NZEI is making a monumental blunder in its support of the government-enforced school groupings

The NZEI national executive said they unanimously agreed that the ‘ministry offer was the best they could achieve in the circumstances’ and they encouraged teachers to accept it at Paid Union Meetings in September.

I am astounded that the NZEI is rationalising their betrayal of principles as a sensible response to the intransigence of the ministry negotiators; what did they expect?

The government’s policy of enforced school groupings will be used as the ultimate instrument of government control. Does the NZEI think they are going to be little islands of contentment in a hostile, angry, anti-teacher neoliberal sea? The school grouping policy will do nothing to allow teachers to teach with greater freedom; teachers will still be excluded from policy making and decision making; the narrow pedagogy and philosophy of the education review office will still dominate; the system will still be bound together by fear; teachers will still not be properly represented on the governing teaching body; teaching to measurable objectives will still dominate; national standards will still cripple learning, especially for certain groups of children; government controlled advisory services will still be the only ones available; further bureaucratic burdens and threats are still in the offing; academics will still be controlled by contracts; and education will be even more centralised and bureaucratically controlled.

Members of the NZEI executive and staff have put themselves forward as leaders; as such they should demonstrate moral courage not weakness when Hekia says boo. To lead can be uncomfortable, put NZEI out of the Wellington loop, put it at risk of retribution, too bad – it’s the nature of neoliberal philosophy. If you didn’t understand that you shouldn’t be there.

The executive went on to say that members have consistently asked: is the policy good for learners?

The executive said they saw great examples of successful collaboration around the country.

That kind of naïve sentiment has echoed disastrously in 20th century world history, as it did in New Zealand education with the introduction of Tomorrow’s Schools.

The executive has become the purveyor of ministry-type propaganda.

The government policy of enforced school groupings is a culmination of Tomorrow’s Schools and National’s unrelenting drive to control teachers and the curriculum to neoliberal ideological ends.

The Community of Learning sounds like something out of 1984, and with good reason: it is a corruption of language, masking a corruption of behaviour.

To support the government policy as NZEI is doing is to become complicit in it. If teachers become complicit, as happened with Tomorrow’s Schools, the policy becomes entrenched, and then, when there is a change of government, there is no change. Struggle for children and what is right is ennobling; becoming part of what is wrong is morally corrosive.

This is a sad moment in the history of the NZEI; I believe its very future hangs in the balance.

The Community of Learning is an administrative change, as was Tomorrow’s Schools, and will do nothing for children’s learning, except harm.

The Community of Learning is really Community for Control. The groups of schools will only have freedom consistent with government policy administered by the ministry and the education review office.

The government-enforced groupings are another bureaucratic layer. Does the executive really think the ministry and education review office are going to change their spots? Have they gone mad? Convincing teachers and schools of the efficacy of a policy is the government’s task, not theirs.

When it comes to children, the best in the circumstances is not pragmatism it is submission.

I urge NZEI members to vote ‘no’ to more ministry and review office control.

If the government legislates compulsory, that is what governments do, but if they say ‘no’, teachers will still be there for children, that is what primary teachers do, New Zealand primary teachers.

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11 Responses to NZEI is making a monumental blunder in its support of the government-enforced school groupings

  1. Tony Coughlan says:

    Nope, with respect Kelvin, I disagree with you for once. How long have we been using clusters now? One of the things I love about working in education is that rather than the corporate-greed-style intellectual property mentality where I’m going to make you pay if you want to borrow my work, education is the polar opposite. How many great teachers out there willingly and cheerfully share things that have worked for their students, for the greater good of all our young people. Gratis. If this dopey government wants to plough millions of bucks into what are essentially clusters, I say we let them and do what we’ve always done – use it for teaching and learning and improving outcomes for the kids. And if you’re wondering, no, I’m not bamboozled by the ideological idiocy behind the plan for COS for one second.

  2. Kelvin says:

    If there is ideological idiocy behind the plan Tony that will predominate. That’s what ideology does. What is it that they are sharing? Will teachers have the freedom to teach much more freely? In a way Tony, it is if as if you haven’t read the posting. The fantastic worldwide impetus of neoliberal education isn’t going to change for clusters. As a symbolic start, if teachers were included in policy making, allowed to share in that, then your argument might have some merit. That is at the heart of what I wrote. They are relying on teacher naivety to get this one through – but it is children who will have to bear the brunt of the inevitable and the obvious. Clusters do not address any of the major issues as to why school education in New Zealand is in decline, as to how it could improve. Do you really think clusters are going to outwit the bureaucracies? The bureaucracies will use fear and play on human frailty just as they have done in the present way things are organised. I have read Treasury plans for the clusters; they are shocking even to me. I’m an idealist to Tony but it isn’t enough on its own.

