Red Alert

Loosen up Anne Tolley

Posted by on February 15th, 2011

It’s daft it when bureaucratic bullshit gets in the way of helping people.

I’ve had the Special Education spokesperson role for just on two weeks now and I arranged an informal visit with a loose collection of parents in Kaitaia who have children with special needs.

 A senior MoE person has instructed his staff not to attend any gatherings if I’m going to be there.

 How dumb is that?

 How am I supposed to find out what has to be done for this vulnerable sector of society if I’m blocked from talking to a group of people who work with them on the ground?

Is Anne Tolley so paranoid she thinks the government will crumble if I have a conversation with a speech language therapist in Kaitaia?

These people up north are so de-centralised I can guarantee no “state secrets” will be revealed. It’s not like I’m trying to meet with some policy writer in Wellington. 

 Supporting these children to achieve beyond their potential alongside  their families is more important than petty politics.

 Anne Tolley needs to loosen up.

19 Responses to “Loosen up Anne Tolley”

  1. ianmac says:

    ” A senior MoE person has instructed his staff not to attend any gatherings if I’m going to be there.”
    A curious statement.
    How was that instruction delivered? (Email, letter, verbal?)
    Who exactly are not to attend such a meeting?(Teachers, parents, therapists, MOE officer?)
    Did the instruction come from Anne Tolley?
    It is an important issue but you would have to be more explicit Kelvin.

  2. Terry says:

    “Bureaucratic bullshit” – isn’t that what Labour does best?

  3. Colonial Viper says:

    Are Ministries really allowed to impair the democractic process in this way? i.e. deny MP’s access to any public servant of their choosing, even if that MP is simply doing their assigned role? :(

  4. ghostwhowalksnz says:

    dealing with Tolley seems like a modern version of The Madwoman of Chaillot

  5. Anne says:

    It sounds to me like you have grounds for a formal complaint Kelvin. Surely, no ministry official is allowed to prevent a member of parliament going about their legitimate business, especially when it relates to their portfolio or shadow portfolio responsibilities.

    If your experience proves to be the result of a ministry instruction that originated from Tolley’s office, then she should be (in metaphorical terms) hung, drawn and quartered.

  6. Kelvin Davis says:

    @ianmac – the ‘meeting’ was little more than a chat over coffee about issues the parents and special needs children face, and what could possibly be done to help them out. MoE staff in Kaitaia may or not have been going depending on their schedules. Yesterday I dropped in for a chat with the co-ordinator just to find out where/ when/ how many parents etc, and he told me he’d been rung by someone at the Head Office in Whangarei to say no MoE staff would attend if I was going to be there. So I bowled around to their Kaitaia office to tell them how dumb this was and that the needs of the kids should be more important than this dumb edict. It’s Kaitaia for goodness sake, not Pipitea St, Wellington (MoE HQ). I wasn’t blocked from the meeting, just told MoE staff wouldn’t go if I was there. Dumb.

  7. Anne says:

    Thanks for the clarification Kelvin but even so, it’s a deplorable insult to you and to Labour. You have to seriously wonder where the edict for such an attitude came from in the first place.

  8. ghostwhowalksnz says:

    I thought that instructions to staff ( whether in Wellington of Kataia) couldn’t be made by the Minister or her staff. The information seems to have come from the head office, but doing this to satisfy a ministerial whim is probably illegal?
    Time for a FOI to follow the breadcrumbs back to their source.

  9. Yulia says:

    Where is the information that this directive came from Tolley?

    Why don’t you contact the Whangarei Office and ask them what the guts is?

    Or you could just do what your doing and level potentially false accusations in a feeble attempt at political point scoring.

    From a voters point of view, it’s not overly attractive.

  10. Kelvin Davis says:

    @Yulia – if you read my previous post you’ll see that I bowled into the Kaitaia MoE office and confronted them about this. They confirmed that it’s true. So I did ask them “what the guts is”, and there’s no false accusation, only facts.

  11. Yulia says:

    I’m sorry Kelvin. I didnt realise that Kaitaia was in fact Head office in Whangarei.

    My Apologies.

    So let me get this straight, then. The Kaitaia office of MOE have indeed confirmed that this directive came from Anne Tolley herself, and not infact from inside MOE’s Northern Region Head Office?

    If so, I apologise for the slur. If not, I suggest you get digging. Its always best to have solid ammo when firing a gun.

  12. Todd says:

    I would just like to remind everyone to sign the petition against ECE cuts. You can download your copy from here:

  13. Spud says:

    That sucks Kelvin, :-( , it does the whole sector a disservice when opposition MPs are kept away from people who could contribute to their knowledge. :-( :-( :-(


  14. ghostwhowalksnz says:

    Heres a useful part of the SSC Code of conduct for public servants

    We must:
    maintain the political neutrality required to enable us to work with current and future governments
    carry out the functions of our organisation, unaffected by our personal beliefs
    support our organisation to provide robust and unbiased advice
    respect the authority of the government of the day.”

    And how is obstructing an opposition MP on parliamentary business “maintaining political neutrality”

  15. paul says:

    “Are Ministries really allowed to impair the democractic process in this way”

    Ha! The MOE are the WORST at this – my advice would be to OIA both her office for any directives about what GSE (spec ed) staff can and can not do – and OIA the MOE offices. GSE staff, from memory – and this may also apply to MOE staff – have it in their contract about keeping their mouth shut. However, you speak to any of them off the record and there is major issues around equity of funding, staffing allocations and stupid red tape that stops them from being effective practitioners. The bonus about OIA – even though they blank it out and try to stop if from being released – is that the moe are not all that smart sometimes and usually have it in a written form somewhere.

