Sunday, 9 November 2008

Reviewing National's Education Policy 2008

It was a tense and exciting election and now we have a new National government, I was curious to see what their education policy was, here is was what I found out.

National Party 2008 Education Policy: Crusade for Literacy and Numeracy says that one out of five New Zealand children leave school without the qualifications and skills they need to succeed. (I am not sure what these skills are supposed to be and if they are 21st century skills. )
National will provide an additional $47 million a year of funding for these critical 10 steps.

Nationals First 10 Steps

1. Set National Standards in literacy and numeracy. These standards will describe all the things children should be able to do by a particular age or time spent at primary or intermediate school.

2. Require every primary and intermediate school pupil to be assessed regularly against National Standards. These assessment programmes compare the progress of pupils with other pupils across the country. Does anyone else worry about this point? Who is going to look good here, and what is the 'norm'? One of the 10 principles of Assessment for Learning: Research based principles to guide classroom practice, by the Assessment Reform Group (2002) says assessment should be sensitive because of the emotional impact they have on learners confidence and enthusiasm. How will disadvantaged and low-achievement pupils and their community feel?

3. Require primary and intermediate schools to report to parents in plain English about how their child is doing compared to National Standards and compared to other children their age. These reports will give parents information in plain English (perhaps there will be a guide?) about how their child is doing compared to National Standards and compared to other children their age.

4. Provide targeted funding of $18 million a year to assist primary and intermediate schools to give an extra hand to those pupils who are not meeting National Standards.
Apparently only 59% of schools in decile 1 to 3 have a Reading Recovery programme, yet 71% of decile 8 to 10 schools do. Are there limiting age restrictions to Reading Recovery assistance that disadvantage struggling students?

5. The will refocus the Ministry of Education and the Education Review Office to support schools in the Crusade for Literacy and Numeracy. National aim to minimise the many demands and compliance requirements they place on schools, so that principals and teachers can focus their attention on providing pupils with the skills they need.

6. Provide extra support to under-performing schools to ensure their pupils are on track to achieve National Standards, using an expanded range of intervention methods to assist schools.

7. National will get tough on truancy by prosecuting parents of persistent truants and giving schools an extra $4 million a year to crack down on truants.
Having little experience with this point I am very curious to here what experienced teacher say about this. Will it help? Is this a teachers job and is punishment or education of parent the 'right' path?

8. Give schools extra help to deal with disruptive pupils, including an extra $2 million a year for the Interim Response Fund. National say that disruptive pupils are at risk of leaving school without the literacy and numeracy skills they need to succeed. They also threaten the progress of other children in their class, and in the medium term will allocate some of the funds currently tied up in the Ministry’s contestable funding pools and use this to give individual schools the ability to tailor solutions that are best for their particular situations.
What are the criteria for a 'disruptive' pupil? I really would like to know this one as I am sure many teachers out there will as well.

9. They will support teaching excellence by:
- Review teacher training.
- Encourage a high-trust flexible teaching environment (I am not clear on the meaning of this).
- Encouraging schools to co-operate to expand successful teaching methods.
- Celebrating the success of top-performing teachers with an extra $2 million a year for excellence awards.
- National will also support the current goal of reducing pupil-to-teacher ratios in new-entrant classes from 18:1 to 15:1, and we will maintain all budgeted funding for this initiative (why only new-entrant? I believe that should apply all the way through school).

10. Improve special education services by:
- Ensuring more special education funding makes it into frontline services.
- Increase Ongoing and Reviewable Resourcing Schemes (ORRS) funding by $18 million a year for pupils with the highest special education needs.
- Drop Labour’s emphasis on mainstreaming and work to support the choice of those families who wish to send their children to special schools (Again as a beginner teacher I have mixed feeling about this, any experiences to share?)
- Expand special education schools and encouraging the development of satellite special education classes.

National also have 2008 Education: 21st century school building plan which aims to future-proof existing schools throughout New Zealand. National say they will work with schools to provide better facilities for technology and trades training, ICT, and special education.

"New Zealanders have a right to expect that our schools will be up to the task of providing our children with the skills and knowledge they need to prosper in the 21st Century. " Quoted in these building plans not the literacy and numeracy plans... and further are we going to assess them?

- National say many schools current ICT facilities are separate from areas of ‘normal’ teaching. They say it is evidence of ‘past thinking’ and the possibilities for new teaching and learning approaches using technology such as video conferencing, virtual learning, and internal information portal will change the face of education. (Fantastic news, who do I call?)
- National will provide enhanced capital funding for future-proofing our schools with better ICT facilities and integrated ICT access within the teaching spaces throughout schools. (This requires we change our teaching and learning concepts, do you think this clashes with National comparative testing?)

- National is committed to improving trades training in schools. Right now many schools tell us they have inadequate ‘technology’ facilities for providing this training.

I start my teaching career with a new government and I do believe we all at least have the same goal of providing the best education and well being we can for our children.

How do you think Nationals education policy aligns with 21st century education? How do you think it may affect your classroom?