It has been a surprising couple of days. Thanks to the DimPost and Facebook a lot of people read my last post, which was typed in an angry burst a couple of mornings ago. This is quite a change. Usually a few good friends, my wife and my mum read this blog (hi guys).
Today I realised that it is nice to write an angry post and end up with a lot of people reading it, but this isn’t actually doing anything. Writing an open letter on an obscure blog is what a friend of mine told me was called slactivism.
While I was reading the official National Party education policy I decided that I should actually write a letter and send it to Anne Tolley. Not that I am naive enough to believe that she will respond personally, but presumably someone in her office is manning the email inbox.
So here is my letter to Ms. Tolley. I sent it tonight.
- Your policy states that one in five students leave school without any qualifications. Could you direct me to statistics that show me a breakdown of this group? Do they all come from all parts of New Zealand and all schools; do they come from a wide range of socio-economic groups; are any ethnicities over represented? Is it generally true that schools with poor academic results tend to be in certain areas and in many schools the statistic of one in five is not true?
- If national standards are supposed to help parents to compare their child’s achievement with a national average why is there no consistent test across schools, and why are these results not moderated? It seems that a lot of parents misunderstand this point and believe that their children’s results are being pegged against a national average.
- Your policy states that your party has spent $36 million to fund new intervention programmes to help students who are failing. If 20% of the students are failing this seems a very small amount of money. What is this intervention programme called, and how does it work? I couldn’t find anything about it, and I am interested to hear about it.
- Your policy also states that your party has put $60 million towards stopping bullying, and promoting good behaviour. What has this programme been called, and how has it encouraged good behaviour? Bullying seems a very difficult programme to solve. What has the $60 million been used for?
- You have rolled out a few policies to address truancy. You have doubled the penalty for parents of truant parents, and given more schools text notification systems. Has this had an impact? I am curious because in the case of difficult truants the parents often change cell phones or are indifferent to text messages, and have no money to pay the increased penalty even if they were taken to court which very rarely happens. Have schools with truancy issues reported any success with your $60 million programme? My impression was that good people on the ground building up relationships with the community was more effective than an automatically generated text message.
- It states in your policy that you have engaged 50 experts to help schools raise the bar in education. This sounds great. Who are these experts? 50 seems a very high number of educational experts. What are their qualifications, what work have they done, and in what schools? Have these schools given you any feedback?
- What will a Student Achievement Function Practioner actually do? Helping schools support struggling students is fantastic. Will they work one to one with teachers on targeted students? This would be great. How do you envision this working? We already have RTLBs in the school system. Will you be rebranding them, or creating something new? If you are creating something new could you explain how it will be different from the old system?
- I realise I am raising a lot of questions so I will focus on only one sentence I am unclear on at the bottom of page six: “We’ll also shift the resourcing model so that it incentivises performance.” Could you explain this for me in plain English? Does this mean you will give more money to schools that do well and less to poorly performing schools, or that you will give more money to support poorly performing schools and less to schools that are doing well? Or are you talking about performance pay for teachers?
- On page seven you talk about creating more effective career path for teachers. What does this mean? You also talk about strengthening processes for competency. I’m afraid I don’t know what this means. Does this mean making it easier to dismiss teachers from their jobs?
- Finally, I don’t see anything in this policy that talks specifically about addressing Maori and Pasifika students. John Hattie determined that even accounting for a school’s decile, and a student’s socio-economic background, a Maori student was still less likely to succeed in school, which suggests some systemic problems. Does your party have any policy to address this?
Your email will be forwarded to the Minister for consideration, and a response will be sent as soon as possible. However, if your email is bringing some information to the attention of the Minister, please regard this as a final response to your email.
The Office of Hon Anne Tolley