Coddington on Teacher Unions

Deborah Coddington has had a blinder so far this year…once again she is right on the money, this time about the teacher unions bleating over Charter Schools:

Why the fuss over charter schools? Given the hysterical ranting from teacher unions, you’d think we were returning to caning on the backside.

It won’t be compulsory for students to attend what are, essentially, alternative choices for parents to state or private schools. A bit like kura kaupapa.

But unions don’t like parental choice. They like telling parents what to do. Robin Duff, head of the PPTA, published an opinion piece comparing these evil charter schools with epic failures such as the Pike River mining disaster, the Global Financial Crisis and the grounding of the container ship Rena.

The commonality is that none are accountable. But charter schools are accountable to parents, something that many state schools are not.

I’m pretty sure we are about to see a paper from Waikato “university” about charter schools leading to increased child poverty and hand gun slayings.

Charter Schools promise to deliver what Tomorrow’s Schools was supposed to, parental control. The teacher unions have managed ti nullify boards, largely through indifference but mostly through intimidation. The teachers know though that they will be at the school long after the children have left and so will just wait out stroppy parents agitating for excellence.

Yes, there is evidence some overseas charter schools have proved to be failures, but that doesn’t mean they’re all a disaster. Many are the opposite.

In New Zealand, some state schools, too, are monumental failures, but I won’t hold my breath for an article from Duff castigating the state schooling system as an ideological disaster.

The whole reason that Charter Schools are even a proposition is the abject failure of many schools in low decile areas, despite the billions in extra funding.

At present the education system (state and private) is failing 20 per cent of our children, who leave unable to read and write, yet the unions will not accept that changes need to be made.

Yet when you think of it, a school is just bricks, wood, lawns, equipment. Isn’t what really matters the leadership, plus the ability to recruit and inspire great teachers?

The Government spends more than $4 billion on this country’s 7000 teachers, but how do parents sort out the good from the bad? By swapping stories in the carpark?

The answer is comprehensive league tables for as start, the performance pay for teachers, which of course needs quality measurement systems.

So how are we doing in New Zealand? We have many excellent teachers -nobody disputes that – but we don’t know what we don’t know because we’re not allowed to know. Few teachers referred to the Teachers Council for incompetency are deregistered, and of the ones who slip through, parents are never allowed to know their names, which school they are at, or which subjects they teach.

John Hattie, professor of education at Auckland University, believes excellent teachers can be identified, and emphasis should be put on education policy that develops teacher excellence. But it’s easier said than done, because “as teachers, we don’t acknowledge excellence ourselves.

“We have allowed the de-professionalising of our profession by allowing the ‘anything goes’ mentality.”

While the PPTA and NZEI remain firmly wedded to collective agreements, it will be difficult to introduce incentives to keep brilliant teachers in the classrooms when they must move into management for higher salaries. In union land, excellent teachers shouldn’t get more pay than incompetent colleagues on the same level because that’s not fair.

But it’s never the teachers’ fault when students fail – it’s families, lazy kids, the Government, dogs eating homework – and now the unions have got another excuse: charter schools.

The teacher unions have a choice, they can either be part of the solution or they will become part of the problem. The solution to that problem i they get in the way is a couple of steps involving changes to the way they organise. Like preventing them having a national award system, instead putting them on the same footing as every other worker in the private sector and bring in workplace location bargaining with no ability to go on strike because the teachers at one school scored a better deal they the teachers in another. Individual contracts would be a good start rather than collective agreements.

Finally if they don’t play ball there is always de-registration.

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