Terrific media releases: one from a teacher organisation, another from a political party

We have now had 26 years of Tomorrow’s Schools and in all that time, leaving aside national standards, no political party or teacher organisation has advocated a fundamental structural change; that is, one with implications for the philosophy of that system.  And yet here, in two weeks, we have had a political party and a teacher organisation making such an advocacy. In the current hierarchical system to call for such a change is to call for a more democratic system. No matter how minor the change (and the matters referred to in the advocacies aren’t), because the present system is so hierarchical, the reverberations are bound to be significant.

  1. On 26 April, Whetu Cormick , president of NZPF wrote:

‘We wanted the majority of Education Council Member elected by the profession and did not want all the members appointed by the Minister.’

And, to a strong summary:

‘Taking away our rights as a profession to elect our own representatives to our own Education Council undermines our trust which has a negative impact on open and honest collaboration.’

This is brilliant, setting a sharp challenge. Unless there is a change of government, the idea, of course, has no chance of success, but that shouldn’t surprise, what it does do, though, is send a message to all political parties, to the media, and to the public, that the Principals Federation wants a decisively changed system, a co-operative, democratic education one.

We must, against all the present odds, believe in the power of such ideas.

Before I set forth on the road in 1990 to speak out for a democratic and holistic education system I wrote my credo and warning:

‘Power should be shared throughout the education system, and various checks and balances be in place to stop it becoming too concentrated. It is only in this way that children will gain some protection from the vagaries of educational and political ideas and the human drive to control and dominate. The powerlessness of the young, the fact of them being young, makes school-children tempting targets for those who want to turn schools into battlegrounds for competing visions of what society ought to be. Teachers are unsettled by the possibility of curriculum and administrative ideas being able to be passed quickly down the hierarchical chain without those ideas requiring teacher involvement at all stages of their development. The best ideas for education come from teachers and those close to teachers. The part of the education system that is important to teachers is the part close to them. The part further away has the capacity to do much harm, but little capacity to do much good. The nature of the education system should be to protect teachers from hastily conceived ideas – no matter their potential benefits. Good ideas are only good if the process for their development has been good. The last thing teachers want is the kind of efficiency that has someone in the hierarchy having an idea, and then using the chain of command to force it on them without due process.’

Whetu and NZPF, congratulations on your media release. It is terrific.

  1. On 11 April, Tracey Martin, education spokesperson for New Zealand First wrote:


‘Minister of Education Hekia Parata can’t leave fast enough for the teachers of New Zealand,’ says New Zealand First Education Spokesperson Tracey Martin.

‘To say that teachers pass the lowest bar for entry of any profession is degrading to teachers, and she should apologise.’

‘Ironically, this is the Minister who said Charter Schools didn’t need to have trained and qualified teachers because anyone could teach,’ says Mrs Martin.

‘She also decided that the early childhood education and care sector didn’t need to employ 100 per cent trained and qualified teachers.’

‘The hypocrisy of the National government beggars belief and statements belittling teachers’ ability are disingenuous and misleading.’

‘It is with real disappointment that we read comments attributed to Labour MP Chris Hipkins which suggest that the literacy and numeracy skills of teachers are deficient and that a post-graduate qualification is the answer.’

‘If we have problems with initial teacher training, and we know we do after the recent Select Committee inquiry, then the answer is for the government to take back control of this training.’

‘New Zealand First would re-introduce dedicated Teacher Training Colleges and review and strengthen the entry criteria for initial teacher training.’

‘It’s not the only action New Zealand First would take, but it’s a good first step,’ says Mrs. Martin.

Tracey Martin has been a hero for school education and easily the best spokesperson. As someone with a long involvement with schools she is very well informed to speak on school education matters.

I have come to trust her and her commitment implicitly.

If she was part of the government, any government, you could be assured of her voice being heard loud and clear.

The whole statement is a cracker but it is the one I have highlighted that particularly interests me most.

Teacher-produced knowledge is the best knowledge; that is, knowledge that has been proven over time in classrooms.  Yes, in combination with other knowledges, but that should be the case for all knowledges. The cult of the selected academic expert and the dominance of academic knowledge should be put to rest. Think of this: the education system rests largely on Hattie-produced ‘evidence-based’ knowledge but that evidence is fraudulent in the claims made for it (Hattie should by now have admitted it).

The education of teachers for work in schools should be based on all knowledges, with teacher-produced knowledge pre-eminent. It might seem complicated, but if you put children first it’s not.

