Dear Anne Tolley, and John Key
I woke up this morning and read your education policy as summarised in the media. This whole article on your proposed education policy made me furious. The article suggested that these were the key points:
EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION:
Target of 98 per cent of new entrants in school having participated in early childhood education by 2015
New interactive website for parents to choose “the best” local ECE service
New funding model to be trialled in 2014
Require publication of National Standards data in 2012
New assessment of “disposition to teach” for trainee teachers
A long time ago when National Standards were introduced I predicted that they would creep to Secondary schools and that we would see league tables. It didn’t bother me that on both points you said this wouldn’t happen. It was clearly a lie, and it is no comfort to me to see my predictions turn out to be correct.
It seem to me that there is simply no possibility of negotiating with your government in good faith and this makes me angry, because I am a reasonable person who believes that conflict is a dead end.
Here are some points that I would like to address to you:
- How can you want 98% of kids in early childhood education, but cut the funding to these centres that make them affordable, and how can you want 98% of kids to go to centres where you do not believe that it is important that 100% of the staff there are fully qualified?
- What does the term “best” ECE centres mean? Doesn’t this just mean the centres with the wealthiest and best educated parents? How does a competitive model in education work when some people can’t afford the best, and are you committed in terms of the massive amounts of money and time it will take to build up struggling centres, or is it a fail-and-close-them-down model?
- You said that you would not create a situation of league tables two years ago. This was clearly a lie. Do you think it is a good model to our students to lie in order to get what you want, and then use double speak to try to pretend that you never said such things in the past?
- League tables are good for comparing apples with apples, but after the first round of tables are printed there will no longer be apples and apples, there will be schools that are better than others when measured against one criteria. My daughter started school yesterday, and I know the pressure to send your child to the “best” school and not the local school, but I believe in my local school and I was DELIGHTED to send her to the local school and see her running in and playing with the Somali kids, and the Pasifika kids, and the Indian kids, and the European kids all together, learning together, and being wonderful and curious together, and I can’t help but wonder what will happen to all the white kids when the school down the road does better on the league table, because it is a wealthier and more homogenous school. Are we committed to a multi-cultural New Zealand or not? Or is that just talk? Past experience shows that Europeans like me abandon schools that are sinking faster than rats on a sinking ship because they can, and that parents who can’t afford to make the change don’t (even though they care just as much for their children). I’m not proud of this fact, but I have to admit it is true. Do you understand this? I don’t think that you do, and I think that this is the weakness of a party that is made up of a homogenous and wealthy group and would prefer a voting system where they can just stop mucking about and govern alone. You do not represent everyone, and you should never, ever be allowed to govern alone for that reason. Not because I do not like you, but because NO ONE should govern alone.
- Disposition to teach? My first years teaching in a low decile school were hell. I went home, lay down on the floor and cried. If someone had offered me a job doing something else at the moment I would have taken it. Now I am at the end of my sixth year teaching and I think I do a damn good job. Teaching is a long hard road to success, and it is even more brutal and even more important at decile one schools. My experience of a decile ten school is that the students can almost teach themselves. Is it not then true that student teachers in higher decile schools will appear to have a better disposition to teach than those toughing it out in low decile schools? Where do you want good teachers to go? Into the low decile schools where the results are low, and they will be judged on league tables, and their position will worsen as white flight takes place over the next few years? I assume that you are also planning to let parents have “choice” about where they send their kids. Which means abandoning zoning, and abandoning certain schools whose funding is tied to their roll.
- Can I ask you this? What was broken about our education system? One of the best in the world for decade after decade with results we can be proud of in maths, and reading and writing? Our identified area of concern was our long tail. A characteristic that all multi-cultural societies face, and one that they are all battling with. Why have you created a policy that will disadvantage the schools where the long tail is over represented? I think that it is so parents who are educated and comparatively wealthy (compared to long-tail parents) can have a good reason to send their kids out of area.
- Finally, I would like you to show me another country similar to our own where this model has worked over a long period of time.