Monday, February 26, 2024

Alwyn Poole: A year on the Recomendations still stand.

The following is a slightly edited version that a group of high quality educators and myself compiled.

They remain relevant as National currently drags the chain.

My Proposals (with respect to many sources)

1 ) A Crown Agency for “Parenting” to provide information to make New Zealand the very best parenting country on the planet.

– Including “Project 5.75”:
Ubiquitous education and support for pregnant women/partners re care for their child in-utero. Huge information/support programmes to counter FASD and other harms.

Massive parents as first (and most important) leaners and teachers programme age 0 to 5. Including health, reading, numeracy, movement, music, languages. See David Eagleman: The Brain e.g. “If developing brains are not given the proper. “expected” environment – one in which a child is nurtured and looked after – the brain will struggle to develop normally. … Without an environment with emotional care and cognitive stimulation, the human brain cannot develop normally …. The brain can often recover, to varying degrees, once the children are removed to a safe and loving environment. The younger a child is removed, the better his recovery.”

Language in the home is absolutely key. Many, many words and conversations and words that are positive!

Information and encouragement for parents to remain fully invested in the education of their children throughout the schooling year.

2 ) Split the collective contract in two and super-fund/incentivise teaching in Decile 1 – 4 schools. Super-fund the decile 1-4 schools from Year 1 – 13. Provide Principals in those schools with a Business Manager to take care of resourcing, contracts, etc – allowing them to fully focus on academics. Trust these Principals with significant incentive payments to attract and keep great teachers. Limit class size to 15. Help the families – provide uniform, stationery and IT and don’t ask for donations. Make every year urgent in these schools but also have a 19 year plan so that by the end of that these young people, who will go on to parent the next generation have education levels, that don’t offer up an excuse for our school system. The secondary teacher shortage is qualitative as well as quantitative. To attract great degree graduates and second career people they must be paid to train as it is no longer tenable to have them without a year of income in a high employment economy and with so many international opportunities.

3 ) Emphasise inputs:

– Simplify the NZ curriculum (and dump the current “refresh”). Align it with the international highest standards.

– Attendance, retention until at least 17yo, parental engagement. Make this data publicly available in real time. There is no possible justification for the attendance data to be voluntary and for the national statistics to take up to four months to be made available

– Purpose, inspiration and role modelling is vital.

– Teacher quality is hugely important. Emphasise it, incentivise it, talk about it always – not just as one person compared to another but in terms of each teacher becoming better by the day.

– “Movement is medicine” physical fitness and activity is a huge part of human development and oxygen feeds the brain.

4 ) Be honest about results but also provide the value added/progression measures. It is not that difficult. We are about to publish a “league table” that covers metrics for every high school. It is not “name and shame”. It is to provide information to every tax-payer, parent, Principal, BoTs, teacher, etc – about the inputs and outcomes of every secondar school. On that basis they can make their decisions.

5 ) Rename UE. Too many Principals/teachers use it as an excuse when they state – “University does not suit our [BROWN] kids”. Keep the purpose of the qualification but elevate it as the true level of high-school graduation and extract the excuse aspect. Possible NCEA* would work.

Achievement gaps between rich and poor exist throughout the school system, but are widest at tertiary level. For example, at NCEA Level 2 there is a seven percentage point lag between the pass rates of low- and high-decile students, by the time pupils take University Entrance, that grows to 44 points. Similarly, while only 17 per cent of low-decile students go to university, 50 per cent of for high-decile students do.

The largest chasm, however, is in second-year university courses with limited numbers and high entry thresholds – degrees which also lead to the highest salaries.

Data sourced from six universities shows while 60 per cent of the almost 16,000 students accepted into professional law, medicine and engineering in the past five years came from the richest third of homes, just 6 per cent came from the poorest third.

If you only include decile one schools – the most disadvantaged – that figure drops to just 1 per cent.

For example, Victoria law school took just eight decile one students. Otago law took three. And of 2000 total entrants, Canterbury engineering took just a single decile one student in five years.

