The following e-mail was sent to all schools. It is clearly a rushed measure from Iona, a small advance, but a welcome one, and I praise her for it. It reads as grudging, but I suggest it might have somewhat bigger implications for the review process than anticipated; and it is not without dangers for schools. Overall, it is a small win. Note the date of its implementation – under three weeks – it is a rushed measure. ERO might have been pondering such a measure, a bit how Auckland is pondering a second crossing, but it has been forced to do something by the enveloping furore around ERO bungling.
From: Kate Clark [mailto:Kate.Clark@ero.govt.nz]
Sent: Monday, 21 September 2015 11:48 a.m.
Cc: Kate Clark <Kate.Clark@ero.govt.nz>
Subject: Increasing trustee participation and engagement in education reviews
Most principals and board chairs work closely on our reviews but sometimes this isn’t the case. So from the start of Term four (Monday 12 October) ERO will email both you and the board chair with key review information, including notification of a forthcoming ERO review and copies of draft and final reports. Previously this information has gone to principals only.
We’re making this change to invite greater participation and engagement in the review process by trustees. Sending key review information to both principals and board chairs is one way to encourage this.
We hope board chairs and trustees can join us when we review your school but are aware that this may not be possible for all board members. However, we hope that those trustees who are available will be able to keep the rest of their board up to date with review proceedings using their usual channels of communication.
The email addresses that ERO uses are taken from the Ministry of Education database. It is worth checking with the Ministry that email addresses are correct. If they are out of date you’ll need to update them with the Ministry, who will then provide ERO with the new details. You can check and update details by emailing Information.Officer@education.govt.nz.
Please get in touch with your local ERO office if you have any questions about this change in our process. You’ll find the contact details at www.ero.govt.nz/Contact-Us.
Ngā mihi nui
Chief Review Officer
Education Review Office | Te Tari Arotake Mātauranga
National Office | Tari Matua
P 64 4 474 1235| F 64 4 499 2482
Level 1, 101 Lambton Quay | Box 2799, Wellington 6140, New Zealand
Ko te Tamaiti te Pūtake o te Kaupapa!
The Child – the Heart of the Matter
You have to emit a bitter laugh at ‘The Child – Heart of the Matter’. If the child was the heart of the matter, the education review office would be very differently structured. Iona: at the heart of the matter is control.
The first part of the e-mail demonstrates ERO’s real purpose; delivering a snow job.
Much is made of direct communication with the board chair. That already happens – have they heard of cc.?
So they go on and on about nothing.
Of substance, however, as a declared means to increased transparency, is the invitation for trustees to be present during reviews. (Which I know sort of happens now, but this is slightly more embedded.)
There is an irony here because you have just abolished the Friend of the School concept because of too much transparency.
But needs must.
Many principals will scoff at the plan because few trustees, as a result of work and other responsibilities, will be able to attend. But I suggest enough will, especially when there is the possibility of fraught circumstances.
Now the situation will cut both ways: some anti-principal trustees will be keen to attend to stoke up problems for the principal, but I predict that in most circumstances if the principal prepares trustees carefully, it will act as a brake on review officers and significantly complicate their role.
Being a review officer is a shitty job only made bearable for most reviewers by the opportunity to bully and wield power. Having active, informed trustees will reduce the opportunities for this negative satisfaction.
Trustees in attendance will complicate things for reviews.
There is another thing, in school after school, there is a group of complaining parents who organise themselves to capture the attention and support of the review office and ministry. In most circumstances these complaining groups refuse to go through proper process, often because their complaints are adult concerns, or neurotically irrational. But the bureaucracies love them because of the bullying and power wielding opportunities they provide. As well, Iona has told her reviewers to really put it to schools, but most reviewers are low level functionaries and can’t put it to schools in a positive way, meaning, as suggested above, they resort to bullying and power wielding.
This policy change puts trustees more firmly in the review process, allowing them to say: ‘Hi – we are the representatives of the community, now you listen to us.’
The placement of the trustees in and around school reviews will have, I suggest, an existential effect on what occurs. Only a small gain overall, but better than NZEI and the executive who have suddenly surfaced, lo and behold to passionately campaign for delivering schools holus-bolus to the neoliberal bureaucracies, indeed, to partner with them.