This is the moment for decisive action against CoLs Part 1

This is the moment – this is the moment for decisive action, the CoLs must be disrupted to their eventual diminution or disappearance, or school education is going to have another generation of learning decline and professional limitation.

This is the moment – this is the strategic moment: 

  • If the Labour coalition wins Chris Hipkins will really listen and attend to central issues
  • If National does, school education is set up to fight for something less worse.

A teacher organisation must take a stand: it will, of course, split the organisation, the people leading the stand might have to resign, the membership might resist and gain a majority; that is the risk that must be taken, just grist to the mill to the larger moral purpose of putting children first, of getting school education on the right path and basing education on democratic and collaborative values.

Things are a prodigious farce. That is indicated by my suggested policy list to be fought for – many of them are not about money but philosophical and democratic values:

Reducing head office bureaucracy and localising and democratising power – 

Schools in communities of learning (if it is decided to retain them) should have genuine voluntary entry and exit freedom (with the money following individual schools in and out), have leadership and teaching roles on short-term contracts, not be based on national standards, and have any suggested changes or additional roles openly put to the full communities for approval

The existence of communities of learning should not be used to refuse decisive funding increases for special needs, Maori and Pasifika education, children, from economically deprived areas, Maori language in schools, reduced class sizes, and the arts

The education review office should be disbanded to be replaced by a policy similar to the Australian one of having principals on short-term contracts undertaking school surveys

Centralised knowledge control should be abandoned and schools freed to have the kind of courses as suits their purposes

An independent advisory service should be formed

The Education Council should be disbanded and teacher organisations put in control

The Education Act being revised should be stopped and renegotiated

Teacher training should be fundamentally changed with a proper and respected place for learning about classroom practice (the recent move to have a combined course for secondary, primary, and early childhood teacher training is madness)

National standards should be abolished.

My information is that the moment the election is over and if National is returned, steps will be immediately taken to make CoLs a compulsory part of the ministry administrative structure for imposing controls on member schools. One idea well advanced step is for education review office to do CoL reviews with ‘failing’ schools subject to internal CoL direction.

A NZEI publication provides a time-line starting with John Key, in January 2014, announcing:

 ‘Out of the blue … Investing in Educational Success … But it turns out to be a top-down one size fits all model all to be driven by unreliable National Standards data.’ 

The publication then proceeded to describe the development of ‘Better Plan to benefit children’s learning’. The point I want to insert here is that the Better Plan was actually worse because the same plan which was up in the air as far NZEI was concerned was now firmly landed in schools near you, unchanged, with NZEI now aggressively in support. 

And CoLs have never been a more ‘top-down one size fits all model all to be driven by unreliable National Standards data.’

This is now the decisive moment – the decisive system moment.

In Part 2, for a spur to action, I will look at the philosophical and moral background to all this and how what has happened was not inevitable; and in Part 3, how, in 1988, as I prepared to take to the road to oppose Tomorrow’s School, I somehow fell on to the matter of the dangers of local collaboration in a non-collaborative system.

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