Radical proposal to change way schools are run
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.’’