The latest flyer from NZPF is like watching an organisation in the midst of a breakdown. There is the most curdled of introductions followed by a Monty Python survey. One hopes that something as important as this survey was developed by the senior leadership and then approved by the rest of the executive. I suspect that it wasn’t.
The NZPF has been behaving in the most extraordinary way with the government’s control cluster policy.
The explanation I have put forward for that behaviour is that NZPF has set out to use delaying tactics to obstruct principals from expressing a decisive view, leaving the executive, at the last moment, to declare they had struck a deal with the government and that the policy should now be supported.
There was the first Monty Python survey; the farce that was the moot; the behaviour of the NZPF president at the joint forum; his strangely elusive media comments throughout; his equally strangely elusive flyers and newsletters; and, just recently, his straw polls in his regional meetings with principals (after strongly opposing a straw vote at the joint forum) – now there is this flyer and and the second Monty Python survey.
Phil Harding says, ‘There are mounting and conflicting pressures on NZPF both for and against this policy’. If there are mounting pressures for the policy – where are they being expressed in any public way and concerted way?
Then Phil Harding lists what he calls ‘a few comments on the IES’ – that add up, in my view, to sly pressure to support the policy.
‘The $359m assigned to the policy is the biggest item of new money announced in the budget.’
[Are we supposed to judge the worthwhileness of a policy on the basis of the amount of money allocated to it?]
‘The PPTA and SPANZ have embraced the policy.’
[PPTA and SPANZ ‘have embraced the policy’; NZEI opposed; and NZPF which has the same amount of information, has no position, and calls that being professional.]
‘NZEI has expressed concerns about the policy from the start.’
[To say NZEI has expressed concerns from the start is a gross understatement; in effect it has been totally opposed from the start – in other words, NZEI has not felt constrained in opposing the policy from any supposed lack of information.]
He then goes on to say Labour will not implement the policy if it gets in, but that if National gets in it is ‘likely to proceed irrespective of whether the bargaining process votes it down’.
[This is a sly way of saying that opposition by schools is hopeless, better to get on side with the government – in other words might is right.]
‘If the primary sector opposes the policy its implementation becomes problematic.’
[This is entirely contrary to the point above. However, my information is that we can expect the executive principals and expert and lead teachers to be employed under individual employment contacts. And, with the National government being returned with an overwhelming majority, I expect draconian measures to enforce some kind of compliance. However, if primary teacher organisations don’t oppose the control cluster policy, it will become entrenched without the possibility of organised opposition – an entirely unethical position for primary teacher organisations to find themselves in. Eventually, this policy will collapse, but teacher organisations need to be in a position to hasten this.]
Then, in what I consider unprofessional, unethical, and unreasonable, he counters two forums organised to discuss the policy and which came out against the policy, with meetings not organised to discuss the policy and which he said wanted more information on the policy before they could come to a decision. This ‘more information’ is another expression of the ‘we need more detail’ tactic to try and swing principals behind the policy.
[This matter of supposed lack of detail is one of considerable deceptiveness. NZPF’s argument seems to be that the devil is in the detail, but this is education not an insurance policy, the devil is in the substance. NZPF has been party to all the detail; it knows the government is making it up as it goes along; in effect NZPF is asking for detail that doesn’t exist. But my point is that it doesn’t much matter anyway – the substance, by definition matters most. Detail is just that and is transitory; it is the substance that matters because it is the purest expression of the philosophy.]
The final paragraphs are similarly confused and sly attempts to delay and confuse.
Then comes the Monty Python survey, and more of the same.
The first item is: ‘I am totally opposed to this policy’ which then needed a matching ‘I am totally supportive of this policy’ – but it isn’t there.
‘I do not currently know enough to determine my position.’ This is the ‘detail’ tactic finding expression in the survey.
‘I support parts of the policy but have concerns about others.’ Any support for this one will feed into ‘detail’ tactic referred to above.
‘I am largely in support of the policy.’ [The qualifiers of ‘totally’ and ‘largely’ have no place in such a survey.]
This is a disorienting survey: principals, teachers, boards of trustees, and children deserved better.
The behaviour of the NZPF is extraordinary – here is an organisation closely involved in the policy since its announcement, apparently unable to come to a clear position, but only apparently, because, in effect, the leadership of the organisation wants to join with the government in being part of the policy. A policy which has taken over the admirable and useful word of ‘collaboration’, stripped it of its meaning, allowing exactly the opposite to take hold. The NZPF tactic of continually calling for ‘more detail’ is creating an appearance of disunity and could have terrible consequences in encouraging the government to act against teachers in the harshest of ways. Teachers need to unite on what is right for children or we will have the government acting on might is right against teachers.
But hark! Is that the boards stirring? They may yet have a decisive role to play in how this policy unfolds or – more particularly – doesn’t.