    • Tony Coughlan says:

      I completely agree that CoS will do nothing to change the right-wing market-driven model of education that has landed us with the abominations that are charter schools and National Standards. However that is not what my comment is referring to. I believe the clusters/communities have the opportunity to have a positive impact on classroom teaching and learning, which is at the heart of what we do. These are not “enforced school groupings”, they have come about from schools having conversations with each other, and choosing to enter into communities who will work together. The “ideological idiocy” I was referring to is performance-based pay, as evidenced by the use of terms such as “expert teacher”. However when the initial model was challenged the Ministry appeared (for once!) to listen to the concerns, and the changes proposed let to many groups, including my union the PPTA, changing their stance and supporting the initiative.

  3. Jim Swift says:

    Hi Kelvin. I share your concerns about the agreement between NZEI and the ministry. I think in time we may regret it. I still see it leading to winning and losing schools, principals, teachers and children. What happened to our initial stance, education is not broken. My fear is, is this US giving in to GERM.

  4. Kelvin says:

    Hi Tony: If I had known you were secondary I would have framed my reply a little differently but to the same effect. When, as a senior inspector, I went into secondary schools, I typically found a number of teachers looking for love in other secondary schools. Anyway, I should have guessed you were secondary because you gave your name; primary people, with some reason, believe the bureaucracies scan social media for dissension. There’s an answer in a nutshell.

  5. Jo Duston says:

    I took time this year to attend the Principals conference. I listened to speakers from Britain and America telling us not to let the government do to us what their governments had done to education in there respective countries. And guess what.. it started with unions trying to negotiate a better deal than what their governments proposed.
    We should have said no and meant it. Not negotiated- just not bought into it.
    I agree working in clusters is great and there are many clusters that have functioned around the country for the betterment of education but they have done it because they wanted to and they saw a need, not because it was imposed on them.

  6. Here are the comments posted on Facebook “Stand Up for Kids’ and “We Don’t Need Your Charter Schools’ pages:
    Andrew Mccarthy:
    So much agree even if my teaching is mostly at secondary and tertiary level.
    Niky Clegg:
    I think they felt it was a damned if you do and damned if you don”t type of scenario. That was what came across at the PUM.
    Mel Harnetty:
    Precisely! Kelvin Smythe!!
    NZEI and Teachers are being bullied into submission!!! This is not from” the roots up” policy making!!! It is propaganda and bullying and very scary that “control” is more important than our children and the future of our country. Simply unbelievable and horrifying.
    Christine Mack:
    I agree a cave in and pragmatic BS in the face of a govt afraid to consult with the profession in a considered way or to support an education that is unique to our country.
    Sue Kenny:
    Unfortunately I think this govt will push through anyway so really NZEI are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Consessions/negotiations to pre-empt some of the negative impact is probably all they can do.
    Steve Berezowski:
    I think NZEI will need to changed its slogan ‘stronger together’ to ‘weaker together’ as it appears they feel they don’t have the ability to fight against a system that 93% of its members voted against in August last year.
    Gillian Robertson:
    Rock and a hard place.

  7. Kelvin says:

    Below a very brief three lines, part of a wonderful e-mail from a principal. Again and again I am hearing the bullying charge. This could split NZEI. It needed a fair vote. Bullying from the government now the union.

    Here are those three lines:

    ‘Apparently people did speak against a yes vote at the first Hamilton meeting at Fairfield.. The NZEI reps came back with ‘It’s the best of the two choices’ kind of ideas.’

    ‘It might be but isn’t that the point. We are being bullied.’

  8. Bruce Hammonds says:

    I have to agree with Jo. The September NZPPF Magazine gives a chilling warning about the anti public/pro privatization direction the government is taking schools . Schools ( and the NZEI ) that comply with the Community of Schools concept are like ‘Judas sheep’ leading the others to fall in line. Such ‘communities’. ought to be more accurately named Communities of Compliance; bureaucratic groups not true communities based on trusting relationships.

    And I agree with Jo that primary schools , in particular, have always made full use of collaboration to share ideas – ideas that best emanate from creative teachers.. Tomorrows Schools, based on a competitive business ethos, put an end to such schools sharing.

    So it is not the community idea that is the problem it is the top down agenda of the government who want to impose their formulaic ideas about education on schools. The money being spend on their proposal with come with narrow accountability targets that will further distort education.

    Worst of all he environment that will created will not be a conducive one for creative teachers; teachers who have long been been the lifeblood of our system

    It is a shame a number of schools have been sucked in.

  9. Kelvin says:

    Jo and Bruce: a brilliant interplay between the two of you, and so much wisdom.

  10. Melulater says:

    We need a shift in thinking from the rank and file of teachers and principals. “If we don’t play the game/negotiate/get in the tent it will just be done to us.” Nup. I don’t accept that at all. Don’t comply. Stand firm. But it has to come with confirmed clarity from the leadership of NZEI & NZPF because no one will follow if they don’t stand with conviction against the GERM! And that resolution from our leaders will not happen while teachers remain apathetic and only think in the short term about their back pocket rather than the long term about the NZ education system, their profession and what is truly best for our students.

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