Curriculum Co- construction for the Future This week NZPF, SPANZ, NZEI and PPTA met with Pauline Cleaver, Associate Deputy Secretary for the Ministry of Education, to plan how we will together co-construct the next phase of curriculum development. A working party will be the platform from which to launch this work and each organisation has been invited to nominate teachers and leaders to contribute their curriculum expertise. The vision is to co-construct a broad rich and integrated curriculum that is relevant, challenging and exciting and which will provide the best learning opportunities for our young people in today’s modern world. This style of approach is consistent with the goals set out by the Minister and the sector at the recent international Summit of the Teaching Profession. See Principal Matters 8 for the full statement.
Statutory Interventions This week I want to focus on statutory interventions which are an extreme option, no matter what the circumstances. Whether the relationship between a principal and Board of Trustees has been severed or whether a principal and Board of Trustees have together called for an intervention, the decision to intervene is serious.
Back in 2013 NZPF became aware of a disproportionate number of statutory interventions in the Northland region. On investigation, it became clear that there was also a disproportionate number of less experienced principals involved in statutory interventions. This led NZPF to embark on the development of a model for an Advisory Service which would be available to principals who needed support, mentoring, coaching and advice. It was agreed that such a service would be led by principals, for principals and all the Leadership Advisors would be either current or recently retired principals themselves. NZPF advocated strongly for the model to be accepted and the Ministry of Education agreed to fund the first Leadership Advisor in Northland a year later. By 2016 the service grew to twenty-five Leadership Advisors to support beginning principals and is now contracted to Evaluation Associates.
NZPF continues to hold the view that a strong Leadership Advisory Service, led by the profession, is the best solution to help reduce the number of statutory interventions and has continued to advocate for the service to grow and become a normal function of the education system for both beginning and experienced principals.
Today I attended the National Advisory Group for the Leadership Advisors where it was announced by the Ministry of Education that the service will be extended to cover experienced principals as well as beginning principals. I am delighted with this decision and look forward to working with Evaluation Associates and the Ministry to co-construct what this extended support will cover and where it will be delivered initially.
Relationship Building with NZSTA and the Ministry of Education Inevitably, when statutory interventions are the answer the question will involve relationships. I am particularly concerned about relationship break down between Boards of Trustees and Principals.
Just as it is important to have a strong advisory system for principals, it is also important that principals have strong and healthy relationships with their Boards of Trustees (especially the Chair), with their parent communities and with the Ministry of Education. My intention is to build stronger links between NZPF, the Ministry of Education (MOE) and the New Zealand School Trustees Association (NZSTA) so that together we can reduce the number of statutory interventions and the inevitable stress and anxiety that comes with them.
As NZPF President, I am a member of the Board of the Principals (Legal) Advice and Support, a company in which NZPF is the sole shareholder. I am therefore aware that recently two cases have reached the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) for a ruling. In both cases the Authority commented that the Boards of Trustees may have acted inappropriately. Both Boards had been advised by NZSTA.
This prompted me to meet this week with Rob Gold the operations manager of NZSTA. Rob said that since his appointment two years ago, changes are in train. What impressed me most is that underlying changes was the concept of building relationships. He talked about the PLD offered to Boards of Trustees. This PLD would extend beyond human resources and finances training and include the notion that one of the most important functions of the Board is to employ the Principal. That means the Board ensures the principal is well supported, has access to mentoring and coaching as necessary and to new knowledge as required.
He also explained the importance of the Board operating as an entity, not as separate individuals. This can help overcome the personal agenda of any individual member of the Board dominating discussions or derailing the vision for the school as a whole. If all Boards operate as whole entities, that solves at least some of the problems.
The system is not yet perfect but I was heartened that NZSTA is recognising, as we do, the importance of building strong relationships at all levels and incorporating in their advisors' training that there is value in relationship building.
The third partner in any discussion of statutory interventions is the Ministry of Education. It is the Ministry of Education that in the end provides the Limited Statutory Managers (LSMs) or Commissioners to schools. It is therefore important that LSMs and Commissioners similarly are trained in building relationships with principals, Boards and communities and that they fully understand that principals and Boards share the same aspirations for the communities they serve.
It is my belief that if we can get the relationships between the three entities of NZPF, NZSTA and MOE working functionally and well, we will have fewer, and briefer statutory interventions and far greater support for principals in their role as leaders of schools and as Board members. That will mean we will have high functioning, self-managing schools where children succeed and thrive in their learning.