NZEI March to Stand up for Kids

I went along to the Hamilton NZEI Stand up for Kids – Protect Our Schools rally & march yesterday, thinking it was the least I could do for the teachers who have educated my children, many of whom are still teaching at the same levels, long after my offspring have left their care.

I had the impression that Hamiltonians were not very ‘protesty’ people, and that the teachers might need every radical education policy lefty activist in the region to show up.

When I arrived at the rallying point, there was a huge crew of NZEI marshalls in yellow vests, handing out chant sheets and lovely round purple and red (double-sided) posters for marchers to hold.

They were surrounded by teachers, parents and children, and such a huge collection of banners from schools around the region, along with hand-made signs carried by resourceful marchers and children.
I caught up with a few local Greenies from the Hamilton Branch & the Campus Greens, and managed a short chat with Cath Delahunty before we all set off. Thanks to a young local friend, I have an estimate of around 400 people marching, which I was informed was a very good turnout for Hamilton; dire descriptions of events where the turnout totaled 20 brave bodies followed.

After about a fifteen minute walk, the crowd arrived at Steele Park in Hamilton East, where a stage-truck was set to provide sound amplification for the speakers, and an avid crew of NZEI volunteers sizzled sausages for hungry marchers. Credit was given to Anglican Action for providing the consumables to run the sausage sizzle.
There was much singing and chanting along the way; as you’d expect of teachers, there were very clearly written chant sheets, and a song sheet with waiata and karakia which were used at various points during the proceedings. Local kaumatua were on hand to lead those parts, and give a blessing to the efforts of the marchers.

Speakers included Professor Martin Thrupp, from Waikato University’s Faculty of Education, who spoke about his research into the dreaded National Standards which has pretty much been ignored by the Minister, along with a statement signed by 150 academics in the field of education research – a major feat in itself – which was sent to the Minister.
Green MP Cath Delahunty spoke, exhorting the crowd to ‘vote the Government out’ at the next elections if they want to see their schools maintained at the level of excellence that current standards allow. There was discussion of the effects of the ‘Charter Schools’ policies favoured by the Minister, and a general desire to retain trained, qualified teachers in our education system was expressed both in her speech and on placards held by marchers.
Labour MP Sue Maroney echoed Cath’s call to ‘vote them out’ and said to teachers, encourage parents at your schools to enroll and vote, it’s the strongest message parents can send to the Government.
Anglican Action’s director Karen Morrison-Hume spoke last, praising teachers who are at the pointy end of social welfare, funding breakfasts and even lunches in our decile 1 & 2 schools so that children living in poverty-stricken homes can have at least some chance of learning. She spoke of the parlous situation of charities, who have had donation cuts from big businesses who are less able in the current economic climate to donate food for social programs – alleviation of social distress that should be covered by MSD/WINZ, not teachers or supermarket owners with a conscience.

Coverage of marches around the country was spotty, although I’ve had these media reports brought to my attention (thanks, FB friends …) in Chrischurch, Auckland, and Wellington.

There may be pictures later, sorry folks my capacity for uploading the ones I took is limited; I’m borrowing a camera I don’t know quite how to sync with my desktop system (yet). There’s a work-around, but it’s cumbersome.
Guess I need some intensive re-education as well!

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Good Golly Ms Tolley

National announces its Education policy:

People wanting to be teachers may soon have to pass a personality test to assess whether they are right for the job.

It’s one of the moves planned by National should it retain power after Saturday.

Education spokesperson Anne Tolley released her extensive education policy today which covers everything from plans for a new funding structure for the early childcare sector to clamping down further on people who take out student loans.

Schools know that because the Standards are so flawed, the level of moderation is so inconsistent, and implementation is so varied around the country, any student achievement data based on them is completely unreliable. It is unfair and dangerous for ‘National Standards’ to be used to compare and judge school performance, let alone as an accountability measure”.

NZEI is also concerned that National wants to shift the resourcing model to ‘incentivise school performance’ as it suggests that money will be removed from those schools which are not complying with ‘National Standards’ or are not performing against them.”

“More measuring doesn’t make the pig fatter and National’s policy will simply increase the bureaucracy in education without adding value to the people who matter – children.

Metiria has Double Dipton stumbling, stammering, and struggling on inequality

Well done, Metiria Turei. In today’s Parliamentary question time Metiria had Bill English stumbling, stammering, and unable to come up with any answers of substance on her questions about the increasing inequality in Aotearoa / New Zealand. Here’s the video:

For those who have slow internet connections that make videos difficult, a transcript is here (although it doesn’t really reflect how flustered Double Dipton was on the issue).

It was a bad day all round for Double Dipton. He also confirmed yesterday’s revelation that he has no mathematical understanding of what an average (or mean) is:

Hon Trevor Mallard: Does he understand that real average wages go up when high-income earners get massive tax cuts—$1,000 a week, in his case—and low-income workers lose their jobs?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I do not understand that, because it is not true.

Almost (but not) enough to make me rethink my views about National Standards on numeracy! And this guy used to work for Treasury!!!

Wellington replaces Tolley in shock Cabinet reshuffle

Education Minister Anne Tolley finds herself demoted to the backbenches in a shock Cabinet reshuffle announced by Prime Minister John Key today.

Tolley will be replaced by Merv Wellington, who previously served as Minister of Education in Sir Robert Muldoon’s Cabinet between 1978 and 1984. Wellington, plucked from backbench obscurity by Sir Robert, was a controversial figure in the 1978-84 government, presiding over substantial and wide-ranging cuts in education spending and decreeing that the New Zealand flag was to be flown at all school assemblies. He died in 2003.

“Anne has been a hardworking and competent Minister, said Mr Key, announcing the reshuffle. I am confident she will find something to do as a backbencher where her talents will be appreciated.

“However, Merv was a fierce advocate for excellence in education and those views put him ahead of his time. I have always thought he deserved another chance, and given the challenges of implementing National Standards and reshaping the Ministry of Education, I have decided Merv is the man for the job.”

The Prime Minister said he was relaxed about the constitutional precedent of appointing a deceased Member of Parliament to Cabinet. “Our Constitution is always evolving. The previous Government appointed Jeanette Fitzsimons and Sue Bradford as Government spokespeople outside Cabinet even though the Greens were not a part of that Government. I don’t think appointing the late Merv Wellington to Cabinet sets any greater constitutional precedent than that did,” he said.

When asked how she felt about her demotion, Mrs Tolley replied “Currently a large number of assessment tools are used by schools, and no one standard applies across them. That is what national standards are. So the existing assessment tools will remain in place, and the national standards will go right across all those tools, so that it will not matter which school a child goes to, or which assessment tool a particular school uses, because there will be a standard that is national. That is the essence of national standards, so the inter-school moderation is exactly that. Parents will know, whichever school their children attend— Well, it just shows that you do not understand— It just shows that you do not understand what national standards are…”

The late Merv Wellington was unavailable for comment, but a spokesperson said he was delighted with the opportunity to return to Cabinet to complete his unfinished business.