Saturday, May 18, 2024

Schools oppose ‘Tomorrow’s Schools’ proposal

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More than 200 people attended the rally to hear Pakuranga MP Simeon Brown, Board Chairpersons and Principals, as well as National Spokesperson for Education Nikki Kaye at Pigeon Mountain Primay. Photo supplied

Several local schools have strongly opposed the Government’s proposed changes to the education system.

Pigeon Mountain Primary is among the many local schools, including Owairoa Primary, Bucklands Beach Intermediate and Macleans College, standing against the proposal.

Pigeon Mountain principal Ian Dickinson will be joining teachers, boards of trustee members and the school and wider community at a meeting today (Thursday, March 21) aimed at raising awareness of the proposal, which, if accepted, will be “catastrophic” for the New Zealand education system.

Under the proposal, led by former Pakuranga College principal Bali Haque, boards of trustees (and therefore the community) will lose autonomy and influence over their local schools.

Instead, another layer of bureaucracy, known as an Educational Hub, will be created by the Ministry of Education to make all major decisions relating to the schools in its catchment.

“It means a team of bureaucrats will be given significant power to make all decisions around the education of our children without any meaningful oversight by the community,” said Mr Dickinson.

The reforms propose to set up 20 ‘Education Hubs’ across New Zealand, each responsible for the governance of 125 schools in their area.  The hubs will take over the bulk of the responsibilities of Boards of Trustees.

The aim is to improve equity between low and high decile schools and to help poorly-performing schools struggling with governance.

Mr Dickinson says key problems with the proposal are:

  • It removes the democratically-elected board of trustees and replaces it with bureaucrats. Communities will lose their influence and say over how schools are run
  • Loss of funding. School donations may be capped and international student numbers may be limited. This will mean high-decile schools will struggle to provide good quality facilities and teaching
  • It does not address the chronic shortage of teachers due to inadequate pay. In fact, the Education Hubs will take teachers away from schools, as they need to be staffed by “education professionals”
  • Tightly enforcing school zones will stop parents being able to choose what school is right for their children.
  • Mr Dickinson says he and other local principals have not been meaningfully consulted.
  • “A small minority of schools are struggling with governance. We believe schools should be given the choice about whether or not to opt into services from an Education Hub. The majority of schools are performing extremely well and do not need or want this additional administrative and financial burden.

Alan McIntyre, principal, Owairoa Primary School says, “In our last two Education Review Office Review reports, they described Owairoa Primary School as a ‘Top Performing School’. They commented in the report about the stability of the staff and in particular the stability of the long serving Senior Management.

“They also commended the Board of Trustees on their proactive, experienced and supportive governance of the school. They noted how the Trustees brought a varied community and business expertise to the governance role.

“Why would you put all of this at risk by usurping the powers of the Board of Trustees, replacing the Principal every five years, moving experienced staff out of our school to prop up other schools, and creating another unnecessary layer of bureaucracy that is neither wanted nor warranted?” he reasons.

“To interfere with our ability to attract International Students to our school and hence the income generated from them, we would lose at least 14 staff members from our school.

“Keep your proposed changes and leave our community focused school alone to be managed and governed successfully and let us continue to meet the aspirations of our own community.”

Bruce Howard, chairperson Owairoa Primary School Board of Trustees adds saying, “I have had the privilege to serve on the Owairoa Primary School Board of Trustees for about 25 years. During this time I have seen unprecedented growth in the school due to the changing demographics of the area and a conviction to Excellence in Education.

“I fear for Owairoa and other schools if the outrageous model suggested in the Taskforce Report is adopted in its entirety.

“There is no way a faceless bureaucracy will provide anywhere near the level of accountability and careful direction that Boards of Trustees all over the country do for their own schools. Someone suggested that the new bureaucracy would cost $20 million but I think realistically it will be over $100 million to set up.

“The Ministry of Education cannot properly staff their current advisory positions so I am at loss as to how they think they will staff this new level of bureaucracy and when they try they will be drawing off large numbers of qualified teaching staff from schools, with no realistic plan on how they can replace them.

“I do not believe that they have thought through the ramifications of these changes which will take education back to where it was prior to Tomorrow’s Schools, back to the 1980’s.”

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