In a recent posting I wrote some manifesto ideas for returning teacher-produced knowledge to its previous highly valued place, one was as followed:

Schools of education

Develop courses for schools of education that respect and use teacher-developed knowledge

Develop courses for schools of education that give priority to the needs of children and not the status of universities

Develop criteria for appointments to schools of education and advancement that give priority to applicants’ suitability for preparing students for teaching in schools

Develop criteria for appointments to schools of education, and advancement that take account of academic ability but in a way more appropriate to the aims of teacher education than the current PBRF system

Develop programmes of work for schools of education that emphasise teaching and learning in schools but also give attention to theoretical and philosophical matters

Develop programmes of work for schools of education that value variety

Develop a policy that allows schools of education, within broad guidelines, to provide programmes that differ.

Comment: Such ideas may well go against the internationalisation of universities, if so, let that be a point of difference for our education system and, in schools, a win for teachers and children.


Advisory service

Develop a relatively independent, government-funded advisory service based on valuing variety.

Comment: A relatively independent advisory service would provide an alternative to other sources of professional advice, other developers of knowledge, and other sources of curriculum memory. I think this is of particular importance.

If neoliberalism and its preoccupation with futurism and accompanying fetishism with technology is our future then we are in deep trouble. In education it is a swizz because its futurism  is resulting in neoliberalism taking an even more dominant control of the present through narrow vocationalism (involving also an early sorting of certain groups of students into low status jobs) and denigration of creativity, the arts, thinking, and imagination, also its devaluing of social equity and a democratically co-operative society.  In other words, futurism for the neoliberals is more about controlling the present than any deep thoughts about the future. Any thoughts about the future more of an extension and deepening of the present – that is hierarchical control, corporate values, privilege, and inequity. Technology is important, will be important, should be important but not at the expense of crucial human values both for their intrinsic humanistic worth also for controlling that technology to beneficial social and political ends.

It is only responsible to point out here that there is a very different future in prospect: in fifty years climate change will be so advanced – its major effects already unstoppable – that many parts of the world will be in complete breakdown and the rest of the world in turmoil.  Are inequity, corporate values, and lack of democracy going to be the best preparation for that?

In the interests of children and the wider society, the education system needs to be democratic and participatory. The best way to prepare children for the future is to prepare them best for the present, and based on humanistic values. As a result we should go into the future on the basis of a democratic present which is the advocacy of both of the excellent media releases featured.

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7 Responses to Terrific media releases: one from a teacher organisation, another from a political party

  1. Vern Stevens says:

    Excellent Kelvin, yes an organisation that represents us finally standing up. Well done Whetu, thanks, a great start.
    Tracey Martin is outstanding in the way she understands what in the hell has been going on under this government in education. I make no secret of the fact that because of the work Winston has done in the North already and Tracey Martin, NZ First will have my vote in September.
    Chris Hipkins is not the man for the job for Labour he is still fully entrenched in the Neo Liberal dogma. Labour must rid themselves of the Douglas Albatross that hangs around their neck.

  2. Richard Wisnesky says:

    Ha great commentary. Joy Williams(Writer) is quoted saying “Nothing we do is inevitable, but everything we do is irreversible. How do you propose to remember that in time?”

  3. Paul Johnson says:

    Yeah Kelvin, I agree with you. The profound nature of both statements is not in doubt. Whetu is on the ball in getting our position out there and it is great to have NZPF taking it to them. Tracey Martin too, having heard her speak re education, is seriously challenging my voting norm, and has put forward an enticing education policy for NZ First. Having only been a Principal under National, I wonder what having an education minister like Tracey would feel like?

    • Kelvin says:

      What you want is a minister to be able to say ‘no’ nicely as he or she lights on issues that really matter. It is about making best use of scarce resources. The advantage for a Labour minister or Tracey is that a lot can be done unwinding bad Hekia decisions at no cost, for instance, national standards, the clusters, reducing the huge media team and so on – there’s a billion dollars of easy pickings for the redistribution. I have been there for 58 years of ministers and only Goff, Lange, and Mallard were a struggle, they wouldn’t listen; the rest were OK, at least you could relax with them and get on with it (Russell Marshall was the thinker but not pragmatic enough or a good enough politician).

  4. Kelvin says:

    Auckland George says: Hell! A politician advocating for teachers, I can’t believe it. Exposing National and Labour while she is about it. I think I will email her tonight, in support.

  5. Lesley Forrest says:

    Let’s get behind both Whetu and Tracey. Let’s not give up nor lose hope, even though at times it seems too hard to do otherwise. Let’s be resilient, proactive leaders of our profession and live the talk we give our students. It might feel like education policy in this country is as bad as it can get, so there is only one way to go from here – upwards, and this election year we have an opportunity to make some changes.

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