The year ahead

March 2010

 

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Education Review asks education leaders to share their thoughts on the big issues looming for the school sector this year

PPTA president: Kate Gainsford

Top of Kate Gainsford’s list is the expiry and renegotiation of the secondary teachers’ collective agreement. The current agreement is a three-year deal providing pay rises of three to four per cent each year. It expires on June 30 and the union expects to table its claim for the negotiations 30 days earlier. Gainsford says the union is well aware of the government’s statements about minimal pay rises in the state sector, but contrasts that with its rhetoric about valuing education.

Behaviour is another big issue for the PPTA – specifically the next step in the behaviour plan that resulted from last year’s summit on the subject. The first stage of that plan focused on early intervention for younger children who misbehaved, but the union now wants to see a second stage that provides quicker solutions in the early stages of misbehaviour by secondary school students. Further work on behaviour was expected, but Gainsford says the union has not heard anything more.

The Youth Guarantee and its initiatives are also important for secondary schools. They kick in this year and next and the PPTA is clearly interested in keeping secondary schools at the heart of the policy and achieving a comprehensive approach that ensures all young people have the same opportunity to access the policy’s benefits.

Gainsford predicts that Adult and Community Education (ACE) will return as an issue for the government. Last year, news of big cuts to funding for school-based ACE programmes were greeted with protest. “We are still hearing quite a bit of dissent around the ACE cuts,” Gainsford says. “I don’t think it’s a dead issue.”

SPANZ president: Peter Gall

Implementation of the revised New Zealand Curriculum will be a big issue for secondary teachers and principals this year, says Gall. A lot of work was done last year, but this will continue as schools move into the implementation phase. “Schools have been largely left on their own to do the majority of that work,” he says, adding that most of it has been done by schools and teachers in their own time.

Hand-in-hand with the revised curriculum is the introduction of achievement standards altered as a result of the standards review. This will be a three-year process, and schools will begin to prepare this year to introduce the standards used for NCEA level 1 in 2011. Gall predicts this work will reach a peak next year when schools will be not only working with the revised level 1 standards, but also preparing to introduce revised level 2 standards in 2012. He expects the level 2 standards will require more changes by teachers and heads of department.

Collective agreement negotiations are the third big issue for schools this year, in Gall’s view. The negotiations are bound to grab headlines, he says, and they are no doubt on the minds of the ministry and Minister of Education. This year will be the first in which SPANZ acts as a bargaining agent for principals, a role previously the sole preserve of the PPTA’s Secondary Principals Council.

NZEI president: Frances Nelson

National standards are, not surprisingly, top of Frances Nelson’s list of issues for 2010. The union is still lobbying for a trial of the standards and trying to win over public opinion on the issue. It will also be looking at the standards’ possible impact on the early childhood sector. Nelson says if schools have to report on children’s performance after six months of schooling, there will clearly be interest in the skills with which they arrive at school.

Teacher pay talks naturally get a mention. Nelson acknowledges the economic climate and says all parties must approach the talks realistically. She won’t be drawn on how it might all turn out.

Regardless of the financial situation, Nelson is keen to see advancement of professional issues. “What we would like to see is the recognition of the issues and a range of solutions, and even if we can’t afford them we need to be focusing on where we are going and not keep deviating all the time. We do all this work and it comes to nothing and I think it’s disheartening for people who go through it.” In particular Nelson cites ‘mentor teachers’, a new senior role trialled in the Hawke’s Bay as a result of the last round of pay talks in 2007.

Principals Federation president: Ernie Buutveld

Buutveld would like to see the revised New Zealand Curriculum take centre stage this year. He talks of the richness of the revised document, stressing the value of the key competencies, and the need for teachers to use it to do their best for their students. Buutveld notes the engagement of teachers in developing the competencies, saying they could see their value for their students.

But Buutveld does not believe the revised curriculum will dominate this year. Instead, the government’s national standards have hijacked centre stage and will to some extent work against the intentions of the curriculum. “You have a profession moving in one direction with its pedagogical and curriculum stream, suddenly overshadowed by a set of philosophies that comes with national standards and the two are really quite opposed to each other – there is not much middle ground,” he says. “These two things are going to be in conflict in people’s minds.”

Special education should also get a lot of attention this year thanks to the government’s review of this area. Buutveld notes that such reviews seem to be perennial – it is not that anybody is at fault, rather the profession is trying to get the best out of limited funding for a special group of youngsters.

Like the PPTA’s Kate Gainsford, Buutveld is keen to see the next steps in government action on behaviour. The initial results from last year’s behaviour summit were good and he is keen to see the impact of that work.

The collective agreement negotiations for primary and secondary teachers and principals could become a big issue, particularly if performance pay is raised by the government, Buutveld says. He notes that the government said that state sector pay rises will only be made in return for productivity gains and says it is not a great leap to see national standards used to inform a performance system in the primary sector.

School Trustees Association President: Lorraine Kerr and General manager: Ray Newport

This year’s trustee elections loom large for Lorraine Kerr. Early signs are that 60 per cent of current trustees will stand again in the May elections, but the country’s schools are still looking at potentially 7000 new trustees this year. That means schools around the country need to not only run elections, but the new trustees will need training.

Also important for the sector is the range of new developments that schools will be working to implement this year. These include the revised curriculum this year as well as national standards and Ka Hikitia, the plan for lifting Māori student achievement.

Possible future developments will also feature this year, Newport predicts. In particular he notes the recent working group paper on school choice which suggested the government next year introduce a system giving the lowest performing 20 per cent and highest performing five per cent more choice. That is a tight timeframe for development and introduction of a potentially far-reaching proposal, he says, and likely to result in a lot of debate and work for the sector.

The teacher and principal pay talks are included in the STA’s list of events this year, with the association seeking a clearer role for itself in the negotiations and also concerned about the likelihood that this year’s negotiations could be difficult.