Rad­i­cal pro­posal to change way schools are run

The Southland Times - - Front Page - Adele Red­mond and Ben Bootsma

Boards of trustees would be stripped of most of their pow­ers un­der a rad­i­cal pro­posal to change the way New Zealand schools are run.

The long-awaited re­port into To­mor­row’s Schools – the self­gov­ern­ing model of the past 30 years – was re­leased yesterday. It rec­om­mends in­tro­duc­ing ‘‘ed­u­ca­tion hubs’’ to man­age the ap­point­ment of prin­ci­pals, school prop­erty, sus­pen­sions and ex­pul­sions, and pro­vide an ad­vo­cacy ser­vice for fam­i­lies with com­plaints.

It also calls for a limit on out-of­zone en­rol­ments: ‘‘Some schools have un­fairly and some­times il­le­gally pre­vented lo­cal stu­dents en­rolling.’’

The Crown en­ti­ties would over­see about 125 schools each.

Boards would re­tain control over teach­ing at their schools and all lo­cally-raised funds, and re­ceive a veto or fi­nal ap­proval over their prin­ci­pal’s ap­point­ment if the task­force’s rec­om­men­da­tions are adopted.

‘‘Schools have been ex­pected to op­er­ate in iso­la­tion for too long, with­out any­where near enough pro­fes­sional and busi­ness sup­port,’’ chair­man Bali Haque said.

Large changes to school fund­ing has also been rec­om­mended, in­clud­ing lim­it­ing how much schools can ask for in do­na­tions, bar­ring the use of Gov­ern­ment funds to pro­vide for fee-pay­ing in­ter­na­tional stu­dents, and re­plac­ing the decile fund­ing sys­tem with a pro­posed eq­uity in­dex ‘‘as soon as pos­si­ble’’.

In­ver­cargill’s Dono­van Pri­mary School prin­ci­pal Peter Hop­wood agreed with the idea of strict zon­ing for schools. He be­lieved par­ents and chil­dren should want go to their lo­cal school, not just be forced to.

‘‘Yes an over­haul is nec­es­sary. It’s been sim­mer­ing for a long time. There are many in­ef­fec­tive abil­i­ties in boards in New Zealand.’’

Hop­wood is also the NZEI chair­man of the Prin­ci­pal’s Coun­cil and was heav­ily in­volved in the con­sul­ta­tion process of this re­port.

‘‘As long as our boards stay, I’m in­ter­ested in how much au­thor­ity would be taken away from the board and that would af­fect whether I

At a glance:

❚ ‘Ed­u­ca­tion Hubs’ re­place re­gional Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion of­fices, as­sum­ing many of the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of school boards of trustees. ❚ Limit out-of-zone en­rol­ments to de­crease com­pe­ti­tion be­tween schools ❚ Re­place the decile fund­ing sys­tem with a pro­posed eq­uity in­dex ‘‘as soon as pos­si­ble’’, pri­ori­tis­ing the most dis­ad­van­taged schools. ❚ Limit how much schools can ask for in do­na­tions ❚ A learn­ing sup­port co-or­di­na­tor for ev­ery school to stream­line ac­cess to ser­vices for dis­abled stu­dents ❚ Dis­es­tab­lish the Ed­u­ca­tion Re­view Of­fice and New Zealand Qual­i­fi­ca­tions Au­thor­ity ❚ Es­tab­lish a new Ed­u­ca­tion Eval­u­a­tion Of­fice re­port­ing di­rectly to par­lia­ment on the per­for­mance of Ed­u­ca­tion Hubs and the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion. thought it would be ef­fec­tive or not.’’

An­other fear re­gard­ing the changes for Hop­wood was the ef­fect it would have on the com­mu­nity around the school.

‘‘If there is still a board in a school, we should still be able to not lose the com­mu­nity voice in the school be­cause we’ve had the com­mu­nity voice for 30 years. The com­mu­nity’s voice is re­ally im­por­tant.’’

Ed­u­ca­tion Minister Chris Hip­kins an­nounced the re­view in Fe­bru­ary. Yesterday’s rec­om­men­da­tions will be open for con­sul­ta­tion un­til April 7.

The re­port laid bare the short­com­ings of our school sys­tem: ‘‘The gap be­tween our best and worst per­form­ing stu­dents has widened.’’

Un­der the To­mor­row’s Schools model, ‘‘schools have been en­cour­aged to com­pete for stu­dents’’, in­creas­ing eth­nic and so­cioe­co­nomic seg­re­ga­tion and mak­ing the decile sys­tem a proxy for school qual­ity. ‘‘There is no ev­i­dence to sug­gest the cur­rent self­gov­ern­ing schools model has been suc­cess­ful in raising stu­dent achieve­ment or im­prov­ing eq­uity as was in­tended.’’

Stu­dents with dis­abil­i­ties ‘‘should have the same ac­cess to school­ing as other stu­dents and it is clear that they cur­rently do not’’, the re­port says.

