Thursday, March 21, 2013

Success for every student ; NZ Labour Party

The speech we have all been waiting for!
Speech to the Auckland Primary Principals Association
20 March 2013
Chris Hipkins - Labour Spokesperson for Education
Chris Hipkins
Thank you for inviting me to speak to you today.
This is the first opportunity I’ve had to address a larger audience of education professionals since I formally took up the role as Labour’s Education spokesperson.
Up until now I’ve been out and about, listening to your views and concerns, and discussing how we can do things better.
The feedback I’ve had can be divided into two groups of thinking. One group asks questions like “why aren’t you sticking it to the government more?”, while the other asks “why are the Labour Party always so negative?”
So today I hope to prove that it is indeed possible to walk and chew gum at the same time by setting out some initial thinking on an alternative positive approach to education by Labour,whilst simultaneously but very positively spelling out the things the present government are doing wrong.
In the 1930s, Labour’s first Minister of Education, and subsequent Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Peter Fraser set out a vision for education that is as relevant today as it was then:
“The [Labour] government’s objective, broadly expressed, is that all persons, whatever their level of ability, whether they live in town or country, have a right as citizens to a free education of the kind for which they are best fitted and to the fullest extent of their powers.”
I’ve often wondered what Peter Fraser would make of some of the current debates that dominate the education agenda.
Peter Fraser
Would he accept, as the current National government seems to, that the success of our education system can be boiled down to national standards and NCEA level 2?
When he spoke of providing every citizen with an education of the kind for which they are best fitted, did he envisage a system where every child had to meet an arbitrary and narrowly focused set of standards?
I suspect he wouldn’t, given he subsequently stated:
“Schools that are to cater for the whole population must offer courses that are as rich and varied as are the needs and abilities of the children who enter them.”
And that highlights at the most fundamental level the difference in approach towards education taken by Labour and National.
We recognise that everybody is different, that children learn different things at different times, and that  students are far more likely to be engaged in education if they are taught abroad and varied curriculum.
New Zealand has one of the best education systems in the world, and our curriculum is widely recognised for its competency-based approach and for the flexibility it provides.

Dr Clarence Beeby

( It is worth also remembering the input of the then Director General of Education Dr Clarence Beeby  - Bruce)
Listening to just about any member of the current government speaking about education, it’s sometimes easy to forget that.
Rather than starting from the presumption that there is something inherently wrong with our education system and it needs to be ‘fixed’, I prefer to adopt the attitude that our challenge is taking a very good education system and making it even better.
Our first focus has to be rebuilding trust and redefining what success looks like.
Success in education is about making sure every child achieves their full potential.
Success means every school is a great school.
Success means we value great teachers.
And success means we recognise and celebrate diversity and difference.
I mentioned every school being a great school. I totally reject the notion that increasing competition between schools will lead to better outcomes for everyone.
National’s charter schools agenda will take resources away from public schools and channel them into private profit-making businesses.
Charter schools won’t have to employ registered teachers, won’t have to teach to our world-leading curriculum,and won’t be subject to the same accountability measures as public schools.
It’s ironic at a time when central government is imposing ever greater compliance burdens on public schools, and striving for ever greater degrees of  ‘standardisation’, it is using those very constraints as reasons for adopting a new model of schooling provision.
Hekia Parata -failing
I’ve sat through hours of select committee hearings on charter schools and nothing has convinced me that the greater flexibility and focus on results the government seeks can’t be achieved if we resource and support our existing schools better.
So let me be very clear about Labour’s position on charter schools. We see no need for them. We see no place for them. And any charter schools established under the current National government will have no future under Labour.
Our focus will be on ensuring that every school is a great school.
I mentioned that success means we value great teachers.
Research here and around the world clearly shows that quality teaching has the greatest in-school influence on student achievement.
Quality teaching is more likely to happen in a collaborative educational environment than a competitive one.
Schools should collaborate,teachers should be part of collaborative professional networks, and the sink-or-swim mentality of Tomorrow’s Schools needs to change.
One of the most destructive things this government could do to quality education in New Zealand is introduce so-called ‘performance pay’ based on a narrow range of student achievement measures.
If the alarm bells aren’t already ringing, they should be.
When the Treasury talks about setting “clear performance expectations” and in the same breath talks about increasingly “flexibility for principals to incentivize and reward effective practice by teachers” I automatically become suspicious.
Because what will those‘performance expectations’ involve?
You can bet your bottom dollar that National Standards will be part of the equation.
National Standards results are no measure of effective teaching.
National Standards narrow the focus of teaching, encouraging teachers and students to focus time and attention on getting students over an arbitrary hurdle, rather than supporting that child to achieve their full potential.
National Standards are being used to stereotype schools through league tables that don’t measure student progress, only the number of students jumping the hurdle at a particular time.
We need a much broader and more encompassing view of educational success than National Standards results.
Under Labour, we will work collaboratively with the education community to replace National Standards with something that is meaningful, broad, and that will work.
We recognise that parents want to know how their kids are going, but they’re just as interested in how their kids are doing in Art and PE as they are in reading and writing.
Parents also want to know how their kid’s social interactions are developing.
National standards tell them nothing about any of those things.
Parents are entitled to quality information,and by and large schools work really hard to make sure they get that.
But we also need to make sure that parents understand that league tables that aggregate a bunch of inconsistent data don’t provide any reliable basis for comparing the performance of schools.
And without a doubt, we need to recognise many of the out-of-school factors that influence student achievement.
When I asked Patrick Walsh at a select committee hearing recently what he thought the biggest thing the government could to lift student achievement was he replied implement a living wage. I nearly jumped for joy.
To quote another former Labour Prime Minister, Walter Nash:

Walter Nash
Men and women are not free to develop their own souls, to express their own individual personalities, to contribute according to their individual capacities to the world’s cultural inheritance – they are not free to do any of these things so long as the fact and fear of economic insecurity confronts them
Eliminating child poverty has to be a central plank of any plan to improve educational outcomes.
These are challenging and exciting times to be working in education.
Thank you for the enormous contribution you’re making to the country’s future prosperity.
I’m looking forward to working with you in the coming months to develop, refine, and articulate a positive alternative approach to education in New Zealand.

Chris's comments since his speech - take a read.


Mike Anderson said...

I am deeply gratified by the references to our educational ancestors, and for Bruce inserting the nod to Dr. Beeby. I often despair about the lack of knowledge, and pride in, New Zealand's previous depth of social justice and innovation in this field.
Many thanks for posting.

Bruce Hammonds said...

Thank you Mike for reminding me of Dr Beeby. Hopefully we are at the beginning of another progressive era - needed to replace the reactionary pressures of the current government and the influence of corporate interests and approaches.

Teachers need to become involved in politics instead of being pawns.

candorschool said...

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Anonymous said...

At last - the Labour Party is showing some leadership in education.