Red Alert

Reconnecting #2: The education community

Posted by on August 12th, 2009

As part of my work in the electorate I spend quite a lot of time in school staff rooms. Every Friday I visit one of my local schools, speak to the principal, take a look around and then chat with the teachers over morning tea. I’m always impressed at how well connected with their local communities our schools actually are. That’s one of the reasons I find these visits so useful – it’s like checking a social barometer.

Prior to the last election I encountered quite a few teachers who were a bit grumpy with Labour. Although they had enjoyed several years of respectable pay rises, many now found themselves in the top tax bracket and yet they felt anything but rich. The school network review in Upper Hutt left a bad taste in the mouths of some, and the fact that it took nearly four years to finally decide the future of the intermediate and secondary schools is still a bone of contention.

Thankfully, Anne Tolley has been doing her very best to drive the entire educational community into Labour’s camp. The mere mention of her name in school staffrooms sends eyes rolling towards the heavens, and not in a kind way. Her national standards policy and the potential for league tables has primary teachers really worried. In secondary schools, nobody can understand why the government chose to cut night class funding and then spend $35 million more on private schools.

The feedback I’ve been getting suggests there are still some meaty issues for us to deal with in the education area. Support for students with special needs is a growing area of concern and I’m not convinced that we have the policy right. A whole bunch of our schools are also struggling to work with buildings and facilities that are well past their use by date – but that’s an expensive problem to fix.

Then of course there is the issue of overall funding. Education spending increased hugely under Labour, although schools still argue they need more. So how much is enough, and is it a question of needing more or asking whether we are spending it in the right places?

26 Responses to “Reconnecting #2: The education community”

  1. Gooner says:

    Then of course there is the issue of overall funding. Education spending increased hugely under Labour, although schools still argue they need more. So how much is enough, and is it a question of needing more or asking whether we are spending it in the right places?

    Are you serious with that last paragraph? Do you mean that finally Labour might just have realised that throwing lots of money at things doesn’t necessarily work?

    Good god, I need a lie down!

  2. Linda says:

    Does ‘support for students with special needs’ include gifted & talented?
    The Associate Minister often includes G&T in Special Education in her speeches but it seems that this group is currently receiving cuts in funding (Gifted Advisors) as part of a range of National’s budget cuts with no plan in place for ongoing needs. I guess the savings can go straight to combating future effects of disengaged sharp minds (e.g.organised crime).

  3. Radford says:

    “In secondary schools, nobody can understand why the government chose to cut night class funding and then spend over three times the money saved on private schools.”

    Maryan Street told my local paper that the ACE cuts were worth $152 million over four years and that private schools funding is $35 million. How does that square with what you’re saying?

  4. Gooner – go read Trevor Mallard’s post on school closures if you think the last Labour Govt did nothing to re-prioritise spending in education.

    I’m a firm believer in evaluating what works and what doesn’t and then shifting resources accordingly. But programmes need to be funded in the first place before we can tell whether or not they will work. Some will be hits, others misses. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try new things cos we’re scared of failure.

  5. Linda – personally I think they’re different. The needs are different. I agree the Nat Govt cuts to gifted education funding are short-sighted and stupid.

  6. Jared says:

    I am deeply involved with the Education sector, largely Primary, but I can tell you right now, Labour isn’t any less hated than it was last election, and your supposed opinion of Anne Tolley certainly isn’t what I have been hearing.

  7. Dimmocrazy says:

    So here’s Hipkins “connecting with the community” by visiting some of his heavily unionized teacher mates, for a bit of a moan and groan session. After nine years of steady pay rises, they are in the top income brackets, but still don’t feel “rich enough”.
    OK Chris here’s a few tips for some “meaty issues” to sort that out: Bars and jacuzzi’s in special annexes to staff rooms. A butler for every five teachers in the larger schools (say from 200 pupils and up). Some travel perks to boost the pay check. Teachers that also do union work, should perhaps be released from teaching all together and be issued with sensible vehicles (toyota prius) to do some more connecting with the community, and research some relevant community issues such as global warming.
    Don’t get me wrong, I think teachers should earn fantastic wages, but based on performance, not on bitching and moaning.
    Have a look here Hipkins, this is how your socialist mates in Sweden (yes Sweden) are doing it now:

  8. Radford – I’ll clarify the numbers when I get a chance, but I am referring to the one year figure for ACE in secondary schools. The figure Maryan refers to probably includes other ACE provision as well. The private school number you refer to is the one year figure, so you’re not comparing apples with apples.

  9. Dimm – You just made it past my BS filter this morning. If you want me to respond to any of your comments, leave the personal abuse and childish name calling out of them.

  10. Radford says:

    The $35 million is a four year figure according to all the information I’ve seen. Are you deliberately lying or can you not read the Budget?

