And now it is bullying by PLD personnel with the shadowy backing of ERO and the ministry

Of the stories sent in, I have given some priority to this one, that of a teacher being bullied by a senior person from a Professional Learning and Development company. Teachers are backing this up with their own accounts in which it has been obvious PLD people have spoken to the education review office or the ministry about teachers who have challenging views on education; or they have undertaken to tick teachers off themselves with the implied threat of the backing of the bureaucracies. Teachers have said they felt inhibited in discussion and under pressure to pad data (if the PLD prescription is necessarily right, any teacher who doesn’t improve results is obviously getting it wrong).

I am a teacher in small rural school in the central North Island. 

I have now been unemployed for a month. For 30 years I have taught at a local primary school and always been involved with our school community. I have always kept uppermost in my mind that each child has their own special potential – and that my job is to help them discover and grow this – whether it is music, rugby, science, carving, as well as all the other more formal parts of the curriculum. 

 This year at school, we received professional learning support from a big company. Two women came and talked to us about modern learning environments. They invited comment and I shared with them that we had many students who were the third generation who’d had trouble reading. I was trying to show them the bigger picture of our community and to talk about how we might be able to involve families in our literacy and learning programmes.

The two women were very challenging. They kept saying to me, ‘You have to examine the data.’ But what they really meant was looking at the maths and reading tests. Our room is full of data – photos, paintings, weaving, tukutuku stories, sporting, music, speech awards, as well as the data they were referring to.

The women were obviously not happy with me. We will be reporting you to others, they said. When they came back next time, they brought another woman with them. She was very aggressive and started by saying exactly the same thing. ‘Now you need to examine the data’ as though it was some kind of mantra. I tried to explain again that that in itself would not be sufficient as many of our children had not had the same opportunities as others and there was a constant need to build their confidence and gain their trust. Then I mentioned the three generation thing again …

This really unleashed something! The new woman poked her finger at me and said very loudly ‘Three generations!  And what do you think is the common factor here?’ Without waiting for any reply, she continued – with more finger pointing – ‘You!’

Not poverty, not the fact that these families sometimes give their children marijuana as a reward for being ‘good’, not family violence, ill-health, a lack of breakfast and a mum in jail …

 … Me!

My face was burning up and I couldn’t speak. I thought I was going to pass out – it was like being punched in the face. Not able to stay in the room, I ran out and got into my car. I have no idea how I drove home that night.

The next day I resigned. I feel as though everything I have ever believed in has been ripped out of me, everything I have ever valued about education gone. My doctor has prescribed anti-depressants.”

Kelvin, I know that you have asked people to share their stories. It seems that bullying is rife, thanks to a culture of bullying from the minister down through ministry advisers, the education review office and, increasingly, Professional Learning and Development personnel. 

And all ending up in our classrooms.

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18 Responses to And now it is bullying by PLD personnel with the shadowy backing of ERO and the ministry

  1. Karen Young says:

    My name is Karen Young. I have taught for 39 years in Northland schools. 28 years in my most recent school….and yes as long term classroom teachers in our small rural schools we have taught many generations of our local families and know these children extremely well and know how to build on their strengths so we can start building on their weaknesses….but in a three day visit by ERO my knowledge, empathy, dedication and career was destroyed….I have been on sick leave for two terms. I empathise with you Mrs Central North Island school teacher.
    PS: And I got not help from NZEI….thats my next story for Kelvin.

    • Kelvin says:

      My heart and full support goes out to you Karen.
      I only hope NZEI understands the organisation is hovering on the brink of disaster for itself and schools.

  2. Paul says:

    Where is the Principal/

    • Margaret Lange says:

      Principals are in a difficult position. There have been many instances lately of them being hounded out of the profession on sometimes rather dubious grounds because they have kicked against the pricks. (Note to ERO – this last bit is in no way intended to refer to any of you personally. It is just an apt quote from a best seller and an analogy worth investigating.)

      • Paul says:

        I understand but don’t agree Margaret. Principals have mana, if they do, because they have a moral purpose and set, with others, the moral tone of their school. To allow this stuff to happen means that they have not acted morally in an education sense, a leadership sense, or if the sense of being decent human beings. First they came for the teachers …

  3. Sue McIntosh says:

    These stories are becoming far too ‘normal’ and they are totally unacceptable. I became the victim of ERO/stat manager bullying 5 years ago. I was fortunate to be given a break by an understanding Prinicipal and rebuilt my confidence. However, my confidence in the system has been shattered – I have now left NZ to start a new life and career in ECE in Aus. I like to think I am missed as teaching was my life, just ask my husband. Oh and I got ‘help’ from NZEI too but that’s another story!

