New NZPF president’s confused and shallow message

Iain Taylor is intelligent, charismatic, gregarious, and a brilliant if sometimes showy communicator – there is also a quixotism and a sense of sometimes being too clever by half, meaning he can end up opposite to where many may have anticipated.

But that, in a way, is his business, the executive’s, and principals’.

My task as a writer is to assess if he is going to be another fiddler and government patsy or take a strong stand on fundamental issues.

He says he first has to identify what the important issues are and where to make efforts to make the greatest difference.


Iain says: NZPF represents the interests of you all, and works to raise the capacity of our entire profession so that every principal can deliver a quality public education! To do this we must engage positively and purposefully; robustly and honestly with the Ministry of Education and the Minister. We are a stakeholder in this education world, as are they, and we must communicate with them meaningfully, and as effectively as we can, even when we disagree with their position! We must hold to our own values, and ethics and have a good grasp of what we see as the ‘big picture’. That is what will give us the endurance, stamina and vision to complete our work with determination and focus.

What does this mean? Why not plain speaking on identified key issues?

Iain refers to schools being a stakeholder: Where Iain can I find that stake being held by schools? I see schools more as baggage carriers.

There were all those years when Phillip Harding and I battled it out: he saying the kind of twaddle you are saying – then he left the executive and he wrote one of the most powerful and incisive articles imaginable on the deteriorating state of primary education. My suggestion Iain is you refer to that article and grow your policy from there.

My overall prediction: much grand talk, a bit of a conniver behind the scenes with Hekia and Peter, the end result a fiddler though perhaps falling short of being a patsy.

This little message of cheer is, of course, to contribute to what I hope is a case of proving myself wrong.

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6 Responses to New NZPF president’s confused and shallow message

  1. kellyned says:

    Lets all hope so.
    I certainly wondered when he had been that he was needing to ask what the key issues are……..

  2. Paul Johnson says:

    Hi Kelvin. I really hope you are wrong. Having met Iain, heard from his colleagues and witnessed his drive and energy, I believe he could be the man for the job. Come on Iain Taylor, be the leader that walked the streets to build a school back up! Kia kaha

  3. Kelvin says:

    And so am I. But note, he referred first to conferring with regional cluster leaders – what about schools not in clusters, or schools in clusters that don’t want to be. He walked the streets against national standard too, but now they have become embedded and normalised in clusters. The only concrete thing he says is get on with your chair; what about get ready for a fight for proper representation on EDUCANZ; or to roll national standards back, or to significantly increase the number of support teachers; or to allow genuine variety of teaching style and substance? The big issues are there, spell them out. As a teacher-leader watcher of many decades I am more than doubtful. It is one thing to fight for your school; it is another to fight the establishment for a reversal of policies that are wreaking havoc in classrooms.

  4. stephen dadelus says:

    Yes Kelvin, not an auspicious start to Iain’s term as President. I opened the PRINCIPAL MATTERS anticipating a good read.

    I was very disappointed.

    The content was insincere, shallow and lacked any substance. I expected Iain would have outlined with a fair measure of clarity his vision as he takes up his Presidency.

    It would have been reassuring to read his take on where things are at in our current educational landscape. In his past, he has had a strong educational leadership profile. He has been immersed for a considerable number of years at the very top end of debates, controversies and advocacies around bureaucratically imposed government initiatives. Iain was never short of the incisive comment capturing the multiple realities of schooling in NZ. As a consequence, he enjoyed a strong following and the support of principals and of teachers.

    Over the years he got my vote (of confidence), believing like the great majority of colleagues. that the NZPF needed that strong voice around the executive table. I was pleased when he was elected as President.

    His President’s message is just gibberish. A lot of Blah Blah.

    The opening paragraph is a nothing. This simplistic play on ‘principal matters …’because you do! needs more than a shouting exclamation mark to be convincing. Come on Iain don’t put words on paper just for the sake of it. We are all consumers and are bombarded with advertisers’ speak.

    A new year doesn’t always bring “renewed energy….. “etc, etc etc. A new year may continue the old nightmare. This kind of presumptuous glad wrapping could do with a dollop of hard nosed empathy from someone who really gives a damn.

    Quite revealing, this 3rd paragraph. I can have a charitable attitude to the two previous paragraphs… Iain just warming up ..finding his feet or his mojo..whatever.
    Whammy from left field, Iain has consulted with the cluster leaders. Hold on there Iain, I have paid my subs. When are you planning to consult with the leaders of the non cluster schools? The argument for wanting to be “the most influential advocate” is disingenuous. The position is clear: coming back suggests you already have been to us. To some yes. To others? Maybe some are more equal than others.

