Schools and the Government

Teachers worried about Government plans on league tables

By Peter Corlett
(Peter is a teacher;
and exec. member of the local and national teachers union)

A group of more than 30 Kāpiti primary teachers meeting in Waikanae have raised their concerns about  Government proposals to introduce League Tables for primary schools.

The teachers from Waikanae and north of Waikanae concluded unanimously the proposals would  impact negatively on schools — and affect the way local schools collaborate with each other. 

Educational concerns about what is best for children’s learning were in the forefront  at the Waikane meeting — and at others organised by the NZEI (the teachers’ union) throughout the country. Teachers from  schools in Paraparaumu and Raumati are meeting today.

Government’s ‘confrontational style’

The recent proposal from the Minister of education,  Hekia Parata, and the resulting turnaround on class sizes because of parent concerns, has raised awareness of National’s confrontational approach to introducing reforms to education sector.

Teachers concluded that the initiatives appear to be based on ideology and cost saving motives, but demonstrate a lack of an in-depth research based rationale.

At the meeting held at Waikanae Primary School, Kāpiti teachers discussed a range of issues including an alternative model for performance pay that would be based on proven teacher capability, and evidence based practice.

They also agreed to seeking some assurances on class sizes in the next collective agreement claim.

While limitations on class size had not been part of the teacher’s collective agreement in the past, the Government has put the matter on the table with its initial proposal to increase class sizes.
Worries about league tables

Concerns about the possibility of the National Party introducing League Tables for primary schools were raised, and the negative impact that this would have on the collaborative and collegial nature of schools.

It was noted that currently New Zealand’s schools are among the leaders in student achievement levels, according to the OECD international PISA studies.

With the announcement by Prime Minister John Key that in his view the Ministry of Education should compile League Tables, despite researchers such as Professor Martin Thrupp of Waikato University indicting that research data shows that such approaches are harmful to education and student achievement, it appears that teachers’ concerns were justified.

Professor Thrupp, who has spent six years in Britain researching education markets and accountability in schools, has publicly stated his concerns about the consequences of League Tables – including a narrowing of what is taught in schools, parents of disabled students or low achieving students finding it difficult to enrol their children in schools, and the loss of collegiality between schools.

These concerns were iterated by the teachers at the meeting as further examples of National not giving sufficient weight to research about the effects of their current policies on students and their achievement, and called for the government to work with the sector rather than isolating educationalist from the decision making process.