If I was a principal I would vote against the Joint Initiative

It was fun to be on the Queen Street march with Ally Kroon and all the others, but it didn’t work out marvellously did it? Oh well, let’s keep at it.


The heading is not meant as a hard-hitting criticism of NZEI or NZPF; the manoeuvre to respond to the IES with the JI was an adroit one; it took the steam out Parata and the PPTA – serving to wrest some of the initiative from them. It also stopped a serious division developing amongst primary principals with the deluded breakaway group then being identified with government policy, thereby weakening NZEI for this and future battles.

It was for this reason I supported NZEI’s move to go into negotiations with the government.

One can see that all the fun has gone out of the IES for Parata and other anti-school education forces: it can be seen in Parata’s body language when discussing it; and in the sentiments expressed by Herald editorialists (spurred by Auckland Grammar’s Tim O’Connor withdrawing from it, calling it a waste of time).

Both the IES and JI are a bucketful of snakes. The JI is another gross entanglement; only Paul Goulter has ever had an inkling but that was last Thursday.

School education needs all this community stuff (National government-style) like a hole in the head.

Surely most of us can work out the National government plan for school education: to put layer on layer of bureaucracy on schools thereby pushing schools and teachers further down the hierarchy to control and dispossess. That is what those monster schools are about; having one principal for various schools; the imposition of the monstrous EDUCANZ as a controlling point; the setting free of ERO to dictate how schools should function down to minute classroom detail; and seeing everything as an administrative issue not a curriculum one.

The other part of the plan is to hide the resulting curriculum failure by setting up schools with a furtive encouragement to cheat. A kind of state sponsored context to do so. If you are caught out cheating outrageously, bad luck, you are for the jump, but for goodness sake don’t let that stop others.

I bet there will be in the new school funding plan, a pool to be shared on the basis of national standards or NCEA Level 2 results. Further encouragement.

The government has set Level 2 NCEA as the benchmark for how well education is going throughout the system. The league-table use of Level 2 NCEA and internal passes has meant cheating is richly rife; as for national standards, it is a more subtle kind of cheating but it is also widespread. The Achilles heel in the plan is PISA, which has the annoying habit of continually heading south, but PISA can be rorted, so I wouldn’t be surprised.

The National government is the first Western government to use cheating as a central policy of its education functioning. Brilliant really, you can knock the … out of schools and teachers at no political cost.

Yes – getting rid of the National Education Monitoring Project has worked a treat.

The following is a letter from a sharp Far North principal.

Hi Kelvin

The outcome of the Joint Initiative is largely unchanged from the IES plan.

But the feeling I am getting is that my fellow principals are beginning to fold.  Maybe a quick posting reminding them of the overwhelming rejection of this policy a year ago and that the changes are largely cosmetic (and for the greedy even worse) would be timely.

I saw this coming last year when NZEI began their JI talks with a strange focus on collaboration between schools as though that would be the panacea to all the troubles foisted upon us all over the last seven years.  You have written to trust the organisations – right now I see NZEI as massive failure (within what I appreciate is a difficult situation) and NZPF as again quiet on the benefit for children.  It seems to me that the fear of having a super principal new boss led many principals to reject last year rather than thinking about the effect of the policy on teaching and learning.

I agree with this letter completely, though I’m not quite so hard on the teacher organisations, after all, if we don’t like it we can vote it down or give it shaky support.

With December not far away, we don’t have to be turkeys.


To help in understanding the Marlene Campbell affair, the following was my response to a very good comment from Melulator:


Good comment Melulater: the judge had read all the government emails and documents but he had to guard against losing an appeal. As a result, he played it safe to make sure the decision that Marlene was wrongly dismissed stayed rock solid. He was also realistic about getting her job back; there are forces, especially National Party ones, that meant there would a kick-back detrimental to a settled environment for the children – I never gave much credence to the job-back claim. The judge’s very long summing up is an indication that he saw this as a case of considerable significance and injustice. When things settle down, and costs have been calculated against the government, Marlene will open up and people will be astonished. Marlene came into the school and did a brilliant job, pressure did go on teachers and there was some restlessness, it happens to many principals. Things settle down, they learn, they accommodate – but this was the Cameron Slater period – week after week he was invidious, and that process never became available. There was Marlene speaking out for teachers in that fetid national standards atmosphere – yes sometimes injudiciously, but overall wonderfully. Tolley went for broke to get rid of her – the rest will be revealed in time. No instance of serious misconduct in the statutory years or any of the court cases was ever brought forward. The judge kept asking where is the verified serious misconduct. It was a travesty. As I suggested, it will make a great book.


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15 Responses to If I was a principal I would vote against the Joint Initiative

  1. Mick says:

    IES seems a way for central govt to bring all schools into the fold so they can be better managed/ micro managed. Community of schools sounds a lot like ‘Education Boards’ before ‘Tomorrow’s School’. Self governing schools will be a thing of the past. With that will be zero autonomy.

  2. John Carrodus says:

    Kelvin, I fear that the JI and IES will ramp up on the back of exhausted teachers ( manipulaterd so) and students simply not cutting the mustard on all measures.The picture of our students failing on all fronts will be held as a mirror to reflect glory and light the new way forward…Yeah ! The saviour – IES/JI is HERE, courtesy of ERO and EDUCANZ! All will bow down. All will..eventually..tow the line!

