Thursday, December 27, 2018

Clive Bibby: The case for low decile schools

As you might have expected, the current government has dialled up a storm when trying to fix some of the problems with the education system that David Lange's government put in place so many years ago. It was named "Tomorrow's Schools" which, on reflection, was a reasonably apt description for a new approach that included a fair amount of vision plus a huge dollop of common sense.

Sadly, it is or will become obvious that the latest shakeup has little of that much needed ingredient. Instead, it appears to be based solely on satisfying the idealogical persuasion of this administration's extreme left wing sector. Where have we seen that before!

As per normal, these radicals direct change with about as much subtlety as a bull in a china shop. What's more, they deliberately mis-characterise the true plight of those communities that are supposedly in dire need of help.

I am pleased that there has already been appropriate reaction in the media from others far more qualified than me to comment about the potential ramifications of this sinister development. It will simply accentuate the problems it is trying to solve, if in fact they should have been regarded as problems in the first place.

My understanding is that the perceived malfunctioning parts of the system are in fact working quite well in the majority of schools - actually too well - even in the low decile schools and this is really what gets up the commissar's noses.  

They can't abide the possibility that one of the successes of "Tomorrow's Schools" is that it had restored the ability for self determination to the school boards who have in the most part used that authority wisely, especially in the best interests of the children from the community they understand better than others.

This current idealogical blitzkrieg appears to have misread the way individual schools have managed their responsibility in the areas identified for change.

While it may be true that some school boards have struggled to deal with problems that appear beyond their collective level of competence, most of those issues are isolated and contain a degree of individual human failings that would be difficult to handle under any system. Anyway, another reason why the current system should be retained is because it already includes the opportunity for assistance from experts who deal with these breakdowns all the time eg. it is not unusual for boards from some of the country's highest decile schools to call in a temporary administrator until it is all sorted.

The human character has no relationship with and is not a respecter of the decile system.
 OK, so what evidence do l have that qualifies me to comment on this issue.

Without wanting to sound pompous, l reckon my experience of 40 years living, working and sharing (not to mention educating our kids who have all benefited from the experience) in my own low decile community should be enough.

You see the best part of the decile system is that it's main purpose is to ensure that low decile schools don't suffer as a result of their relatively humble status. Consequently, the system is designed so that, at the very least, schools like ours aren't penalised simply because of an accident of birth. I understand that our boards have extra funding allocations that help overcome the non existent private funding source in our community that would be available to higher decile schools.

With that backup in place, our boards have the opportunity to develop the school's special character that reflects the local environment and heritage.

In our case, here on the East Coast of the North Island, these extra support systems allow our students to successfully compete in areas outside our normal catchment area.

This means that many of our best and brightest go on to enjoy the opportunities available to other kids in the large metropolitan areas and by so doing, achieve their potential at the highest level of human endeavour.

When you add the enjoyment gained from living in this naturally beautiful part of the world, the feeling of belonging and being able to absorb the culturally rich part of our nation's heritage which is in your face 24/7, what more do you want if you're looking for the ultimate environment in which to bring up and educate a family.

Take a bow Uawa / Tolaga Bay Area School. We will always be in your debt for helping to shape our youngsters into the decent citizens they have become and it is obvious that the decile system played its part in ensuring that result.

Clive Bibby is a commentator, consultant, farmer and community leader, who lives in Tolaga Bay.

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