Yesterday’s e-mail is a small win over ERO

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
Importance: High

Tēna koutou

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 If they are out of date you’ll need to update them with the Ministry, who will then provide ERO with the new details.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

Iona Holsted

Chief Review Officer

Communications Team

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

www.ero.govt.nz

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.

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4 Responses to Yesterday’s e-mail is a small win over ERO

  1. Roger Young says:

    Well said. The bullying and power wielding has become the standard MO of ERO.
    The review Office appears to have changed its role from actual reviewing schools to demanding that schools perform according to EROs current dogma. It is also very clear that the child is the very last one of their considerations when visiting schools. There is evidence of real derision of the board chairs’ role and a condescending attitude toward board members generally. There is also the worrying new trend of criticizing teachers.
    If the child were the heart of the matter more time would be spent in reviews looking at what the children are actually doing and achieving as opposed to making criticisms of endless paperwork. The reviewers would spend more time listening and watching before making judgements. There would be less reliance on complaints and more on positive comments. It has been said many times in many positions that the key for employers is to look after their staff and the staff will look after their clients. The corollary would state that it is not reasonable to mistreat your teachers and expect that to have a good effect on the students
    Let’s hope that ERO does change tack and listens to community representatives and offers recommendations which help communities to retain self-governing and independent schools.
    As an afterthought, schools will not be able to work against things like bullying in schools while they are themselves being bullied by ERO and Government.

  2. Allan Alach says:

    The aspect that leaves me incredulous is that nothing has changed since the early 1990s and the Judith Aitken years. There was a short window in the 2000s, following the 2001 review that hammered ERO and its ideologies (if ERO had been a school, such a review would have seen the immediate removal of the BOT and the appointment of a commissioner), when ERO showed glimpses of good practice. The moment the present government took office, with its narrow focus on ‘raising achievement’ ERO reverted to its old ways, and here we are. The whole notion of school reviews needs to go back to the drawing board to develop a system that is accountable and that must be targeted to assist schools to develop according to sound educational principles.

  3. John Carrodus says:

    I wish I could share the joy with you Kelvin. However it sounds to me a bit like the fishmonger inviting the lobster to bring her own tartare sauce to the clambake. It is a way of ambushing any possie before they reach the pass. By implicating the board at every opportunity, it will be easier to fend off any challenge to an ‘agreed’ outcome at draft stage. The only tunnel at the end of the light is that ERO is at least aware of a cracked wheel and a kink in in the rails. What they are betting on is that the herd will now move on and there are no more elephants stuck on the track. If there is more than one, it will not be a slow train crash and forensics will have no trouble pinning the blame!

  4. Kelvin says:

    Absolutely not joy – mild satisfaction that the action of some schools has put ERO temporarily on the defensive. I am quietly advising a number of schools and ERO has backed off to quite an extent. It is an invitation, now,to the teacher organisations to pay attention to issues that really matter. And I have more to come, much more. The schools I have worked with have had savvy chairs who would have made a difference.

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