Not another change in schools!

Central Leader - - OPINION -

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:


Money over­seas

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.

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