About time, Hekia comes good on sorting out dud teachers and dud schools

Watch the howls of outrage as the teacher unions gather strength after Hekia Parata’s announcment that she is going after dud schools.

Schools with persistent student underachievement will face a broader range of action from officials, including possible closure, under a proposed revamp of education law.

Education Minister Hekia Parata also wants to reward high-performing schools with much more flexibility in how they plan, and more discretion in the use of funding.

Short of putting in a commissioner or statutory manager, there were limits on what could be done with “floundering” schools, Ms Parata said – particularly if a board or principal was not keen to co-operate.

“Schools that are struggling the most often are the least willing to be helped. They get quite defensive … Unless you strike a principal who has a relationship with the ministry, it is quite hard to go into a school. And a board can tell you to naff off because they are in charge of the school.”

Under wide-ranging proposals for an overhaul of the Education Act 1989, released today in a discussion document, the Ministry of Education could be given power to step in earlier – a “graduated response” that could avoid a more radical intervention later. ?

Options could include an improvement notice, an audit, or, more seriously, a board could be asked to appoint different members.

Tough action should not be avoided in some cases, the Education Minister told the Herald.

The discussion document proposes putting a set of guiding principles for changing school arrangements in the law, possibly including the needs of learners.

“There are some schools in the country that have had persistent underachievement, but under the act, that’s not actually a reason for closing a school. But I would like it to become one.

“I am not set on closing schools, but you just cannot have schools that can function, but their kids aren’t learning anything.

“This is a move away from the administratively dense focus of the 1989 act, to a kid-centred focus on learning. That is the key change.”

I would bet money on the fact that those under-achieving schools have militant union members or bosses in charge of them.

All our teachers go to the same training college, are certified by the same authorities and, to top it all off, poorer schools are gifted much more funding based on the poverty of their students.

There are no reasons at all for continued failure of schools.

The teacher unions oppose every step proposed or implemented to introduce quality controls in teaching, and they will oppose this too.

If Hekia Parata really wants to make the stick a sturdy one, the policy should be that the state school will be closed and a charter school opened in its place.


– A newspaper