Prin­ci­pals’ roles are ‘‘ex­tremely de­mand­ing’’, and boards of trustees did not al­ways ap­point the best per­son for the job. Un­der the task­force’s pro­posal, Ed­u­ca­tion Hubs would iden­tify po­ten­tial fu­ture prin­ci­pals, ap­point them, and han­dle their pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment.

‘‘Ed­u­ca­tion hubs’’ have been mooted as a so­lu­tion to is­sues in the school sys­tem – but how would they work?

A rad­i­cal new re­port has rec­om­mended re­plac­ing re­gional Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion of­fices with the hubs, which would take over most of the pow­ers held by school boards of trustees.

The To­mor­row’s Schools task­force wants 20 hubs to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for the big stuff: prop­erty, em­ploy­ment, ad­vi­sory ser­vices, pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment, and al­lo­cat­ing Gov­ern­ment fund­ing, leav­ing schools to fo­cus on ed­u­ca­tion.

The hubs would be in charge of about about 125 re­gion­ally-grouped schools each.

Ap­pointed by the Ed­u­ca­tion Minister, the hubs would be in­de­pen­dent but mon­i­tored by the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion.

In short, they would be the mid­dle­man be­tween the Gov­ern­ment and in­di­vid­ual schools.

Mean­while, school boards would keep re­spon­si­bil­ity for things like stu­dent achieve­ment and com­mu­nity en­gage­ment.

Boards would likely have a veto or fi­nal ap­proval rights over prin­ci­pals – who would be ap­pointed by their hub on a five-year con­tract – and could ask for control over some or all of their prop­erty fund­ing. But that is about it. Teach­ers unions the New Zealand Ed­u­ca­tional In­sti­tute and the Post Pri­mary Teach­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion wel­comed the ‘‘bold’’ pro­pos­als. The New Zealand School Trustees’ As­so­ci­a­tion (NZSTA) was cau­tiously op­ti­mistic. Pres­i­dent Lor­raine Kerr liked the idea of let­ting school boards gov­ern on the com­mu­nity’s be­half with­out be­com­ing tied up in ‘‘busi­ness’’ ac­tiv­i­ties that trustees were not al­ways ca­pa­ble of han­dling. She felt the re­port would not have gone far enough if it did not make peo­ple un­com­fort­able. But ‘‘the devil will be in the de­tails’’ , and the new sys­tem’s suc­cess would de­pend on gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials sup­port­ing and not ‘‘sec­ond guess­ing’’ ed­u­ca­tion providers, she said. Dig­i­tal ed­u­ca­tion ex­pert Frances Val­in­tine called the hubs idea ‘‘odd’’, com­par­ing them to the health sys­tem’s dis­trict health boards. ‘‘Putting in an­other layer with an ed­u­ca­tion hub is just go­ing to slow things down, add cost and com­plex­ity,’’ she said. Val­in­tine said it made more sense for min­istry of ed­u­ca­tion staff al­ready work­ing in re­gional of­fices to do the hub work. ‘‘I imag­ine they just need to change some rules about how those en­ti­ties per­form,’’ she said. SO HOW WILL THEY WORK The per­son be­hind the To­mor­row’s Schools task­force, chair­man Bali Haque, says the hubs were not ‘‘a man­age­rial layer on top of ev­ery­thing’’ but a sup­port mech­a­nism for schools and fam­i­lies. The hubs would be made up of a small num­ber of di­rec­tors ap­pointed by the minister of ed­u­ca­tion. Half would be ed­u­ca­tors – prin­ci­pals, ex­prin­ci­pals and ed­u­ca­tion con­sul­tants – and the rest would be iwi representatives and ‘‘busi­ness peo­ple, peo­ple who un­der­stand or­gan­i­sa­tional change’’, Haque said. Some could cover large geo­graphic ar­eas where the pop­u­la­tion was widely dis­persed. A sep­a­rate na­tional hub would ser­vice kura kau­papa Ma¯ori (Ma¯ori im­mer­sion schools). Haque said the size and com­po­si­tion of hubs would de­pend on their lo­ca­tion: A hub in South Auck­land would look dif­fer­ent to a hub ser­vic­ing ru­ral schools. ‘‘We don’t want a sit­u­a­tion where a hub is re­spon­si­ble for a geo­graphic area where they don’t know what’s hap­pen­ing in that school,’’ he said. The minister of ed­u­ca­tion would be able to dis­miss poorly-per­form­ing hub di­rec­tors, the task­force’s re­port says. The minu­tiae – how many di­rec­tors each hub has, who they will be, and some of the hubs’ func­tions – would be ironed out af­ter con­sul­ta­tion closes on April 7. Asked why there were no elected po­si­tions on the hubs, Haque said they were about bet­ter or­gan­i­sa­tion, ‘‘not about rep­re­sent­ing schools’’. He re­jected the sug­ges­tion the hubs would be sim­i­lar to dis­trict health boards, or the re­gional ed­u­ca­tion boards that pre-dated the To­mor­row’s Schools re­forms of the 1980s. He said it would take three to five years to make the rec­om­men­da­tions re­al­ity. ‘‘We’re in this for the long haul,’’ he said. "Our view is that ed­u­ca­tion can no longer be a po­lit­i­cal foot­ball.’’

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