School system needs change, and here’s why
The Tomorrow’s Schools Independent Taskforce spent almost six months looking at the evidence and held over 200 meetings all over the country. So is our current education system still relevant? Does it work for you as a parent or school board member? Does it meet the needs of our children today?
We found that education is highly valued but, for every child to have the ability to achieve well, we need to change our schooling system.
Based on what we have heard and researched, we have concluded that:
❚ our compulsory education system’s overall performance is plateauing or declining in comparison with other countries;
❚ we have serious national equity issues;
❚ far too many of our children are poorly served by the system;
❚ our schools and schooling system need to change with pace to remain relevant.
The challenge we have is that our governance system does not have an integrated ‘‘local layer’’ of professional and business support for schools – comparable, successful education systems around the world do. This then affects the outcomes of students’ success and wellbeing.
Every one of our almost 2500 boards and principals must individually shoulder business responsibilities such as property projects, employment, and health and safety. These responsibilities, which many find time-consuming and onerous, often prevent boards and principals from focusing on their core responsibilities: the teaching, learning and welfare of children.
The taskforce believes the lack of an integrated local support system has also meant that, over the years, teachers and principals have not been provided with enough systematic professional support in their teaching and leadership roles.
This approach has contributed to a growing fragmentation across communities, with advantaged schools and communities, acting in their own self-interest, benefiting most, at the expense of the less-advantaged.
To address these issues, the taskforce has recommended a refocus of boards of trustees and the establishment of about 20 local education hubs throughout the country, with all current Ministry of Education regional offices being disestablished.
We believe that current school boards are hardworking, committed and passionate, but want to focus on what most believe to be their core roles:
❚ developing specific strategic and annual plans to reflect the priorities of the school community and maximise student success and wellbeing;
❚ deciding on and monitoring the goals, purpose and character of their school;
❚ appointing the principal;
❚ advising the principal on local curriculum and assessment matters.
Education hubs, working collaboratively with their communities, would provide:
❚ a mechanism to relieve boards of their more timeconsuming business responsibilities, so they can focus on their core role, while ensuring they, and the principal, are involved in key decisions;
❚ much-needed professional, curriculum, assessment and leadership support for teachers and principals;
❚ support for some schools, if they require it, in managing their caretaking, accounting and procurement processes.
Schools wishing to retain control of their major property projects could do so if they have the required capabilities.
The taskforce expects that hubs would be relatively small Crown agencies, and would be governed and led by educationalists and business personnel. The hubs would formally employ (and manage the performance of) principals, but boards would form half of the appointments panel and have final approval rights of the appointment.
Principals would be employed by hubs on an ongoing basis and placed on five-year contracts to particular schools. This would allow leadership expertise to be shared and professional growth to be supported, but would not in any way exclude the possibility of multiple five-year renewals.
Hubs would formally employ teachers, but the entire selection, interview and appointment process (and performance management) would be the responsibility of the principal. Teachers would not be on fixed-term contracts.
The taskforce recommends that principals continue to have responsibility for their school operational grant and staffing entitlements, much as they currently do. They would also continue to be responsible for all local curriculum and assessment matters in the school.
We are pleased that most reaction to the report to date from key stakeholder groups has been positive. This is not to say, of course, that these groups necessarily support all of the individual recommendations, which are far-reaching.
It is important that people are clear about exactly what we are proposing, and why.
The full report is available at https:/ /conversation.education.govt.nz/conversations/ tomorrows-schools-review, and is out for consultation until April 7.
Our overall performance is plateauing or declining compared with other countries.