Kerr off leash no longer barking mad

The New Zealand School Trustees’ M-16-8 has completed a wondrous turnaround. The challenge for the presidency from Richard Green has contributed, but the main reason is that Hekia Parata, while still a conservative educationist has, with her resignation, signalled disillusionment with the directions the system is taking. Parata’s resignation has been the uncoupling to allow Lorraine Kerr to protect her liberal flank, hence the downright good sense of her suggested changes to the Education (Update) Bill.

This does not mean a movement back to an education system free enough for principals and teachers to undertake the kind of teaching that would make a real difference; it is more a gesture for a neoliberal status quo, though there is possibly a long-term significance for genuine change as neoliberalism requires restless momentum for its existence. There is a chance now for political parties, teacher organisations, principals, and individuals to come out of their carapace to push for a genuine participatory education system.

Kerr speaks against the replacement of the NEGs with National Education and Learning Priorities (NELPs).

She warns they will become administrative guidelines, which is bit of a laugh given the present role of the NEGS. They seemed to be particularly aimed at formalising the early childhood curriculum. Kerr even introduces the idea of ‘bureaucratic drift’. I like it Lorraine – good one!

The forcing of boards of trustees to merge is opposed.

This one horrifies me in another way as it increases the destructive potential of the clusters.

Neoliberalism is by nature a philosophy of inherent bullying.

Kerr’s comment on clusters takes the bone – I just cannot improve on it:

‘Feedback from boards of trustees indicates that rather than being encouraged as a genuine whole-school and community collaboration, schools are being coerced into forming COLs that conform to the Ministry’s administrative requirements rather than responding to students’ and communities’ educational need.

A typical experience for boards of trustees we have spoken with is that on-the-ground discussions between schools that have identified a genuine ‘community of interest’ are being over-ridden by Ministry directives, which appears to be focussed on promoting COLs to school principals and senior staff as an administrative arrangement rather than an educational one

In this context, with the COL initiative not yet being effectively implemented we are concerned that extending COLs to include ECE and tertiary may be premature, and may further destabilise the implementation process.’

She then proceeds to pour hot-water on COOLs and FCOOLs, in effect calling them insufficiently thought through, half-baked.

Enrolment scheme changes are commented on then summarily dismissed:

‘NZSTA believes there is a real risk that some schools will suffer significant adverse effects on the school’s viability. We suggest that this section is deleted from the Bill, and that the Ministry instead engages with principals and boards of trustees to develop a more robust and effective process.’

As for funding, Kerr says it anticipates fundamental changes to the Bill.

This memorandum is the first fruit of Parata’s resignation.  As terrible as Parata (yes – still the worst minister of education ever) and Kerr have been, this is a moment that requires deftness and steadfastness. It is not a signalling of Valhalla only neoliberalism taking a pause before relaunching itself.


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