Attending the Raise Pacific Education Conference held at the Auckland Museum was an opportunity to consider what success looks like for the growing number of Maori and Pacific young people. I highlighted the importance of looking towards local exemplars in our public schools that are working and improving the engagement, retention and achievement of Maori and Pacific students. There are alot of great examples in our local schools in Auckland that are raising the bar and showing the way such as Otahuhu College, Kia Aroha College, Massey High School and Western Springs High School to name a few. The problem is that they are spread out and it takes a long time to roll these innovations across the system so more students benefit from ‘what works’. This is an exciting time to be Polynesian and living in the country’s largest city, the growing reality is that the demographic mix is becoming more diverse and more polynesian. So our communities, schools and city of Auckland will have to shift the way in which planning for the future incorporates Maori and Pacific values and identity.
Its important to recognise that in education more should and must be done to lift achievement outcomes for all our children. There are two distinct paths, under the current Government, National standards, league tables and performance pay will seek to push polynesian kids down a path that will create winners and losers. It will create a culture of teachers “teaching to the test”, ultimately schools will treat all kids the same as if they are forcing round pegs into square holes. This is not the model for a high performing system.
Its disappointing that the government is using private sector models like charter schools as a solution to the challenge. All those schools will do is take from the public purse and privatise profits with little or no real gain in outcome for Maori or Pacific kids. Its time to dismiss empty rhetoric and invest in quality public education. By tackling the causes of poverty and inequality Labour will bring together solutions that exist outside the school gate to support the good work that teachers and school communities achieve to support their children within the school gates.
Getting more parents involved in their local Boards of Trustees and owning educational outcomes can make a huge difference. We must guard against the inclination of the Government who wants to pull decision-making back to the centre and tell parents and communities what works best.
We need only look at the sweeping reforms being proposed for the children of Christchurch to see that the Government is not serious about consulting with the community for the best schooling opportunities for children.
It looks like the ‘one size fits all’ creep could be a real prospect for young people in South Auckland if that behaviour continues.
Labour is looking to the future and wants to work constructively with parents, teachers and communities to ensure that every child no matter where they come from can be assured of a great education in their local community. The future for New Zealand urges us to think and act differently to ensure that success in education belongs to all our children. That does mean a different way of doing things and it will mean shifting the ‘norm referencing’ that currently occurs in our education system.