  11. Dimmocrazy says:

    [Deleted – off topic]

  12. The Baron says:

    [deleted – off topic]

  13. bikerkiwi says:

    Sorry – slightly off topic – but I laughed so much at Dimmocrazy post that I snorted coffee all over my keyboard.

  14. johnbt says:

    I appreciate that nobody in the Labour party understands economics so I will explain this slowly. It works out cheaper to subsidise a private school pupil in the private school than it does to pay a lot more for that kid to be in a public school and the taxpayer (remember us ?) paying for the bulk of that kids education. Private schools are currently facing problems as the result of a recession. We are now in the 7th quarter of this recession.
    According to previous firures released by Ms Street the cost to people doing those courses on Italian cooking, sword fighting and belly dancing worked out at $60 per person.

  15. johnbt says:

    Have you had any feedback from teachers on what they think about Kelvin Davis saying that Maori underachievement is the result of poor quality teachers ?.
    You should bring this up at the next morning tea you attend. I dare you. I double dare you.

  16. The Baron says:

    [deleted – Baron, if you want to engage in serious debate, please feel free, otherwise there are other blogs where your brand of commenting is both welcomed and encouraged – CH]

  17. Radford – looks like you were right and I was wrong. The private school funding does appear to be a 4 year figure. I was writing the blog post off the top of my head and now that I’ve had a chance to check I have edited it accordingly.

    I’ve also checked the $152m figure that Maryan Street has used. That includes ACE funding along with wider funding for adult education. So it includes cuts to ERO funding for ACE reviews, cuts to a range of smaller funding pools, etc. etc.

  18. Trevor Mallard says:

    @johnbt – I often discuss the importance of improving the quality of teaching in school staffrooms – the vast majority of teachers agree and that is another reason why they know the 25% cut to teacher professional development in this years budget was stupid.

  19. The Baron says:

    OK Hipkins, I don’t agree but your party, your (unfair, biased and cowardly) rules.

    Serious question then – are you also talking to the parents about their experience of the education system? One of the criticisms of labour’s work on education was too much listening to teachers and their unions, and not enough listening to parents and students.

    You may decry some of the initiatives that Tolley has, but simply put plenty of parents want plain english assessments of where their child is at. They certainly don’t wanna hear “too hard”, “too much work” or “unfair”. They want to understand what their children is good at and what they need to work harder on.

    Are you repeating the same mistake, Chris, in favouring the viewpoint of the public servants over the public themselves? Or what are you going to be doing to balance the point of view that the teachers have?

  20. Baron – really good point, and yes, I hope to talk to parents a lot more over the next year or so too. They’re a bit harder to get to though. Door knocking last year I got some great feedback from parents. Some local schools are doing well reporting ‘plain english’ assessment results to parents, others can clearly do better.

    I think the range of assessment resources available now is vastly superior to what it was say 15 years ago, and that helps teachers give much better feedback to parents. But teachers also need to be supported to do that. They need time to prepare the assessments and write up the reports etc. They also need time for professional development so that they can do it better. As Trevor has noted above, a 25% cut to teacher professional development is the wrong way to go.

    johnbt – As a former intermediate school principal Kelvin is pretty well respected in school staffrooms. I hope sometime in the next year or two we’ll be able to get him out here to the Hutt to meet with some of them and talk in person.

  21. Dimmocrazy says:

    [deleted – Dimmo, take a lead from Baron, comment on the topic and I’ll happily respond – CH]

  22. Dimmocrazy says:

    Hipkins, stop kidding yourself with your George Lakoff style definition of “topic” or “issue”.

  23. johnbt says:

    We all know good teachers are very important. It is the second most important job there is. Ongoing training is absolutely important. But you are not listening. No surprise. Kelvin Davis said Maori underachievement was because of the teachers.

    I just mentioned that to someone with 45 years experience as a teacher at all levels. She did not swear ( she is also a nun) but made a remark along the lines of “what a dickhead”.

    Also, you guys are really rather precious about comments that do not follow your party line. All the deletions, etc, just because people are telling you stuff you do not like. I thought Labour was trying to reconnect with the electorate. Or does that only mean those who agree with you ?.

  24. Patrick A says:

    I’m surprised that Labour has had little to say on the 600% increase to the student levy at Canterbury University. As The University of Canterbury has merged with the College of Education this flat $600 fee which is purported to be for student support will directly effect teacher supply and professional development for current teachers.

    The imposition of this fee is due to National refusing to increase the SAC (student achievement component) in line with the CPI (3%). This has caused a $14 million dollar shortfall and this cost has been handed on to students.

    If Labour wanted to win some more brownie points with teachers and students alike then picking up on this somewhat unattended issue could do just that.

  25. johnbt – I don’t delete comments that I disagree with, there are plenty above that I disagree with and have responded to. But if people want to behave like children rather than engaging in a proper argument, they are probably best to stick to one of the gutter-dwelling blogs.

  26. Dimmocrazy says:

    Well Hipkins, why don’t you prove that to John and undelete the comments?