  4. Melulater says:

    I’m very wary of these PLD/Appraisal companies that have invaded our appraisal processes. I was surprised to see a principal introduce it to a school late last year before getting it ratified and budgeted by the BOT. My biggest concern about these, is not how supposedly fabulous these companies will be for streamlining and homogenising the appraisal system (text doesn’t convey my sarcasm), but how the data may, can and will be used against individual teachers.

  5. Colin Tarr says:

    Kia ora colleagues
    What did the central North Island School teacher’s principal know, say and do about this state of affairs they chronicle? And Karen Young and Sue McIntosh – what did your principals know, say and do about the situations that you report on here?

    • John Carrodus says:

      When my school was ERO’d once, it was not till six months later I found out that one of my best teachers who has gone on to great things,was left in tears in her classroom. She was too embarrassed at the time to tell anyone including her department head. In similar cases as testified in the previous accounts, over the last few weeks in particular, it is obvious the principals themselves have also been professionally abused. Nastiness and bullying is fife and has become the normal modus operandi in many spheres of bureaucratic management. Shortly before I retired I became concerned by the number of advisors in schools who appeared to have had paramilitary training,who burned with an almost mad suicide bomber jihad fever. God help those schools. It is no wonder that many schools now appear to be turning into soulless digital caves where children sit hooked into their electronics all day while a frazzled stressed out teacher works one on one with one of their clients who was able to book a ten minute conference a day or two earlier. God help those poor kids.

  6. catharina says:

    So good we can share here. Certainly we live in a weird world where so called advisers, ERO officers, and their like, turn into bullies and intimidate good teachers. NZEI historically stood up for teachers and the kiwi style of holistic learning which NZ is well known for. Now what’s happening? What can we do?

  7. kellyned says:

    Things may yet get worse for Principals as the Ministry is moving to build a list of ‘approved appraisers’. Once that happens it is sure to become increasingly difficult to form a positive working relationship with an appraiser.
    The other move by EDUCANZ is to build a complex system of ‘evidence collection’ that will mean teachers and principals will have to gather evidence that they are meeting the teacher criteria each year. That is all criteria every year. Like we haven’t got enough already that we can’t get done!

  8. Kelvin says:

    Yes – you are going to be appraised to a standstill; to a particular form of education – and you are being handed into it by a teacher organisation.

    • Paul says:

      My appraiser this year sent me an email listing the 14 people he wanted to get feedback from about my work. Then their was a portfolio, a look at assessment data and my target groups, a look at my goals for the year and assessments against the professional standards and more including surveys of even more groups of people. He is a good man but the extent that he suggested is clearly ridiculous and almost asking for someone somewhere to say something that would lead to a concern. If you keep digging you will find something that can be turned from a molehill to a mountain.

      • Kelvin says:

        Appraisal is going to devastate teaching, and lead to much hounding of principals, made all the worse because, at best, it’s a load of nonsense. However, the teacher organisations, both NZPF and NZEI have bought into it, and they’re your organisations. I am calling the capitulation Year Zero. We are now moving into serious control and surveillance territory.

  9. Jennifer Gerrie says:

    I have sympathy for all these teachers. It’s hard out ther at the coal face. Don’t ERO the Education Ministry & the appraisers realise that to get god data & results that you actually have to address their health, well being & behaviour issues first before learning will actually happen. They need to go and see what’s really happening in these schools by spending a few weeks observing & then putting into place the required resources, be it personnel, or money to help with the huge issues some of these schools, principals, teachers & teacher aides face on a daily basis.

    • Karen Young says:

      You are so right Jennifer. We have had 13 pakeha ERO personnel visit our school since last December. The last time any of them would have been classroom teachers the children would have been more compliant, special classes would have been operating, teachers would have had access to skilled Special Ed advisors, fetal substance damage would not have been as severe, poverty/family pressures not as prevalent, parents would have respected/backed the teachers’ decisions and they would have had less paper work…….they really don’t understand.
      Maybe it’s about time we looked at their data!!

  10. I am in the job of picking up the pieces. I work as an independent education consultant. I used to be an “adviser” but when I began to feel I was being pressured into being a mouth piece for the MOE (particularly re National Standards) I walked away and set up my own consultancy totally independent of MOE. I have had reports of being “bad mouthed” by official advisers which I continue to ignore and I have heard many stories of teachers being told “don’t think” do as we say. It is a bit ironic that teachers are told that individualised and self directed learning is the way to go for students but they themselves are denied any say whatsoever in their professional development learning. I wonder how many so called advisers have qualifications in adult education.

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