    GSE staff are often told to watch what they do and say – the unfortunate thing about that is that they are key people for finding out what the issues are. Since Tolley has been the Min of Ed, there is a definite culture of staff being super careful about bucking the trend. Under Tolley I suspect its one of the most hostile places to work – they are not only tasked with doing things they know are ultimately bad for our kids and system, but do not even have the internal (I understand not being able to go public for obvious reasons) ability to question what happens.

    Furthermore – there is a definite distinction between GSE frontline workers (specialist teachers really) and MOE staff. To ‘gag’ the frontline is, imo, a real issue, as they are different from ‘govt workers’. And Kelvin, as you will know from your time as a principal, they have good stories of the reality to share – and the public need to know how bad it is getting.

  16. paul says:

    ps how dumb is it? Really dumb – but are we surprised?

  17. Pat Newman says:

    I have taken the liberty, after checking with nKelvin Smythe, of putting his comments around the demise of the Samoan Leraning Pods in Auckland Schools, due to lack of funds, when 10million more goes to Private schools!!!!

    A sneaky $10 million to private schools while delivering a devastating blow to Samoan children
    By Kelvin Smythe

    This is a government, it seems to me, with a twinkle-toothed leader fronting a row of second-hand cars, and a government, except for privatisation, and undermining the idea of public service because it challenges its assumptions about human motivation, with few constructive ideas, but a surfeit of destructive ones. And of all the destructive ideas this government has come up with, admittedly small in scale – but large symbolically – is the destruction of Pasifika children’s opportunity to learn in the context of their own culture.

    I call on all primary schools to make this issue important to them as educators and New Zealanders: and within that group I particularly ask the bilingual and te reo schools of New Zealand, with their distinctive experience knowledge, to make distinctive arguments. Pasifika educationists don’t have a Treaty of Waitangi to refer to, but they do have the ideals of this country (to need to refer to human rights would, for me, be an admission of a failure of national conscience) as a bedrock justification for Pasifika children learning in a context comfortable to them and supportive of their Pasifika language and culture.

    I have visited some of the eight Samoan bilingual units in Auckland and because I put children’s welfare ahead of adult sensitivities, please believe when I say these are the best bilingual units I have ever visited. They are brilliant – even for this somewhat jaded classroom observer – eye-watering brilliant.

    ‘The ministry’, one principal told me, ‘used to come to meetings supported by documentation now it doesn’t: it has given up on rationality, leaving it with only lies and evasions.

    ‘The ministry smugly talks about evidence-based teaching elsewhere but, in this case, because it doesn’t suit them, refuses to acknowledge it. It’s all about cost cutting, but they won’t admit it.’

    ‘They just don’t care that these children do better if they can learn in their own language. It’s in the too hard basket. It’s easier to just ignore it and put everyone in the mainstream and then moan about the ‘tail’ of brown people.’

    ‘It’s really disgraceful what the policy has done to kill opportunities for these children.’

    But the whole thing becomes an unconscionable scandal when put up against another current National government policy – a slipping across of more money for private schools.

    This government policy has resulted in a sneaky $10 million dollars being given to private schools at the same time as it is putting a stop to bilingual schools for Pasifika children.

    Under an insulting name of ‘Aspire Scholarships’ the government has allocated 50 scholarships to private schools who will now have the ability to head hunt 50 low-income, high-achieving children for their rolls.

    It is an education barbarism.

    The advertisements called for applications for students from low-income families who will be Year 9s in 2012 to apply for one of 50 full tuition scholarships to cover the expenses of attending a private secondary school.

    While this posting is about the obscene contrast of giving money to private schools as a successful programme for low decile state schools is being stomped on, it also reveals the nature of National government thinking on education. The implication in the name is that private school education is something parents of children in state schools should aspire to; the implication in the policy is that private schools can offer something state schools can’t – actually, I agree that they can, but white flight is not, surely, something a government should be supporting – but then I know on Tolley’s barbeque circuit such things are hush-hush.

    Meanwhile, those who are battling in the interests of those who are being flown from are organising themselves with impressive diligence and fervour: an overflowing number of representatives from a wide range of institutions attended the 16 February meeting at Nga Tapuwae Community Centre.

    And what a meeting, and what plans – National government be very afraid.
    This is another education policy that will be defeated.
    (A contact e-mail address to enroll yourself or your school in the Supporters Organisation is John)

    Shame on you National government.
    Ma le fa’aaloalo tele / faka’apa’apa atu

    Kelvin Smythe

  18. Evan says:

    Yulia and @ianmac clearly don’t have the background of dealing with the Ministry of Education in particular – but to me this looks like the state of the Education bureaucracy today.

    Kelvin, I would have thought you would have been warned about such things too. But to be honest, the position was not much better under the Labour government – and here I think of the disappointing stewardship of Chris Carter in particular.

    Why don’t you purchase the full set of “Yes Minister” to put yourself into the appropriate frame of mind, if you are not by now there already.

    There is one way you could improve your leverage – the only way I know. That would be to get yourself into the position where the Labour Opposition looked like a prospective government come November. Then you’ll get them running scared, believe me!