    Paragraph 4 could do with the accompaniment of the late Johhny Cash singing “I’ll walk the line”. If this is his best shot at “an issue” we are a lost cause before we start this year. I wonder what the true agenda is here. The President is an intelligent and a well informed school principal. This begs the question why build issues where there is very little or no evidence that this election will be any different than previous. Its a democracy. People use the ballot box. So what.

    By the time I waded through the morass of words to finally “embark on yet another.. ” blah blah… blah blah… ad infinitum I was well and truly bewildered by this consummate ‘gobbledygooker’ – I have to admit paragraphs 5 and 6 did my head in! Its been a long day and this past hour has frustrated the hell out of me. There you have it Kelvin, my head is done in!

    Mr Taylor’s missive reminds me of a description of Joyce’s in the Dubliners:

    “Mr Duffy lived a short distance from his body”

    Time I knocked off. Keep up the writing .. always a pleasure to read

  5. Bruce Hammonds says:

    Kelvin, I wrote the below on my blog in 2006- seems relevant to your posting above?

    From Bruce Hammonds

    These days there are few teachers that don’t include in their teaching vocabulary the phrase ‘feedback’ and, to show they are on the ball, ‘feed forward’! And there are few rooms that don’t have written out (in ‘student friendly language’) ‘learning intentions’. And of course there are ‘negotiated criteria’ and ‘student self assessment’ to be developed. All these techniques are linked to the efficient sounding phrase ‘evidence based teaching’. All very technocratic if hardly original.

    The proof is always in the results; in what students can demonstrate and do rather than recorded statistics and fancy graphs. And this ‘proof’, if it is required by those outside the classroom, ought to include attitudinal ‘data’ as well. All too often subjective aspects of learning, such as desire to continue with the activity, are missing.

    Too often the processes have replaced substance; learning is essentially about every individual making their own meaning.

    All these ideas seem to come from literacy projects relating to the ideas about formative assessment led by people like John Hattie. Hattie’s basic research finding was that the single most important way to improve students learning is ‘oodles and oodles of feedback.’ Hardly an original insight; I have observed creative teachers, who really value what students think and can do, using these ideas for decades.

    Creative teachers succeeded because of their focus on helping students achieve creative work required them to help with a ‘light hand’!. The difference between what creative teachers want and the formative assessment ‘converts’ is this avoidance of conformity – the valuing of individual responses rather than imbedding a way of thinking. And to make things worse many teachers, by applying a heavy handed exemplar criteria based approach to areas such as art, are developing classrooms that reflect teacher’s ideas rather than the imagination of their students.

    These dangers were pointed out by Noelene Alcorn, in NZCER Set 1 2005, who wrote that this emphasis on evidence based policy making and teaching, while having value, may as well lead to a narrowing of teaching possibilities. She says this narrow emphasis of issues of ‘evaluation, assessment, and measurement have become a major focus’. By placing student’s success or failure in the hands of the teachers skill of using such techniques could place unnecessary responsibility or ‘scape-goating’ on teachers.

    She also mentions that there are a number of other exciting approaches to learning that are available that may be being neglected, and that this ‘new found faith in evidence based teaching needs tempering.’ She is concerned that evidence based teaching is at the expense of ‘creativity imagination and higher order understanding. Teacher creativity has also suffered.’ She continues, ‘imagination and mystery are integral part of our lives. Not all evidence is factual. Education is a life long process concerned with much more than achievement of specified knowledge and skills.’

    And in respect to this faith in feedback research has shown that feedback can actually reduce ones capacity for honest self reflection by reinforcing our expectations that others will and should tell us how we are doing and therefore reducing self accountability and belief in ones own ideas.

    All this is not to say that these ‘evidence based’ techniques are not valuable, it is just that they should be used with sensitivity and respect for the identity and voice of the students.

    If teachers notices that their students writing, art and verbal responses, are becoming ‘clone like’ then it might be time to ‘lighten up’. We may be turning into ourselves into technicians and in the process sacrificing the artistry of teaching and the mystery of learning.

    The future requires not just those who can learn efficiently but learners with their talents and passions developed; with the imagination and confidence to their live creatively.

  6. Kelvin says:

    Well said, Bruce. I was interested in the quoted statement below: The point is that much quantitative evidence is distorted even a hoax (as is Hattie’s). I would be suspicious of ‘techniques’ and recommend focusing on substance both academic and teacher classroom practice.
    ‘All this is not to say that these ‘evidence based’ techniques are not valuable, it is just that they should be used with sensitivity and respect for the identity and voice of the students.’

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