How would education hubs operate?
‘‘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
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.’’