in a developmental classroom provides children with many choices:

• What topic to write about

• What language form to use

• What presentation form to use

• What pace to write at

• What spelling approach to use

• What to do to make the writing effective and technically correct.

Various lists could be available to the children to help them with their choices.

The lists could be to do with:

• Language form

• Presentation form

• Good writing

• Correct writing.

In the good writing, writing with sincerity and clarity should be given main attention:

• Also the determination to find just the right word

• The need to be affectively stimulated

• The need to avoid florid writing (in other words, the minimum of adjectives and adverbs.)

• The need to focus and feel.

Naturalistic, holistic learning occurs as children learn about writing by wanting to write and from the boundaries and contexts established by teachers.

These boundaries and contexts can be made through:

• Stimulating motivation using discussion, reflection, art, drama, outside exploration

• The arrangement of the room environment

• Various lists challenging children to do good and correct writing

• The teacher moving around discussing children’s written language with them

• Written language being made a highly valued activity

• The encouraging of children to edit (if resisted, then class editing can supplement or supplant)

• The use of individual contracts to meet children’s language skill needs

• The use of informal evaluation practices

And what is done with the writing (it is this last that is most powerful in effect).

At the timetabled end of written language some children will already have moved to reading, others will decide to continue with it.

Reading

Reading, like written language, offers a straightforward way to set up independent learning in an emotionally supportive atmosphere.

Reading in a developmental classroom provides children with many choices.

An important part of that choice comes from the arrangement of the physical environment:

There should be a snug, relaxing reading area

A lively class and school library

At all teaching levels there should be plenty of reading on the walls around the room.

Complementary with the organisation of the physical arrangement:

Should be the freedom to use it

Children should be able to use resources and to get out books and read them on their own initiative

If they are in doubt about the propriety of doing so, they could make a request on the request board

No templates and no written comprehension

And reading should be seen as an all-day activity or writing, or whatever (of course you will be keeping an eye on it all)

Throughout this writing, the term contract is used to describe an informal agreement between teachers and individual children for certain activities to be undertaken by the children at a time, and pace, that suits.

Some teachers might prefer the less formal connotations of agreement instead of contract.

Reading continued in Part 2

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What I want from Chris Hipkins (also Tracey Martin, Kelvin Davis, and Jenny Salesa)

First, I want to commend Chris on his brilliant ministerial beginning with the bold declaration of the abolition of national standards – followed up by the education comeback comment of the decade:

It was Friday (I think) morning and TV1 breakfast: Chris announced in his typically jaunty manner the abolition of national standards; there followed some questions from Hilary (oh in her we have a believer!) and then Nikki was in front of us, looking more like Cossette than ever, to produce a brand new saying now certain to be engraved in analytical history ‘The devil is in the detail.’

I stopped, took a deep intake of breath, and shouted – ‘The official curriculum, you sad looking figure, its ideals and stages, is the detail. That is the why, the how, of education, and the reporting to parents.’

And Chris nailed it. You beauty! (I think I heard the swelling sound of Fats playing ‘Blueberry Hill’.)

Chris and I have had an uneasy relationship, I have sensed a caution, lack of philosophical structure, and timidity I have ascribed to the NZEI influence – but also, I readily acknowledge, his deep commitment to children and his determination to do best by teachers.

But I’m bent on being different, beginning a new relationship.

Before I do though, I have to acknowledge my disappointment at Tracey Martin not being the minister. She has been the bravest, surest, and soundest person in political power since Peter Fraser. I’m glad she will be around the table and hope she will be carefully listened to by her colleagues.

