Red Alert

Credit Where it is Due

Posted by on July 7th, 2009

Last week at the Education &  Science Committee I presented Anne Tolley with a picture of a principal’s stitched leg. She had been badly bitten by a child who hadn’t got special education support despite requests over months.

T0lley knew nothing of it and I was mildly critical. She spoke to me at the end of the week and confirmed that the letter had come in while she was overseas and had been dealt with by an Acting Minister. It had gone to the Ministry as it dealt with a policy issue.

There are a variety of approaches when one is a Minister. One I have known would probably have visited the school. That seems a bit over the top to me. Others (like the Acting Minister) just send things off to the Ministry. I think there is a point of balance where the Minister’s office call the school, check that the teacher is ok and then put it on the list for a weekly meeting with the Ministry to make sure the report and response is not delayed.

The Minister shouldn’t be surprised as Tolley was.

But credit to her for looking into it and getting back to me.

ps this post not related to teaser issue.

9 Responses to “Credit Where it is Due”

  1. Neil says:

    what do you consider to be the major points of difference on special needs funding between you and National.

  2. Dimmocarzy says:

    Trevor, when will you stop focusing on anecdotes and incidents and start thinking about the bigger picture. Harping on about details will never get the impression across that you could even remotely be considered as ministerial material. No wonder the education system went to hell in a handcart when you were pretending to be in charge.

  3. Tim_othy says:

    Lucky yours isn’t the only opinion that counts then eh Dim? Some of us are enjoying the variety.

  4. Hilary says:

    I was quite involved in the education system when Trevor was in charge and I think he was pretty good, although I didn’t always agree with him. Had some tough issues to address such as the teacher strikes. He was always willing to front up on any issue.

  5. Chez says:

    Think it’s important to get an answer to Nick’s question above and not allow the point to go unchallenged.
    @ Dim, the ‘annecdote’ is highly relevant – the big picture always serves to ‘the rule’ – the annecdote delivers the picture that plays out in reality.
    The incident to which Trevor refers isn’t isolated and merely illustrates the point – the rules around our education systems and functions are changing because someone is looking at the ‘big picture’ from the perspective of a calculator – gradually situations like this are appearing as ‘the norm’ in our schools and early childhood centres.
    At what point will the Minister engage with the teachers, the providers and the communities and request information about the impact of budget efficiencies on the ground – where it counts.
    No-one is saying that we shouldn’t be economising or optimising – we know we need to do that better and we’re working on that – fact is: Too many decisions were made ‘across the board’ – inefficiency has been identified in particular areas that are difficult to itemise because the needs are not ‘across the board’. And most of that decision making – if we listen to the rational, was a result of annecdotal information – not reality.
    Think it through Dimmocarzy! And Trevor? Keep asking the hard ones……….

  6. Trevor Mallard says:

    @ Neil – not much at the moment, they have tinkered a bit at the edge. I think that the review that Heather Roy is to lead is a good idea. We tried to have a bit of system stability after the SES integration into the Ministry – something that freed resource for more specialists and has worked pretty well. I hope the review develops a strategic plan that can be agreed and brought in over time, much like the ECE one which got 75% implemented.

  7. Trevor Mallard says:

    @ Dimmocarzy + Chez, you are both right in a way. I get lots of information as a local MP from annecdotes, from schools, businesses and community groups. As a Minister I used to follow them up if it looked like the system wasn’t working. Some of the earliest economic indicators came from a back of the envelope analysis of imports and exports at the Port of Auckland. It was often a few weeks ahead of Treasury in showing trend changes.

    But there is no substitute for quality education research and analysis. While they are dense the Ministry’s Best Evidence Syntheses are really useful in considering policy direction. And there are about a dozen research leaders in NZ who I consulted with on big decisions in their area. But you have to be prepared for research not confirming your prejudices. Sometimes thats not easy.

  8. Kaine T says:

    Straying a little, Chez, I think you’re exactly right. Ministers in good touch will ask the tight questions at the lowest level of detail to make their decisions at the “big picture” level robust and justifiable. Ministers who can deal with tough issues and complex policy will do just that, listen to the daily story and pay attention to how they provide an indication on how the big things are working.

    Tolly is a Minister who delivers lines, and well sometimes, but doesn’t have a grasp on her issue because she’s trying to show how very in control she is and that’s a fundamental flaw, making a lot of noise about how well you’re doing across the board and taking your theme of standardizing to absurdum is a clear indication you’re afraid of the portfolio.

    That’s why Trevor was one of few that could have done with education what was needed at the time in a manner that was consistent with principle, though not necessarily entirely what some may have wanted. Wanted and needed were different, as it is now. Wanting the “System” to be efficient, isn’t the same as needing it to be nor understanding how that can be done without detrimental impact to those you say you’re making changes for. Change for the sake of it is a pointless exercise.

  9. Chez says:

    We’ve got change for the sake of it right now (in Adult Ed) – not that it isn’t change we were heading toward beginning with the time that Trevor and Steve were engaged as Ministers (engaged being the operative). As you’ve shown above Mr M, there was research and analysis overseas and here, as well as attention paid to how it was being applied. (Incidentally, the work here was greatin ACE, it was taking what was developed overseas, applied to our own condition and refined just that little bit more.

    Now, they’re talking UK curriculum for Foundation Ed, in the panic to produce another form of National Standard. It would take us at least 20 steps backwards – our FLP is streets ahead, it was based on that example but the prescriptive boxed up ‘qualifications’ theme they’ve ended up with in the UK takes us right back to the ‘bums on seats’ mentality and goes nowhere near relevance for learners at that level. It simply doesn’t work.

    When a Minister blunders in and starts making statements using the words optimise and prioritise and change the TES because “I” don’t understand how you would measure it………..and then acts accordingly. It demonstrates a lack of knowledge of the range of available evidence, the work that has gone before, and it also answers the question – where did National Standards come back from?

    I agree Trevor, there are times when the challenge is to accept that the evidence means some things don’t fit anymore. There’s a new landscape now and some of our best friends don’t fit – we just need to make sure we’re not throwing out babies with bathwater. If the cuts were made with a little more forethought and a lot more engagement, we may have been able to preserve some of those priorities and even more funding.

    On every level in Education – we are in a position of having to go back and bring it up again and take her with us and explain it to her carefully, we’ve lost the trust, we’ve lost that knowledge capital and that’s going to set us back. The good news is – the sector is trustworthy, we know about relevance, excellence and accessibility and we work with passion.

    All the time knowing of course, that she’s not making those decisions – the false economist is. The whole point is – the Minister doesn’t know – but I do believe she wants to find out. Whether she’s actually going to be able to effect good change will intend entirely on her upline and that’s the problem right there.