3 Jun 2014

School leaders divided on Govt plan

8:46 pm on 3 June 2014

School leaders say they have improved the Government's flagship education policy, but the plan to create new roles for the best teachers and principals is still dividing the sector.

The Government is spending $360 million on new roles to lead improvements among groups of schools beginning in 2015.

A teacher working with pupils at Omata School, New Plymouth.

A teacher working with pupils at Omata School, New Plymouth. Photo: PHOTO NZ

In a report published on Tuesday, a working group helping the Government says it supports the policy's aims of improving student outcomes and encouraging cooperation between schools.

The working group rejected titles the Government assigned to the new jobs, such as expert teachers and executive principals. It also called for less pay for the roles so more can be spent giving teachers time to do their work.

The Government has agreed to few changes, but working group members said they have been told it will approve more, creating a policy that supports collaboration.

However, the Educational Institute says none of the key aspects of the plan have changed and there was no evidence that it would improve students' achievement. The Principals' Federation said its members are not happy with some details.

Papers from the working group show that the PPTA expressed the view that much of the original idea was unworkable or unacceptable.

The secondary school teachers' union proposed reducing some of the allowances, worth tens of thousands of dollars a year, and spending more money to free up other staff, or recompense them for extra work created by the new system.

The PPTA said the working group agreed with its suggestions and there has been significant change to the original Cabinet paper.

Secondary Principals Association president Tom Parsons believes the Government's flagship education policy could be a game-changer for schools and would reduce the isolation caused by the system of self-managing schools introduced in 1989.

"Educational theorists have talked about how Tomorrow's Schools have been very competitive in nature, and that this will promote collaboration and cooperation and get the best practice, of which there's a huge amount of ... more common currency in education today."

Mr Parsons said he expects that the Government would accept most of the working group's recommendations.

Education Minister Hekia Parata said the papers showed school sector groups broadly support the Government's flagship education policy.

Ms Parata said the working group was representative group of both the unions and the profession and its advice provided good momentum for introducing the policy next year.

"They provide broad support for it and now there are particular areas that require more work. We've accepted that advice and we're moving into the next stage."

One of the next steps is to consider how to create groups of schools that will work together.