6 ) Have a superb Partnership and/or Designated Character School policy/process to allow for schools to develop that suit the non-cooker cutter kids. Make approval independent of the “network” and aside from Ministry officials.

7 ) Drain the swamp. The Ministry of Education has gone from 2,900 to 4,000 bureaucrats in the last three years. This has been inversely related to school achievement. We only have 420 high schools and many of those are only semi-relevant to the Ministry being Private, State Integrated or DCS. The Ministry must get out of the way of success. Find the right people to lead the Ministry, the current leaders are simply not competent, and fully repurpose it towards actually serving the sector effectively and with accountability.

8 ) Deal quickly and effectively with the Union demands after the next election. They offer nothing helpful to the dialogue so throw them a bone and walk on.

9 ) Have input and achievement goals for every high school (approx. 410 – negotiated for improvement every year and fully available to the communities and nation.

10 ) Mimic Success. Work out the schools in each EQI range that is excelling and make them “lighthouse schools”. Manukura, St Paul’s Ponsonby, McAuley High School, etc.

11 ) Encourage public discourse from all of our school Principals. I was told by a Deputy Secretary of the Ministry of Education that their main priority was to “protect the Minister”. That is abject nonsense. There is so much IP and experience help by our 2,600 Principals. Encourage them to express their views. From Matthew Syed in his outstanding book Black Box Thinking:

“Studies have shown that we are often so worried about failure that we create vague goals, so that nobody can point the finger when we don’t achieve them. We come up with face-saving excuses, even before we have attempted anything.

We cover up mistakes, not only to protect ourselves from others, but to protect us from ourselves. Experiments have demonstrated that we all have a sophisticated ability to delete failures from memory, like editors cutting gaffes from a film reel—as we’ll see. Far from learning from mistakes, we edit them out of the official autobiographies we all keep in our own heads.

Everything we know in aviation, every rule in the rule book, every procedure we have, we know because someone somewhere died. We have purchased at great cost, lessons literally bought with blood that we have to preserve as institutional knowledge and pass on to succeeding generations. We cannot have the moral failure of forgetting these lessons and have to relearn them.”

12 ) Move away from the “stop kids falling through the cracks” mentality (recent Tinetti, Sio, Davis). If you don’t fall through the cracks you are still on the ground floor.

NZ kids need aspiration, and they lead to have leaders! It is the best time ever to grow up and this should be the Da Vinci generation. They have to be led out of the fog of fear.

We need to respect and love intelligence as much as brawn. If the All Black coach loses a game or two the nation goes nuts. The Minister and Secretary of Education can oversee HUGE systemic failure and very few appear to give a big rat’s backside.

13 ) Provide high quality afterschool care in keeping with Harlem Children’s Zone who look after all children from 7am – to 7pm (when needed).

I have watched my cat Small – bring up three kittens over that last 3 months. She has been BRILLIANT! Why do humans struggle?

Alwyn Poole, a well-known figure in the New Zealand education system, he founded and was the head of Mt Hobson Middle School in Auckland for 18 years. This article was published HERE


Peter said...

And, yet another year of dismal NCEA results have been published. Just how many years of cumulative failure do we have to put up with before they finally Drain THE SWAMP - starting at the top!

Iona Holsted, how can you possibly sleep at night knowing the futures you are ruining? Well past time for you and your colleagues of similar ideology to resign, or is it your incompetence is only surpassed by your lack of conscience?

Gaynor said...

I can not agree on reducing class sizes drastically to improve standards. Of higher priority is getting systematic , cumulative explicit instruction into teaching methods.

I have tutored children from country schools where there were only a handful in the class but they were failing to achieve because of ineffective methods.

In the '50s in NZ most primary classes had 50 students in the class and everyone had reached the current level for their age in basic reading and arithmetic. Of course crazy child centered ideas had not encroached into schools' curriculum and phonics and traditional arithmetic had not yet been wiped out by progressive nonsense as we have now.