Not another change in schools!
Once again it’s all aboard the merry-go-round in the country’s schools.
And the announcement by the prime minister shows who is driving it in an accepted political pattern: If there’s credit likely from a policy, then the PM will launch it. If possible problems are involved, Steven Joyce, National’s Minister for Anything and Everything fronts up.
If it’s dangerous, with lots of fishhooks – like a lemon computer system for school staff salaries – then the minister will be forced out from under her desk to face the flack and promise a Commission of Inquiry.
And if there’s no hope for it, all questions go to the departmental head. On that basis, the plan for itinerant highpower headmasters and staffers switching from school to school like door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesmen in any given week is obviously seen as a runner by Beehive planners/plotters.
Must be. Otherwise, John Key wouldn’t front it.
That and the ACT format of charter schools which John Banks screwed out of John Key in return for unquestioning support to National could earn a ‘‘must do better’’ in this year’s examination time by voters.
It was inevitable that I would look into old diaries for a precedent – and find it.
August 1988: The first signs had looked good. David Lange had taken the education portfolio with him to the prime minister’s office. And the new policy had a great ring to it: ‘‘Tomorrow’s Schools’’ which followed an in-depth study – the Picot Report.
More than that, there was a time frame for a rejig in education. The merry-goround was moving again.
Anything Lange achieved would automatically be reworked when National next won, swinging things back to what they saw as the original intentions of the Picot Report with its own high-sounding line – ‘‘ Department for Excellence’’.
When Labour returned to power, they also had a firm idea about just what the original reforms should have meant.
Now, National is going into its own pattern of ‘‘different is better’’. Certainly, things were vastly different under Lange – and not necessarily for the better.
I went to a middle-sized provincial school to see how it all worked – or didn’t. It was clearly another disruptive day out of class for the deputy principal, a skilled and experienced career teacher, who had framed national test papers in his speciality.
The school swimming pool had been raided the previous weekend by a bus-load from another community who cut their way through the heavy mesh fence. With them in the pool were five dogs.
The raiders left sullenly when ordered out, secretly tipping a month’s quota of water treatment chemicals into the pool as they left.
The deputy principal was caught up with having the pool emptied, mesh repaired, and switching the school’s swimming sports to the town pool.
Plus negotiating with a contractor to install an electric incinerator in the girls’ toilet.
A managerial role his honours degrees didn’t equip him for. And was not of his choosing.
Next worries schools. week:
Precedent: Former PM David Lange once fronted on the issue of education reform – John Key is doing the same in the run-up to an election.