Trash Education Review (June) article on clusters

Jude Barback is editor of a publication of particularly nauseating content; a product reminiscent of those 1984 publishing factories … oh the skin-crawling forced hockey-sticks jocularity overlaying sinister purpose. Her publication is unremittingly government-aligned – why doesn’t she declare that status?

When I read it, I felt a stranger in my own country.

I need to tell her that contrary to her claim, there is no discernible difference between IESs and CoLs.

She doesn’t name differences because there aren’t any.

She describe IES as being ‘flung on schools’ – that isn’t by accident as flinging things on schools is philosophically central to government policy. Did she for a moment entertain the thought that flinging stuff on schools is purposefully done as a policy to demean?

Don’t be fooled by any hint of criticism that might seem to be contained in the word ‘flung’; it is just a rhetorical trick by Barback to contrast with a riotous buds in May that follows.

Simon Heath, an appointment to the Education Council incidentally – or perhaps not, and who shares leadership of the Blenheim cluster, said ‘the NZEI’s stance meant that some teachers were not sure if they wanted to buy into it and put their hands up for roles. It was very political.’

Really? the government ‘flung’ IES at schools and the NZEI is charged with being political!

From the sound of it Simon Heath, I don’t know you from a bar of soap, but are you the kind of principal who can’t see the truth for whatever?

Many education leaders don’t seem to realise that for all the best efforts of New Zealand principals and teachers we are sliding into mediocrity.

NCEA results are inflated by around 20% and national standards about 12% (soon to rocket as a result of the 85% set for clusters). Just for starters – a Dunedin government-contracted research group has recommended a new test for secondary schools to get somewhere nearer the truth; as for primary – here we have national standards rising and PISA going down, and the farcical results handed on to intermediate schools  by contributing ones.

God knows where we are with thinking and the arts!

National standards are an education horror story which the clusters are set to embed further.

While national standards high stakes inflation reigns, clusters will, of course, get away scot free.

Allowing their leaders to carry on trash talking as if there was no tomorrow.

Already, clusters have cost every cluster school one full teacher.

One of the great ironies of contemporary New Zealand primary education is that never has it been more tested to complete confusion of where we actually are.

To formally test schools (that is tests set and marked by the government) would be a horror story too far, but one thing it would do is put an end to educationally harmful malarkeys like clusters.

Jill Farquharson of Auckland Normal Intermediate, head of an Auckland Central cluster – agrees (with Simon).

‘Some staff have put their political preferences aside to support the initiative … We shared with staff just how good it is for kids.’

Jill – what a haughty attitude towards teachers: you didn’t countenance that teachers could have objections to clusters other than from political bias?

You didn’t countenance that teachers might have objections to embedding national standards in another structure; to spending on an organisational structure rather than, say, directly on smaller class sizes or more teacher aides?

Of course the clusters will meet the targets; it’s called high stakes assessment.

Clusters everywhere, no matter the stage they are at, are struggling for purpose and cohesion – go below the one or two leaders there is deep cynicism and frustration at the sheer waste of time and money.

And much talk about teachers but nothing from them officially. I continuously, though, get their point-of-view sent to me in correspondence and they are deeply unhappy.

Karen Stewart who shares leadership of the Blenheim cluster goes to the heart of the whole cluster organisation: ‘the goals are driven by data’ – exactly.

Incapacitated behind the wheel.

The data being deeply flawed.

Towards the end of this barbarous article is a truly frightening description, down to fine detail, of ministry involvement in clusters. How can that be good? Is that truly what New Zealand primary education needs? More bureaucracy? Oh come on! Schools and teachers need to be freer. Just because we have some principals of large high decile schools with a sizeable administration staff to support them, having a great time, dancing buds in May – that is no test.

Clusters aren’t working and won’t work because they are exactly opposite to what the system and schools need for improvement. Clusters are more of the same, more of the same failing policy that the government is getting away with because there are no independent organisations within the system, no results from schools that are anywhere accurate.

Farquharson says the ministry has been ‘fantastic with things like dealing with macro data’. Oh please!

‘It’s a game changer’ says Heath.

Only if making things worse qualifies.

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5 Responses to Trash Education Review (June) article on clusters

  1. russell1 says:

    Hi Kelvin
    You are exactly right.
    My school’s non-participation in a cluster is pure and simple. They make no sense.
    • Why would any school want their principal out of the school 2 days per week?
    • Why would any school want their best teachers out of the classroom 2 days per week?
    • How could schools benefit from working more closely with schools that bear little (or no) resemblance to their own circumstances or clientele?
    There is nothing political about any of the decision making. Just logical common sense.

  2. Alan Hansen says:

    Ask rural and sole charge schools how the cluster model is working for them. As you say Kelvin it might work well (or at least a rat able to be swallowed) for urban schools where Principals can attend endless meetings and across school teacher roles actually only involve a short amounbt of travel to get from school a to school b, but when your nearest school is 40km away down a goat track road and you are a sole charge principal – what is the point of even bothering to attend meetings or to have an across school teacher try and operate in your context. A waste of energy.

    Good spot re education council link. It is interesting to see how the “early adopters” of policy are rewardeded e.g paragraph 5 below

  3. poled says:

    I heard a discussion on National Radio some time back about IES. Peter Hughes, Graham Stoop, or someone from the Ministry was on talking propaganda rubbish and not being pressed about it. A principal from the top of the South Island was quoted as (my words) someone “onto it.” To me this principal, seen as a “leading light, was the perfect example of the demise of schooling in this country and gave me a sad example to quote since then of that fact.

    A little girl, continuing her adventure of life, her exploration, turns up at school on her first day. All the wonder ahead of her, all the possibilities, all the help she’s to get to carry her on her journey. A magic carpet ride as the magic gates are entered.

    And then she is spied – and immediately denied – the “leading light” principal sees her. What he sees is something to process and send to Heaven, his Nirvana – NCEA Level 2. This tot is nothing but material to be worked on, to be spewed out the other end in 12 years time, with all the right boxes ticked.

    When principals are blind we should weep. When they are lauded for their myopia you know we are well and truly stuffed.

  4. Bruce Hammonds says:

    The Ministry got it wrong. There is nothing ‘community’ in their Communities of Schools. Communities are cultures e held together by shared values and respectful relationships not narrow Ministry approved targets, led by highly rewarded ‘Judas sheep’ with professional development provided by Ministry approved providers. The cluster scheme is all about toeing the Ministry line and could well end up with super managers in charge of several schools – like mini corporations – or maybe ‘free market Stalinism’. It will the end of diversity and creativity.

  5. principalatuni2016 says:

    I agree with all the above statements from my colleagues. For me it is simple control. It is far easier to control the masses when they have been put into groups, being lead by principals who like a healthy pay cheque over the good of children. COLs not for me or my rural brethren north of the mountain. We collaborate when we need to collaborate. Our communities, although quite close together, are different from each other, thus our schools each have their own unique flavour and style. Some of us are still fighting against the narrowing curriculum and harmful NS situation. Yet, as the MOE have implied, prof dev funding will be tagged to these COLs and I believe the rest of NZ schools will be slowly strangled of their entitlement to professional learning through insufficient funds. It will be like your eftpos card getting declined at the supermarket for schools outside of COLs.

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