(Part 2 will be an email dialogue between a principal and NZEI)
The real purpose of the Communities of Schools is to aggregate schools for ease of government control and propaganda.
Given there is still in place a non-accountable education review office; the exclusion of teachers from policy formation; the exclusion of teachers from the teachers council; national standards; a curriculum based on measurable objectives; a curriculum developed on a continuous basis in review and ministry offices; a curriculum based on there being one way of doing things; systemic bullying and fear-based control; professional development as an extension of the bureaucracies; academia controlled by contracts; and a vast and intrusive centralised propaganda machine – what else could be the purpose?
The government came to the discussions on Communities of Schools with their neoliberal changes to the education system non-negotiable; NZEI should have rejected that and insisted on genuine change before negotiation could begin. How can Communities of Schools work to the advantage of schools and children under the existing organisational strictures of exclusion, imposition, and fear? Fair dealing and trust must go together for fair dealing to be fair dealing. Without changes to the existing control, exclusion of teachers, and measurement policies – the Communities of Schools’ policy, if acted on, will only intensify and serve to embed the harmful characteristics of the present system. How can schools work together in fair dealing if the government refuses to do so in the wider system?
The present education system is antithetical to any chance of children’s learning and welfare being a priority; yes at the centre of attention, but not the priority. The priority is control, control by various groups of adults, through bewildering layers of bureaucracy. Boards of trustees interlinked with an increasingly hostile-to-teachers School Trustees Association; Communities of Schools to be the next layer, close up and personal and intertwined with all the other levels; the contracted universities and professional development contractors working as an extension of the ministry; and then there is a hyped up education review office; a ministry working at local and central level spreading its tentacles to control all the bureaucratic layers; and the newly developed EDUCANZ set to tighten even further controls over principals, and what the curriculum is and how it should be organised.
The teacher organisations have just stood by, helpless, bewildered, platitudinous, and lacking philosophical depth; as result, they have allowed themselves to be drawn in to become part of those bureaucratic layers; therefore part of the problem. They have not developed the subtlety to grasp the potency of the symbolic stance; for instance, just standing apart from the government and saying ‘no’ – we can’t stop you, but we are not going to be part of it, and we will be telling the public and our members why. Such a policy takes moral strength, and it can be lonely, as the customary hobnobbing won’t be on offer – teacher organisation leaders would have to generate their own power from their members and the public rather than doing favours for the government for increased access and crumbs in return. There is also some risk to vocational prospects; this government can make life difficult for those who speak out. It is playing the longer game but it is the principled one that keeps alive the possibility of a sane and honest education system to replace the present one of madness and pervasive propaganda.
The Communities of Schools is going to be a snitch paradise. I have documentary evidence that figures in Communities of Schools are already reporting details to the ministry about principals who don’t want their school to be in a Community of Schools but the board does, and so on. Communities of Schools might elect their leaders but it is the snitches who will have the power.
Readers will have noted how Hekia Parata in an earlier posting was shown to have lied in the House, declaring that out-of-school influences on learning are 18% when the report she supposedly gleaned that 18% from, concluded it was 78%. (One reader commented that it might not have been a case of lying at all but of needing to go to Specsavers.) The lie was not accidental, it was crucial, crucial to the establishment of government’s Communities of Schools’ policy of putting primary schools under unrelenting high stakes pressure to ‘encourage’ them, by hook or by crook, to get to 85%. The education review office is buzzing at the prospect with plans well advanced to descend like a plague of locusts on schools. When most schools ‘reach’ that figure, as most will (you know what I mean); it will be exploited as a triumph for government policy and boon for propaganda. The message communicated will be that for school improvement, all that is needed is the government setting targets and demanding schools achieve them. The obverse message will be that schools do not need increased funding or efforts to improve the socio-economic circumstances of children. To reinforce that message, first there was Parata with a bad faith article in the Herald, in effect talking up the 18% concept; followed a week later by Barbara Ala’alatoa, chairperson for the teacher-demeaning EDUCANZ, with her own bad faith article, going on in mini-Hattie style about ‘decile not being destiny’. (I would like to introduce an education version of Godwin’s Law – Smythe’s Law – in which any playing of the Hattie card means discussion comes to an end and the argument lost.) The two Herald articles in quick succession were pretty clearly a stunt organised by one of the minister’s 26 strong media relations pack. There is something terribly wrong with education today: we ask little children (and all ages) to come unto schools but their welfare isn’t a priority; oh yes in words, but not in actions, especially policy action.
There is already enough inflation in national standards figures in primary without having them descend to the horror level to be found in NCEA Level 2. If a secondary principal in your area is pontificating in support of a Community of Schools, remember that it can be guaranteed that he or she knows exactly what I mean. We don’t want to go there Secondary School Principal even though you look as though butter wouldn’t melt in your mouth. In fact, we want to get out of the high stakes destructiveness altogether to an honest and transparent way of proceeding.
The implementation of the Communities of Schools is not being done in good faith, has no prospect of being, and the policy should be returned to NZEI members for discussion.
The principal’s initial email was to Graham Jones; then Stephanie Mills came into the picture: a senior NZEI staff member – experienced, high-minded, and intelligent – who can be observed doing a good job in a near indefensible situation. The principal proceeds to cogently demonstrate the NZEI policy on Communities of Schools as muddleheaded and seriously wrong.
From a principal to NZEI about CoS
To: Graham Jones <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Good afternoon, Graham
I see that the PPTA Collective Agreement has been signed including any variations agreed during the term of the last collective. That would mean to me the structure of CoS with the way roles are allocated. As far as that goes there is still a mismatch between what was agreed by the PPTA and that agreed by the NZEI in the CoL model. It’s still the elephant in the room, or am I completely misreading it? Still two models?
To be continued in Part 2