Rad­i­cal rejig for schools

The Timaru Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

adele.red­[email protected] chance for all New Zealan­ders to have their say on a school­ing sys­tem that meets the needs of all stu­dents, ed­u­ca­tors, and par­ents, and that is fit for pur­pose for the 21st cen­tury,’’ Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Chris Hip­kins said.

The re­port laid bare the short­com­ings of the 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 so­cio-eco­nomic seg­re­ga­tion and mak­ing the decile sys­tem a proxy for school qual­ity.

‘‘There is no ev­i­dence to sug­gest the cur­rent self-gov­ern­ing schools model has been suc­cess­ful in rais­ing stu­dent achieve­ment or im­prov­ing eq­uity as was in­tended.

‘‘Chil­dren from dis­ad­van­taged homes, too many Ma¯ ori and Pa­cific fam­i­lies, and those with sig­nif­i­cant ad­di­tional learn­ing needs re­main those most poorly served by the sys­tem.’’ 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.

Sup­port could be so frag­mented that it was al­most non-ex­is­tent and fam­i­lies of dis­abled stu­dents were of­ten made to feel ‘‘un­wel­come’’. ● ‘‘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, 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 the Ed­u­ca­tion Hubs and the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion.

Prin­ci­pals’ roles are ‘‘ex­tremely de­mand­ing’’, and boards of trus­tees did not al­ways ap­point the best per­son. The re­port also rec­om­mended the New Zealand Qual­i­fi­ca­tions Au­thor­ity and Ed­u­ca­tion Re­view Of­fice be scrapped, say­ing such agen­cies had lost the abil­ity to ‘‘deeply in­flu­ence’’ self-gov­ern­ing schools. The op­tics of the Air New Zealand strike could hardly be worse, for any­one in­volved.

Chief ex­ec­u­tive Christo­pher Luxon is not only head of the prime min­is­ter’s busi­ness coun­cil – when­ever he talks about is­sues like sus­tain­abil­ity or com­pany cul­ture, it sounds like a cross be­tween a ser­mon and a lec­ture.

‘‘I be­lieve all New Zealan­ders, re­gard­less of our back­grounds, are united in want­ing to see a more pros­per­ous econ­omy, a more co­he­sive so­ci­ety, and an en­hanced en­vi­ron­ment,’’ Luxon said when his place on the coun­cil was an­nounced.

‘‘At the end of the day we will all get the coun­try we de­serve.’’

Now the unions rep­re­sent­ing Air New Zealand’s en­gi­neers say they plan to strike days be­fore Christ­mas (brace your­self for no­tices three, two and one days be­fore Christ­mas).

Air New Zealand re­sponded to the no­tice with an ex­tra­or­di­nary power play.

In­stead of calmly promis­ing to try to re­solve the sit­u­a­tion, Air New Zealand fanned the flames.

‘‘Thou­sands of hol­i­day plans are at risk af­ter the unions rep­re­sent­ing Air New Zealand’s air­craft main­te­nance en­gi­neers, air­craft lo­gis­tics and re­lated staff served no­tice of a planned strike just four days out from Christ­mas – on the air­line’s busiest travel day of the year,’’ Air New Zealand’s state­ment an­nounc­ing the ac­tion boomed.

It then went on to point out how highly paid the en­gi­neers are, and other points of ne­go­ti­a­tions.

For­get the tac­tics be­ing used by the unions for a mo­ment, this is not good faith bar­gain­ing. Quite the op­po­site.

It is no sur­prise the union fired back, ac­cus­ing Air New Zealand of mislead­ing in­for­ma­tion, ac­cus­ing it of an ‘‘un­nec­es­sar­ily ag­gres­sive ap­proach’’.

While the two sides are headed to me­di­a­tion early next week, they do so with ten­sions high.

For Jacinda Ardern’s Gov­ern­ment, this strike has con­sid­er­able po­lit­i­cal risk.

Her op­po­nents warned a Labour-led Gov­ern­ment would lead to more strikes.

Dur­ing 2018, we have al­ready seen bu­reau­crats marching in Welling­ton, as well as na­tion­wide ac­tion by nurses and teach­ers, the lat­ter ex­pected to take ac­tion again in 2019.

But as dis­rup­tive as the strikes by the teach­ers were, if the air­line en­gi­neers re­ally do go on strike, the pub­lic’s pa­tience will be se­verely tested.

Trav­el­ling at Christ­mas is painful enough al­ready. It is busy, ex­pen­sive and the hol­i­day is stress­ful for many.

The prospect of spend­ing hol­i­days stuck at the air­port threat­ens to turn into ac­tual anger. The unions must take this se­ri­ously. It ap­pears that there is cur­rently a de­gree of pub­lic sym­pa­thy for work­ers want­ing to use what­ever power they have to win bet­ter con­di­tions af­ter years of low wage gains. But that sym­pa­thy could quickly be ex­hausted by strikes which look to be de­lib­er­ately de­signed to cause dis­tress for fam­i­lies who are us­ing up pre­cious hol­i­day time.

Air New Zealand also need to take this sit­u­a­tion very se­ri­ously, hope­fully much more se­ri­ously than its safety videos, which are con­sis­tent only in that they ap­pear to be cre­ated to an­noy us, its own­ers.

Ardern must won­der why she ap­pointed Luxon to her busi­ness coun­cil.

The ap­point­ment of a chief ex­ec­u­tive of a state con­trolled com­pany which has near mo­nop­oly pow­ers looked weird when it was an­nounced.

Not only was Luxon in no po­si­tion to ex­plain the con­cerns of ev­ery­day New Zealand busi­nesses, surely Air New Zealand al­ready had good ac­cess to the Gov­ern­ment to raise what­ever con­cerns it has.

The prime min­is­ter has gushed at Air New Zealand’s ap­proach to do­ing busi­ness, mark­ing its chief ex­ec­u­tive as some­thing of a favourite.

But if his com­pany can­not avoid a Christ­mas strike, Luxon’s cred­i­bil­ity as an ad­viser to Ardern will be gone.

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