  1. The principle governing education should be valuing variety. Valuing variety would mean changes to regulations and supervision to enable a wide interpretation of the curriculum – within broad guidelines – in school charters and evaluation practices. Eventually the present curriculum document would need to be revised to concentrate on principles and aims, leaving schools to decide how to interpret those – at the moment National Administrative Guidelines (NAGS), the demands of the education review office (using national standards), and curriculum decisions from other parts of the bureaucracy have, in the totality of their demands, displaced the curriculum document, and exerted a stultifying control of classrooms
  1. I am determined on this one: a fund must be established to which schools can apply for the teaching of Maori (so voluntary and gradual), involving a teacher of Maori. Appointments would be made by the school with local whanau and iwi. A formalised structure should be established for appointments, conditions of work, review, and oversight. And a national system for teachers of Maori language should be established to enhance professional development and collegiality. Smaller schools would share a teacher. This policy is about living in a democracy and shared world views.
  1. From this writer, there is considerable concern about the typically simplistic responses to the learning needs of Maori and Pasifika children. Attention, of course, to alleviating poverty and home-school relations is a priority but I want to refer to learning needs in particular. First, to dismiss simplistic ones: an overreliance on computers; and children being described as needing formal work to keep them in line. Look – yes – formal work is better than rowdy chaos, but a formal classroom won’t provide the much wanted learning and engagement catch-up; it will just keep children in a holding pattern. The children need an holistic classroom in which learning is interesting, cohesive, has an organised informality, is intellectually engaging and challenging, and is broad and rich in reach. Neuroscience shows us in dramatic fashion that when children have repeated failure in an unsympathetic context, a key part of their brain screws up and is the very devil to loosen, but with interesting, rich learning in both the 3Rs and the arts, the outcome is the brain sending out probes of satisfaction. I have spent my whole life on the holistic, explaining its gathering origins in New Zealand (Beeby and Fraser) to be bravely carried on in sometimes hostile circumstance, especially by stjcs, until nearly finished off by Tomorrow’s Schools – but it still survives. [For the following please believe me, my motives are pure: Within the next five weeks, after two years of arduous work with my team, I will have for sale a File compendium devoted to the holistic, with many starting points suggested and the philosophy made clear.]
  1. We are starting at a low point for achievement as measured by the Dunedin Monitoring Unit (genuine national standards results – these on average are about 15-20 per cent below reported results), and international tests. Also a low point for NCEA results as characterised by the super-devious surrounding manoeuvres. All these matters should be formally looked at so that the coalition and public know  where we are from the beginning. If the new government doesn’t do this, then teacher organisations (in salary negotiations), the old government, also the media, will be on to it big time and the new government will have to wear the whole of the disastrous past. This is where Labour is so naïve – take my word, I can remember what has happened in education since Stuart Nash’s grandfather, or was it great-grandfather, was in government. At 18 years I was writing letters to the newspaper defending ‘playway’. Labour – wise up.
  1. The National Education Monitoring Unit should be re-established as the main way of evaluating achievement nationally – its main characteristic is that it monitors the whole curriculum in a holistic way. A call should be made for a grouping of countries to join together to develop an international testing system that functions transparently and concentrates on a broader view of the curriculum. (However, the government should stay in the present international system until that is achieved.)
  1. The NCEA is a complex rort doing much harm to secondary education, the key thing to introduce is a form of qualification (with listed strengths and accomplishments) for children who might otherwise struggle in NCEA (especially a more honest one). NCEA level 2 should not be a benchmark for the functioning of the system and secondary schools should be staffed to enable them to set up tutor systems in the first two years of secondary.
  1. The education review office should be radically restructured and renamed to better express the implications of that restructuring, and integrated into the ministry at all levels from head office to the districts. The neoliberal prescription of separation of administration (ministry) from evaluation (education review office) is specious and in being so, a harmful bureaucratic entanglement to the system and the functioning of schools. The review function should be carried out (though it can be varied according to the size of the schools to be visited) by teams comprising one permanent member, two principals (one the principal of the school) and two teachers (one a member of the school). Training centres to prepare reviewers for the role should be set up at universities and outposts.
  1. Communities of Learning CoLs) should be objectively investigated and teachers and principals brought together to discuss whether they want to continue with them (or in that form) or not, with the promise of increased school funding and a pay rise if they were abolished. Collaboration cannot occur in a non-collaborative system which means CoLs might be marginally more successful under Labour but the education system would be imperilled when National returned to government. We have, after all, just had the closest of escapes from a horrendous misuse of the CoLs. The millions of dollars should be returned to schools for increased school funding, a pay rise, and the setting up of an advisory service. The increased school funding would be sufficient, along with some seeding funding to be applied for from the ministry, for schools to set up collaborative patches as they decide.
