Manaakitanga - Kindness He aroha whakatō, he aroha ka puta mai
If kindness is sown, then kindness is what you shall receive.
Ngā hau e wha, Ngā iwi e tau nei, Tēnā koutou katoa! E mihi ana au ki a koutou, e hoa mā, o te tau hou!
Welcome back, colleagues, to a new school year! After a scorching summer, I do hope you return to school filled with vitamin D, energy and enthusiasm to embrace a new era in education.
This week I visited my school in South Dunedin. My major motivation for joining the NZPF executive was to make a difference for the tamariki in my school and in my country. As I engaged with my young people, I was reminded again about the forces that drive me to do the best I possibly can to improve educational opportunities for them. There they were, greeting me. The young people of Bathgate Park School in Dunedin. As I begin a new year of serving you, my 2,300 colleagues, I also renew my promise to our 750,000 tamariki, to continue to serve their best interests too.
On Monday we will be sending you a special flyer, with a subscription link so that you can join up to our membership for 2018, so look out for that in your inbox.
If last year finished on a political high, this year begins with the consolidation of a whole new direction for education. Already the Minister has launched an Amendment to the Education Act to remove national standards and to remove the section of legislation that enabled charter schools to be established. He has also examined changes made through last year's Update to the Education Act and signalled a review of Cohort Entry along with several other topics. He has also launched a Government Bill to change the name of the Education Council to Teachers' Council and to increase the total number of people on the Council to thirteen. He also proposes to change the current appointment process for members of the Council, to having fewer than half appointed by the Minister and the rest elected by the profession (six appointed and seven elected).
As national standards were extracted from our system, some of you expressed concerns about what would replace them, and when you would hear about that. NZPF's position is that we do not need to consider replacing national standards. They were invented ten years ago, in haste and imperfectly and have never served the purpose of lifting the learning success of our tamariki. We never wanted them in the first place and as we predicted, they were used to judge the performance of schools and teachers rather than help students.
To lift success, we can turn to our curriculum, which has its own curriculum levels. These guide us to understand the progress of our young people. That is what your parents want to know and that is what you and your teachers want to know so that you can work out the child's next learning steps. The Minister has been clear about his intentions. He wants us to continue to report to parents at least twice a year and to tell them about their child's progress in all curriculum subjects.
The other issue that has been high profile for many of you this year is the teacher shortage. As most of you are aware, this is not a new issue and was signalled by the Auckland Primary Principals'Association several years ago, as a potential problem. The Ministry at the time did not agree there was a crisis looming so no provisions were put in place to curb shortages. What we face now is therefore not a new problem but one that has reached serious proportions. There are a number of reasons for this including those outside of education. In Auckland they include the cost of living and shortage of affordable housing as much as anything else. Beginning teachers are not choosing to work in Auckland schools and existing teachers are moving away. These factors don't just apply to Auckland. They now also apply to many other regions right across the country.
There is no simple answer to this problem and it may take years to correct. In the short term, the Minister announced a pre-Christmas package of $9.8 million to help alleviate the shortages. He recognises this is not a long-term solution and that we need to look at training more teachers; continuing to attract NZ trained teachers back from overseas; lifting the status of the profession to make it an attractive option for young school leavers; providing better support systems for our teachers and principals; looking at our initial training programmes to ensure they are relevant and suitable for today's schools.
I will keep you updated on this issue and welcome your feedback.
In conclusion, I want to thank you for the feedback you gave me last year. It was awesome. Please keep sending me messages either supporting or challenging the views I express here. I want to honestly represent all of you, to the best of my ability.