  3. I asked a teacher at my son’s school this week when the school’s NZEI JI meeting was (so I could attend, not having a base school of my own), and I think the response sums things up. This from an excellent teacher who’s not behind the door. She didn’t know when the meeting was to take place, didn’t know (after 2 terms) who the school’s NZEI rep is, and felt IES/JI was a fait accompli in either form that she has little true information on.

    This is the truth of the matter – teachers out there largely are confused and uninformed, often not because of their own lack of interest but because information is scant and sketchy.

  4. Kelvin says:

    Part of this is the way teachers are being pushed down the hierarchy as referred to in the posting. It may be that NZEI needs to turn away from the government and to their members. The government is bringing out distraction after distraction. NZEI needs to concentrate on a big argument that really matters to classroom teachers – for instance, lack of freedom to meet the needs of children as they establish them.

  5. Gordon Baird says:

    Thank you Kelvin for this timely posting. The JI had left me with a deep sense of unease and it is great to have someone put it into context.

  6. stephen dadelus says:

    IES has never been about collaboration and the JI is its judas priest, the Iscariot at the high table.

    The NZEI leadership is grossly inept if it thinks it can sell its ‘collaboration’ mantra to teachers and principals who have been whipped about by the current and the recent ministers of education and the Ministry minnows who have done their bidding for years. NZEI needs to tell it like it is. The collaboration mantra is a sham. Schools have been sharing and working together for a century. They still are. We don’t deserve that cheap con! IES remains. Ask the NZEI if the ‘senior principal’ position remains? yes. And the payments? yes. And the central control of schools by one principal? yes.

    JI be damned.

  7. kellyned says:

    Hi Kelvin,
    I look forward to more details about the Campbell case. All in due time.
    I attended a JI meeting last week and was suprised and disappointed to hear primary principals at the same or similar point as secondary colleagues got to earlier on.
    I heard versions of the lame comment ‘If we don’t take the money it will be lost to education.’ My response to that is that it is effectively lost any way because it cannot achieve what is claimed – ie. raise student achievement. 75/80% of student outcome is generated by factors outside the school gate. If this money was to be poured into developing meaningful employment policy then maybe it would, over time, produce improved student achievement. However another layer of bureaucracy will never achieve better outcomes. If anything it will slow things down.
    I watch my colleagues who have begun a CoS driving up and down the road spending days in meetings – and they haven’t actually done anything in their schools yet.
    I often say – if I need a screwdriver for a job, you can give me as many hammers as you like but I won’t be able to get the job done. You can plate the hammers in gold ($$$) but they still can’t do the job of a screwdriver.
    CoS and JI are both hammers. And not very good hammers at that.

  8. Kelvin says:

    You principals are on fire this morning.

  9. kellyned says:

    Also, we were given three votes. The first one was a given, the second two I abstained from because I just can’t support something that is broken even before it starts.

  10. Cagey says:

    Morning Kelvin – you are not wrong. I attended the local NZEI JI meeting for principals last night; the content of the voting paper bordered on farce: one vote a given and the other two “options” Henry Ford would’ve been proud of (“Any colour you want as long as it’s black”).

    It smacks of the TPP approach in that we don’t really know what it is that we’re being asked to support. There’s no way in hell you’d sign up for a mortgage without knowing the details – what’s the difference.

    One suspects that the JI / CoS / CoL hybrid is simply the IES coming onstage through a different door wearing a different costume and spouting different dialogue….yet the essential plot remains unaltered – effectively unchanged.

    Is this really how you implement “system change”? Apparently it is – especially if you want total control…

  11. Graeme Whitworth says:

    I think we should clarify a couple of things. NZEI is not a separate entity. It is a large body of New Zealand Educators formed under an Institute to create a collective Voice in education – for members by members.
    IES was a conceptual model created by a group of “business focused” politicians to measure performance against student achievement vs student success in learning across a rich, world renown curriculum that develops the “Whole Child”.
    It was created to send education kicking and screaming back to the mid 20th Century – when John, Bill and Steven were boys at primary school.
    JI – Looking beyond the surface features this concept focuses on dreams, possibilities and a framework of hope for young educators of the 21st Century. It is an opportunity to move forward into a collaborative environment using resources and expertise across all sectors involved in educating the learner. It is an opportunity to build an Inquiry base to learning for young people heading into an unknown future, being capable and adaptive enough to use tools and resources still being invented and created. Lets embrace this opportunity!!! Bring on the 21st Century!!

    • John Carrodus says:

      I find it hard to look beyond the surface features when that is all there is. You are partly correct though, it is also about dreams,possibilities, frameworks and hopes. But they do not come from the pupils, teachers, boards, schools and their communities. They now come from phone a friend researchers, consultants, politicians and ERO. The rest of your story was true already about NZ schools, now gasping for air as the pillow of interference and systemic compliance is forced over their mouths. You have identified all the main elements in the mix, but they are in the wrong bowl in the wrong proportions and sequence. The cake will fail.

  12. Kelvin says:

    Graeme: Thanks for the reply. It gives readers the opportunity to weigh up the merits of an alternative view. However, it is important we move beyond concepts like 21st century learning and inquiry learning. Both concepts from my point-of-view have been anything but inventive or creative, and I don’t see an administrative change improving things. I would plump for teachers being freer to really invent and create, and smaller classes. The education review office and its prescriptive indicators and small, measurable objectives will still rule and EDUCANZ with its equally prescriptive appraisals. As well, Pearson is readying to move on to conveniently grouped schools. However, I admire your lively defence and your dreams. Thanks again.

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