Thursday, November 08, 2007
Just in case you are wondering why there have been no blogs of late I have a good excuse- I am in Australia.
I was invited earlier in the year to give keynote presentation to the New South Wales Principals Conference held in a downtown Sydney Hotel. Well that was last week and now I am relaxing in Brisbane and will be leaving for greener pastures tomorrow.
It was a exciting and somewhat challenging experience to present in Sydney but all went well and I have opportunities to return next year to work with some clusters of schools.
The theme of the conference was Focus and Refocus and about 600 principals attended the the three days. I had arranged to stay for the entire conference , plus a few days to explore Sydney. It was a great opportunity to gain some insight into Australian education - or at least primary education in New South Wales, which I was told has 1800 primary schools.
On balance I think principals are better off in New Zealand although similar problems have to be faced up to in both countries.
The advantages, in New Zealand as I see them, are that principals appoint their own staff and local communities appoint their own principals without 'official' input. The latter was seen as a doubtful idea to many NSW principals but I assured them that, in the main, it seemed to work out in New Zealand. They however would all love to have the opportunity to appoint their own teachers!
Perhaps the biggest advantage of New Zealand schools are the opportunities provided by the introduction of our 'new' New Zealand Curriculum, the ideas of which impressed many I spoke to. In NSW schools are still required to implement their seven Learning Areas as we once had to, and, as well, they have to comply to national testing and reporting. The latter informs schools, and parents, how well each school is achieving enabling inter-school comparison. NSW schools are stuck with an 'overcrowded' curriculum and their creativity restrained by a narrow testing regime. When asked how schools in New Zealand knew how well they were doing I explained each school sets their own 'targets' to achieve and national monitoring of anonymous schools provides the bigger picture.
Our 'new' emphasis on 'key competencies', and inquiry learning, are a real advantage to New Zealand schools as is the reduction of the Learning Area objectives to a single page.
As for my keynote a quick flick through my blogs will give you a pretty good idea.
Back to normal blogging next week.