26 Mar 2015

Maori principals critical of education policy

9:16 pm on 26 March 2015

The organisation representing Maori principals is critical of the Government's flagship education scheme, describing it as a 'one-size-fits-all' policy.

Whau Valley School

Whau Valley School Photo: SUPPLIED

Te Akatea New Zealand Maori Principals says the Investing in Education Success (IES) scheme has been imposed on kura.

The model aims to pay expert teachers and principals to go into groups of schools.

While the Post Primary Teachers' Assocation (PPTA) supports the $360 million scheme, the New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI), which represents early childhood and primary school staff, strongly opposes it.

Robert Clarke, the principal of Whau Valley School in Whangarei

Robert Clarke, the principal of Whau Valley School in Whangarei Photo: SUPPLIED

Te Akatea New Zealand Māori Principals is also against it, with president Robert Clarke saying he believes the plan has many drawbacks.

"For us it's a top-down imposed model. It reeks of that super model just being dropped on a cluster of schools and away you go," he said.

"It's got elements that will have competition within those schools in cluster for resources and funding. Again, it's that one-size-fits-all and support staff are left out of the picture, they're the backbone of many a school."

And he said principals did not need to be paid more, rather the reward was recognition of their expertise, and the money should go more directly into resources for tamariki.

"It's a model where you'll have this principal and expert teacher or teachers coming on in, they may not know the context within the schools, within the area that they've working with.

"They may not have had experience in the type of school context that they've been asked to work with."

Mr Clarke said a better alternative was the "joint initiative", which offered more flexibility. The plan, which is still in development, is a venture between the NZEI and the Ministry of Education.

He said, instead of expert teachers working across schoools, the initiative would see teachers already working in school clusters behaving collaboratively, not competitively.

System needs to be changed - NZEI

NZEI Te Riu Roa President Louise Green

NZEI Te Riu Roa President Louise Green Photo: SUPPLIED

NZEI president Louise Green said the system needed to be skewed in favour of low-decile schools to fully benefit Māori.

"So an expert teacher working across schools will be working with the kaiako. The link then down to the tamariki is through other people. We're not sure that that link is going to get through to every child that needs it," she said.

"High-decile schools such as Auckland Grammar are pocketing the majority of funding, while Decile 1 and 2 schools are getting just 6 percent, even though they make up 14 percent of the schools in the scheme."

She said NZEI's data analysis of the first 11 communities of schools approved by Education Minister Hekia Parata late last year showed that the allocation of resources would overwhelmingly favour the groups of large, high-decile schools.

But, in a statement, Ms Parata rejected the criticisms: "The nature of the first schools to benefit from IES is a consequence of the make-up of the first schools that opted to join communities of schools," she said

"Many were higher decile schools with large rolls. The second tranche of communities of schools, to be announced shortly, will be more representative of the school population as a whole. If NZEI wants lower decile schools to join communities of schools ahead of higher decile schools, it should get out of their way."

Hekia Parata speaking to reporters at Parliament.

Hekia Parata speaking to reporters at Parliament. Photo: RNZ / Chris Bramwell

'Grassroots model'

The ministry's deputy secretary for student achievement, Graham Stoop, said in a statement:

"Investing in Educational Success is a grassroots model, driven by schools. Schools decide whether they want to join a community of schools.

"They work together on educational challenges. Staff decide if they want to apply for any of the roles. There's lots of flexibility for schools how they use the funding and extra staffing."

Mr Stoop said the ministry had received more than 500 expressions of interest from schools around the country since IES began.

He said the terms of reference for the joint initiative with NZEI allowed for IES to be implemented in willing schools "while we continue conversations with the union on how roles and resources supporting these goals might look in that sector".