E te whānau, ngā tumuaki o Aotearoa, tēnā koutou katoa
In the last two Principal Matters newsletters, I have been urging you to be patient whilst we await announcements from the Minister about future national standards reporting. We know that national standards are to go, and understandably many of you have been asking for a time-frame for their demise.
Yesterday I met with Minister Hipkins and asked him that question directly. I wish that I could report a time-frame for you but unfortunately that is not possible. There is a process to follow and a paper has to go to Cabinet first to be signed off. The Minister is moving this forward as quickly as he possibly can. He is hoping to make an announcement shortly. He is as anxious as you are to get past national standards so that schools can re-establish a focus that embraces the whole curriculum and teachers and principals can have the time to reflect on and evaluate the learning going on for their young people, freed from obsessions with data collection and reporting.
I also raised the issue of how we might engender stronger and healthier relationships between BoTs, principals and the Ministry. We do not want to see a proliferation of interventions as a result of a break down in those critical relationships.
The Minister's intention is to see all schools well supported from governance level down. His style of leadership is not about being heavy handed and punitive but rather identifying needs and responding to them. For example, if a Board of Trustees had identified a weakness in financial management, then he would not want to respond by sending in a Commissioner or LSM. He would want to see someone with clear financial management expertise appointed to the Board to help educate the members in the financial skills they lacked. One of the good things about the Update of the Education Act is that it allows for this to happen.
We also talked about principal well-being and found our thinking was very similar. The Minister views principal support as something that should be embedded in the system, rather than sitting outside it as a contracted service. He is keen to discuss this further down the track and will be seeking our ideas and sharing his own.
The Minister has made it clear that the Communities of Learning (CoLs) will be re-branded. This work will not get underway till next year. We have offered our CoL survey results to help with this work. As you will see from reading the research report, you are keen to collaborate with other principals but find the model of CoL unhelpful. The leadership structures are not flexible and neither are the achievement challenges. You want the ability to share leadership and you prefer a model where everyone in the CoL has equal status rather than one person getting paid to direct everyone else. Many of you feel the money going to the leadership roles would be better spent on children, and on training more educational psychologists and other specialists to make these experts more accessible for your schools. You are also very wary of the real intentions for CoL and have low trust that they were intended just for collaboration. Most of you feel that far too much is expected of CoL.
This week I also attended a technical reference group meeting for the IES (Investing in Education Success). The groups attending include Ministry staff, NZCER, PPTA, NZEI and NZPF representatives. All of these groups, like us, have been conducting their own research on CoL and all have very similar results to ours. This information will be hugely helpful to the Minister in developing the 'new brand of CoL'.
Today the Minister is visiting Auckland to discuss the teacher shortage. We look forward to hearing some of the short term, and long term solutions that might emerge from those meetings. As we know, whilst Auckland's situation is possibly more critical than most, there are other regions also affected and solutions found today may well be helpful for other regions too.
Last weekend we held our executive meeting and today, in the little space left, I want to share some helpline advice that was discussed.
The executive noted that through the NZPF Helpline Service many callers are seeking advice and guidance on how to manage day to day human resources issues.
Below I list some avenues you can consult if you are looking for HR advice:
The New Zealand School Trustees Association (NZSTA)
The NZEI Principals' Advisor
Leadership Advisors in your area
The NZPF PASL lawyers (if you subscribe to PASL)
The Ministry of Education Regional Director or Education Advisor