  1. A committee of inquiry should be established to investigate the matters surrounding the appointment of a commissioner at Rangiora High School. The investigation should be both in particular and in general. The inquiry, in particular, should investigate the already court-proven employment wrongness that occurred at Rangiora High School and the ministerial behaviour in and around that decision; but in undertaking that investigation general principles should be drawn that would mean never again would such monstrous behaviour occur in New Zealand education.
  1. There should be a substantial restructuring of the ministry in head office and districts (as mentioned above the review function should be made an integral part of the ministry). Nearly all positions should be re-advertised with present holders free to re-apply. The media section should be considerably reduced and the requirement for successful former experience in the appropriate part of education be a key criterion.
  1. Substantially increased funding to meet children’s special needs should be a priority. There should be a substantial lift in support teacher numbers as well as moves to make support teacher staff better paid and to provide them with a greater sense of permanency.
  1. Schools and colleges of education should develop a better balance between general education courses and ones directly related to classrooms (though both should be considered equally important) – this might mean rehiring some academics who possess both academic and classroom knowledge. (I know that this would seem too late for the direction schools and colleges of education have taken but given the changed philosophical and political circumstances, the directions should be urgently reconsidered and compromises made within structures established or being established.)
  1. A permanent advisory service should be re-established and attached to universities to function within broad guidelines (an independent advisory service is an important source of practicable knowledge). Private advisers should be free to provide a service unrestricted by the need to be licensed or have government approval, support, or funding. In the meantime, with the abolition of national standards, temporary advisory groups should be immediately established to give advice, on request, on how to best take best advantage of the new circumstances.
  1. EDUCANZ, controlled by the government as it is and providing another unwanted layer of bureaucracy, should be abolished, and a Teachers Council controlled by teacher organisations established to concentrate on teacher professionalism and the safety and welfare of children.
  1. The major teacher and principal organisations should be represented as of right on all policy, curriculum, and administrative groupings. (Smaller organisations should be represented in a dispersed way throughout the system or where they have a strong particular case for representation.)
  1. The School Trustees Association (STA) should be restricted in its work to providing direct services to members. The School Trustees Association should have written into its constitution the need for it to act and be seen to act independently of the government. As well, a much greater proportion of its funding should come from schools, which should have an allocated amount provided for them to organise their own counselling and legal services or, as they choose, to subscribe to STA. There should be a review of school governance, in particular restricting board of trustees’ right to interfere directly and specifically in teaching and learning. As well, appointment responsibilities should be shared more widely, and unnecessary demands such as property removed.
  1. Computers:  while computers are important to the lives of children in their transactions with the world, and will be central to their lives as adults, doesn’t mean computers should be central to their lives in school education. Making computers central in school education would be to place computers above all other parts of education to damaging consequence to those other parts and to children’s developmental growth. The place of computers, if a new and more significant place is justified, should be as part of valid and thoughtful education change drawing from the vocational to the pedagogical to the philosophical not, as the case now, from ideological groupings, profit-interested industry, vote-seeking politicians, and computer-education enthusiasts. As children get older, direct vocational matters should assume a greater significance, and so should computers as part of that, but there is far more to education than direct vocational matters (as important as they become) for instance, the ever-continuing preparation for the broader life. Computers should be used where they enhance learning, not by the curriculum becoming the tool for computer learning. All this should be part of the big (but much wider than just computers) education discussion. However, what we should know above all, and we should hold on to as something real and solid amidst the ephemeral and flux, is that the fundamentals of children’s learning – if purposes are humanistic, enabling, and democratic – remain substantially the same. The best way to prepare children for the future is to meet their needs in the present.
  1. The curriculum area of mathematics should be given special attention (including a changed curriculum document): a curriculum committee could be established, meanwhile, conferences could be organised around the country and extra finance made available to schools working on innovative ideas. (It will, of course, head down the holistic road with problem-solving, non-formal grouping, and big mathematical ideas predominating.)
  1. The ministry should develop a number of basic models for school architecture ranging from a school of mainly enhanced single rooms; double rooms with a large door between; and large space schools. When a school is being partly or significantly rebuilt the models could help a school community make an informed choice.
  1. The new digital curriculum, which was largely written by corporates without due curriculum development process, that is without recognised teacher organisation, curriculum, child-learning, and philosophy expertise in its membership, should be dumped and begun again. It is a caricature of curriculum development that is both comical for its ineptness and inappropriateness, and horrendously sinister for our democracy.  To think it is supposed to be in action in nine school weeks – what a shambles. Where the hell were you teacher organisations and principals and academics when something of monumental significance like this in both outcome and process was occurring?

On that cheerful note I will leave it at that.

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