Dear teachers and principals of New Zealand: Ivan Snook speaks

Ivan is an academic hero from the fight against Tomorrow’s Schools. At the time it seemed as there was Ivan and five or six other Massey academics, two from Victoria – and me from schools, carrying that fight. This is just a rerun from then: a catchphrase (‘school freedom’), a lot of slippery usage of words, and the needs of children take the hindmost.  We knew it would end up with measurement, control, and a rundown of public education – but constructed naivety abounded. And a cautionary tale to all – there was the Waikato academic Peter Ramsay, a sometime part of NZEI, who got enticed onto the Picot Committee, from which he proudly pointed to how many times ‘equity’ was mentioned in the Tomorrow’s Schools. All this strikes a bell.

To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune, to lose both looks like carelessness. This is to put it charitably in reference to a neoliberal school system change.


Ivan sent this response to a PPTA supporter of the IES who had sent the most recent formulation of the IES.


It is obvious that the names of the various new roles keep changing even within one document. I would hope that no-one places much faith in carefully crafted names for the roles: what will matter is what happens “on the ground.” I have a deep seated suspicion of “agreed documents” as if it is words that count. (This suspicion comes from painful experience in the sector not from “theory”). I ask “what lies behind the fine words and whose interests will be served?” A few more detailed comments:

1. Community of Schools (CoS) are to be directly funded for the three new roles; next step? give them more “flexibility” by funding them for all roles (i.e. bulk funding of teachers’ salaries a battle not yet over in my view: it is SO integral to the agenda.)

2. Much funding is available only for schools which are part of a Cos: how voluntary is “voluntary” in a scheme which contains large financial incentives or sanctions?

3. The facilitator (or whatever she is called) will have no “directive role” but will “advise” and “co-ordinate”.  Lovely words for a document: what will they mean in practice Consider the fate of all the “consultations” legislated in recent years: “we consulted and went ahead with the original proposal anyway.” Or as the Minister said on one occasion when challenged about consultation, “we consulted the consultations”!

4. The “facilitator” need not be a principal. Need she be a teacher at all? Why not a high powered CE from down town (especially in a powerful CoS: just as schools have different amounts of power so will CoS I suspect. Has anyone done any imaginary trials of CoS in, say, Wellington vs in the Wairarapa?)

6. “Professional standards” will be key as will “achievement outcomes.” In the current climate the latter always ends up meaning “marks on tests” and the former those teacher qualities presumed to lead to “marks on tests” As Michael Fullan (who is now on the IES advisory panel) said in a tape going around “measurement will be the key [to the success of IES].” OF COURSE it will (and measurement requires numbers).

7. How do your members and negotiators cope with the fact that while all this “cooperation” is going on (and the PM praising the school system for its quality—unlike three years ago when you were “failing the people of NZ”) the government is proceeding with indecent haste to put more and more money into charter schools which are designed to compete with state schools and to show, one way or another, that state schools are inferior.[You have seen the QPEC document which shows a charter school in south Auckland getting $40.000 per student compared to some $5000 per student in local low decile schools. Some competition! ]  And what do they make of the evolving policy to allow “elite’ private schools to integrate, retain high fees and in loads of ways get much much more money for the school than do state schools  and the more traditional integrated schools (mainly RC) Of course, parents must have “choice” and that means competition. So much for all the cooperation being fostered by the new IES. Beware the seduction of words in policy documents.

Policy has to be looked at in its entirety, don’t you think?



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3 Responses to Dear teachers and principals of New Zealand: Ivan Snook speaks

  1. Shirley Harris says:

    Thank goodness for Professor Emeritus Ivan Snook – we will be foolish if we do not listen and take heed from such a wise, well-informed ethical man.

    Kind Regards

    Dr Shirley Harris

  2. catharina says:

    Remember everyone mail to parliament is free – send our employees creative missives!!!

    Also, latest publication from NZCER supports a new paradigm for education in NZ along Manifesto lines.

    Cheers Catharina

  3. catharina says:

    And ask questions you want them to answer.

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