Tomorrow's Schools Review backdown must be comprehensive

Mon, 11 Nov, 2019

“The Government’s backdown on the Tomorrow’s Schools Review must be comprehensive”, according to ACT Leader David Seymour.

“Most critically, the Independent Taskforce report’s proposal that new entities called ‘Education Hubs’ would assume all the legal responsibilities and liabilities currently held by school boards must not advance. Boards of Trustees must retain the power to employ principal and teachers, or their role will become moot.

“Rotating principals on five-year agreements according to the desires of Ministry of Education staff in a ‘Hub’ is one of the most damaging things that could be done to the morale of principals. The proposal is particularly silly given the value of school leaders to students’ learning.

“However, it would be helpful if one of the better recommendations, more professional development for principals, was retained. Being a principal is one of the most important jobs in New Zealand, it’s crazy that there is nowhere to learn to be one.

“Boards of Trustees must also retain control of their buildings, school zones, suspension and expulsion policies. Without these powers, a Board’s ability to control the culture of their school on behalf of their community would be severely restricted.

“Election to the Board of Trustees should continue to be done on individual merit. It would be disruptive and counterproductive for schools to have a mana whenua representative forced on them when school communities can already elect people to bring a te ao Māori perspective if they wish.

“The Independent Taskforce report noted that 13 per cent of schools were put on one or two-year review in 2016/17. What they should have noted is that 87 per cent of schools were left on their normal assessment cycle. Viewed from this perspective, reforming schools that worked to fix those that didn’t was always crazy.

“New Zealand does, however, have a problem with a small tail of schools that are seriously underperforming. Recent analysis by the New Zealand Initiative shows this tail is smaller than previously thought. The Minister of Education should take the opportunity to reform the intervention process for failing schools. They should be taken over by new, chartered, operators.

“However, the Minister of Education does have an enormous opportunity as he responds to the Tomorrow’s Schools Independent Taskforce report. He could fix the Ministry of Education. The Ministry is the source of most of New Zealand’s educational problems. It has been ranked the worst ministry in Wellington and is filled with low-skilled and obstructive bureaucrats. ACT’s advice is to send them all home on full pay and bring back any whose absence was noticed in a year’s time.”