It has come to my attention that the ministry is making a big push on the use of PaCT.
The ministry is, of course, being dishonest; taking another step towards a command education system. The ministry’s real purpose is to identify teachers to put pressure on them within IES groups. If PaCT is just a tool to help make better OTJs, why the insistence on teachers to enter individual teacher and student identifiers. The ministry may well deny this, or give assurances –but I have very good information to the contrary.
When a bureaucrat (certain not to be from primary) comes to a meeting place near you, the place to really discuss it is not at that meeting but some time following it.
But even better is to have a meeting beforehand to agree that PaCT is a central symbol of national standards, which is a policy your teacher organisations oppose for very good reasons. Don’t let national standards become a norm by stealth.
If principals want national standards to be formalised and entrenched in their school and education system, I can see how they might come to support PaCT. But why would they? Is this why they became principals?
An even larger question is to ask is that with the increased centralised control, where is primary school education heading?
We have now had 25 years of the narrow curriculum that has been the centrepiece of Tomorrow’s Schools and included in that four years of national standards, the more formal expression of that narrowness. So it might be useful to remember that reading and writing has gone backwards in that time (writing more than reading which still has some good junior teaching), and maths at a rate of knots. Science is also recognised as in a mess, not so much social studies, even though it is. Computer use which, of course, has to be part of classrooms has, as was feared, been allowed to distract mightily from genuine learning.
The focus of principals in curriculum leadership should not be on the learning dead-end of national standards but on the joyously open-ended encouragement of creativity and imagination.
That means the focus would be on teaching children to read in a way that is consistent with getting children to want to read – to become independent readers; that books are the staple of children’s reading (that is, not bits and pieces from computers or journals), and especially fiction books (which are important to children becoming emotionally sensitive and mature). That means that the main aim in expressive writing is writing with sincerity; and in expository or argument, writing clearly and logically – which means a significant amount of time is needed to motivate children to care about their writing, to think deeply about it; it also means expressive writing should be the emphasis in primary schools, not expository, because primary children, in particular, are naturally motivated to write about themselves and their world. That means that drama, dance, and the arts are everyday parts of the curriculum, sharing the same main aim and purposes as expressive writing. That means that mathematics extends far beyond numeracy to a curriculum area based on solving problems, genuine problems. That means that science is a continuous experience for children based on science events around them – the purpose being to establish the connectedness of science phenomena. That means that social studies is about real people in the past, the present, and from New Zealand and elsewhere – with connectedness established by developing a feeling for the people being studied. And in all curriculum areas that means that the knowledge gained and the skills to be developed are learnt in the course of pursuing the main aim – and genuine thinking is encouraged though open-ended activities taken in an open-ended way.
Principals should be at the centre of curriculum leadership like this not wallowing in the bog that is national standards.
What PaCT does is legitimise the illegitimate. Rubbish in rubbish out, but a machine makes it all seem so official and valid. National standards is high stakes testing and high stakes testing is tampered testing and horribly distorting.
Say no, for the sake of the children and the future of primary teaching.