Bat­tle lines drawn over rad­i­cal school re­forms

Cries of ‘Stal­in­ism’ greet ‘bold, brave’ plan to ap­point re­gional hubs

Weekend Herald - - News - Si­mon Collins

Bat­tle lines are drawn over a pro­posed rad­i­cal shake-up of the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem which has brought ex­cited praise from lib­er­als but con­dem­na­tion as “Stal­in­ist” from more tra­di­tional schools.

“This is a big, bold and brave move from the task­force and we wel­come it,” said NZ Ed­u­ca­tional In­sti­tute pres­i­dent Lynda Stu­art. “We are ex­cited by the op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

But Auck­land Gram­mar School head­mas­ter Tim O’Con­nor said the re­port, by a task­force led by for­mer prin­ci­pal Bali Haque, “needs to be re­sisted at all costs”.

“It is a se­ri­ous at­tack on state ed­u­ca­tion and on ev­ery child’s life chances. We’ll just have to work to en­sure that it doesn’t pro­ceed,” he said.

Avon­dale Col­lege prin­ci­pal Brent Lewis said a pro­posal to trans­fer all the le­gal re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of school boards of trustees from elected boards to ap­pointed re­gional hubs was “real Stal­in­ist stuff ”.

The task­force would re­verse key changes made in the last big re­forms known as “To­mor­row’s Schools” in

1989, when re­gional ed­u­ca­tion boards were abol­ished and ev­ery school was given con­trol of its oper­a­tions bud­get and staff ap­point­ments.

Haque pro­poses to res­ur­rect about

20 re­gional “hubs”, each re­spon­si­ble for about 125 schools. The hubs would em­ploy prin­ci­pals and teach­ers, as­sign­ing prin­ci­pals to schools for five-year terms and then po­ten­tially mov­ing them around to where their skills are most needed.

The hubs would man­age the size of all their schools, putting lim­its on the num­bers of out-of-zone stu­dents.

School boards would also lose the power to ex­pel stu­dents. The hubs would take over the process as soon as any stu­dent is sus­pended.

The fund­ing sys­tem would be changed to dou­ble the ex­tra funds for

It is a se­ri­ous at­tack on state ed­u­ca­tion and on ev­ery child’s life chances. We’ll just have to work to en­sure that it doesn’t pro­ceed. Auck­land Gram­mar School head­mas­ter Tim O’Con­nor

more dis­ad­van­taged stu­dents from 3 per cent of to­tal fund­ing now to 6 per cent, and schools in richer ar­eas would not be al­lowed to make up for this by ask­ing par­ents for big “do­na­tions”.

The task­force also pro­poses abol­ish­ing in­ter­me­di­ate schools and en­cour­ag­ing ei­ther ju­nior col­leges (Years 7-10) and se­nior col­leges (Years

11-13), or full pri­mary schools (Years

1-8) and full sec­on­daries above them. Iron­i­cally the changes were wel­comed by school trustees, whose

pow­ers would be emas­cu­lated. School Trustees As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Lor­raine Kerr said boards would be glad to hand over “com­pli­ance” tasks such as health and safety, em­ploy­ment and prop­erty main­te­nance. “Tak­ing those away might help boards con­cen­trate on mak­ing the right de­ci­sions to en­sure that ev­ery child in ev­ery school is sup­ported to their po­ten­tial with­out the dis­trac­tion of all the com­pli­ance things we have to do,” she said.

Prin­ci­pals Fed­er­a­tion pres­i­dent Whetu Cormick said prin­ci­pals would wel­come more sup­port from the new hubs, but would be “chal­lenged” by the pro­posed five-year terms and the abo­li­tion of in­ter­me­di­ates.

Se­condary Prin­ci­pals As­so­ci­a­tion vice-pres­i­dent Dei­dre Shea, of One­hunga High School, said she was ex­cited by the ex­tra sup­port schools would get from the pro­posed hubs.

She said the cur­rent sys­tem of let­ting school boards ap­point prin­ci­pals had led to bad de­ci­sions in some cases. But there would be de­bate over whether the task­force had got the bal­ance right. She also sup­ported tight­en­ing up on out-of-zone stu­dents.

“The logic of it is well un­der­stood, it’s around hav­ing ef­fec­tive pro­vi­sion of ed­u­ca­tion in each com­mu­nity, and . . . we all want to be able to get to work in the morn­ing with less traf­fic!”

IHC ad­vo­cacy di­rec­tor Tr­ish Grant said par­ents of dis­abled chil­dren would wel­come hav­ing the hubs to re­view school de­ci­sions on which stu­dents they en­rolled or ex­pelled.

“It brings a level of ex­ter­nal over­sight,” she said. “Whether that is enough is an­other ques­tion.”

The re­port is open for pub­lic sub­mis­sions un­til April 7.

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