Post Primary Teachers' Association (PPTA) President ANGELA ROBERTS outlines what has changed with the Government’s proposed Investing in Educational Success policy since the announcement was made in January, and why the sector should support it.
The Investing in Educational Success (IES) plan has moved a long way since the Prime Minister’s January announcement.
The initial paper describing the Government’s plan with, in some instances, unworkable proposals for new roles and provisions, has now developed into a more pragmatic and potentially valuable initiative that is much better connected to the complex reality of schools.
This has happened through a robust and challenging sector wide consultative process, which PPTA has engaged with in good faith and with our members’ wishes at the fore.
We have never pretended that this initiative is a magic spray that’s going to fix everything for schools and students. We know that out-of-school factors have the most significant impact on student learning, and this is the same whether you’re in Finland or Whanganui. That’s why we won’t let up our call to take child poverty seriously and make clear the links between social and education policies and resourcing, such as with schools as community hubs.
But we also don’t want to pretend that in-school factors don’t matter or that we should not seek to improve these. As teaching professionals, it is in our own backyard that we can have the greatest influence to build the ability of schools and teachers to work together, share what’s working, and support each other in order to do the best for our students. This isn’t a teacher blaming approach but one of building capacity.
During the discussions, we’ve been working within well-established and widely-supported PPTA policy: we need to break down the silos created by Tomorrow’s Schools because students are better served by collaboration between schools and teachers than by competition. Teaching is enhanced if there are better career pathways and if teachers have more opportunities to support and mentor each other. These changes will take resources, and that’s what IES offers.
Of course, there’s scepticism from the sector about the intentions behind this. A government that introduced charter schools with no prior warning, rushed National Standards into law under urgency, and tried to change class size ratios through a Budget sleight of hand definitely deserves it.
But there’s a crucial protection here, which was made clear from the start. The changes proposed are going to be negotiated with unions into variations to the collective employment agreements that cover the sector. These will only become effective if the union members who are covered by them vote to accept them. If teachers do accept the changes and these roles are put into the agreements, then neither this nor any future government can walk away from it. Previous government initiatives have very rarely, if ever, been offered as collective agreement variations in this way, as it’s a spending commitment that they cannot easily back out of.
At the end of the process, the sector will have the chance to accept or reject these changes. They will be voting on new provisions developed from the April Working Party Report which is substantially different from the original January Cabinet paper.
So what has changed since January? What do we know now about how this this initiative could work?
- Schools will choose whether to be in a Community of Schools or not, and if so, which one.
- Each community will decide its own governance and management structure and processes for operation, determine its own achievement plan, set its own objectives, and determine what data it will (and will not) use.
- There will be three new clear career pathways for teachers and principals, supported by professional development, support, and time to do the jobs.
- There will be a provision for PLD; ‘inquiry time’ accessible to all teachers.
- There will be a principal recruitment allowance to broaden the field for principal vacancies in struggling schools.
- There will be a teacher led innovation fund for teachers to access resources to research and trial new and innovative teaching practice.
In fact, this redesigned version of IES is not very different to what hundreds of schools are already doing informally around the country right now. The key difference is that those existing clusters (and the new ones that will join them in the next two to three years) will in future have additional and ongoing resourcing to fund the time and expertise needed to sustain cooperation over the long term.
This is not the crude January Cabinet proposal, but a greatly changed one that the sector Working Group developed, after three months of in depth consultation, and which Cabinet has now endorsed. It is from that, that the more specific nuts and bolts will be negotiated into the collective agreements, and will then be taken to PPTA members for ratification over the coming months.