Purpose of schools is education

April 13, 2014

Phillipstown School took the government to court and won.

The lengthy process over whether or not it was to merge with neighbouring Woolston School had to be gone through again and the same concussion was reached.

It was in the best interests of the schools, and the taxpayers who fund them, to merge.

The principal hasn’t accepted that:

. . . Phillipstown School principal Tony Simpson said the school would be consulting lawyers over next steps.

The process had been flawed and stressful leaving him feeling “at times bullied”.

He said he not had a satisfactory response from the Ministry as to why the school was the one to close and looked forward to the release of an Ombudsman report into the schools’ reshuffle.

“The public of New Zealand have not been presented with all the facts.” .

The public have their own lives and concerns. If they have any about this it will be that what is in the best outcome for the children and the best use of public money.

With that in mind and without the emotion of those closely involved, the Ministry’s decision is right.

People closer to the action share that view.

The grapevine tells me that other schools in Christchurch have lost patience with Phillipstown and resent the money and energy the Ministry has to expend on this fight when it could be directed more positively elsewhere.

However, Simpson said his main priority was the children. “We’ve got to make sure the children are catered for.” . .

That won’t be achieved by more legal action and delaying tactics.

Board chairwoman Alicia Ward said the school was “not dead yet” and would fight to the death.

Without the school the community risked “fizzing and dying” she said. . .

Schools do form a hub for communities but that isn’t their purpose. It’s to educate children.

That will happen at the Woolston site where $11.8 million is to be spent on development and the community can be involved in that.

Schools leaders have wasted far too much money and time fighting the inevitable already, it’s time for them to stop the emoting and, as Tahu Potiki writes,  start leading:

Dear Phillipstown School, please get a grip. Fight to the death? Really?

I can understand that a decision such as a school closing is an emotional one and pushes buttons at a number of levels but, as an outsider, I have to say that the appearance of the key players advocating for the school is petulant, irrational and pointless.

We have kids that attend a local school and it does play an important part in our community but we are predicting changes some time in the near future. There are three schools between here and Dunedin and only about 300 pupils with the spread being far from even. We have always expected that the ministry will eventually step in and make a call. When it does I certainly hope our communities will act with a little more balance and perspective than we have seen from Phillipstown.

The Minister of Education does not have a bottomless pit of money to simply let schools with diminishing rolls and depreciating assets carry on existing regardless. There are serious responsibilities to take in to consideration as post-earthquake Christchurch reconstructs and reconfigures and all the social institutions and community infrastructure clearly need to reposition themselves.

There are a few things that flabbergast me about this reasonably minor storm in a teacup.

Firstly the fact that Mai Chen has been engaged again for further court action. I have worked with Mai before and she is certainly a force to be reckoned with and I rate her highly but she does not come without a cost. . .

The second thing is that the ministry is proposing that the new school the Phillipstown children would be relocated to would benefit from an $11.3 million investment. This is a glorious opportunity and I would have expected community leaders to be working furiously to have some influence over how that investment might work in the best interests of the newly configured school. I would not have expected a complete denial that an investment of this magnitude is a huge opportunity. . .

Thirdly it has been very disappointing to see the Labour Party playing politics and attempting to manipulate emotions. If they really have said that they would keep the school open then they have dropped pretty low in my estimation.

David Cunliffe is already looking like a desperate character after his comments on the royal tour but this is, quite frankly, adding to the embarrassment. It has the appearance of vote buying without any of the analysis and objective assessment of the community’s situation. They may as well be promising a $100 increase in the dole for all the unemployed that vote for Labour. Ultimately it cannot be delivered.

This is cynical and unprincipled vote buying in one small area that will lose far more in others who know there are far better ways to spend scarce public money.

Fourthly it is highly questionable in terms of role modelling. Trotting your kids out to cry in front of the cameras to make your point makes me wince. A group of parents that weren’t moaning about dumb people making dumb decisions may well have aided their transition in a much more positive fashion. Instead the children have been drawn in to dramatics and will experience a degree of trauma that could probably have been avoided.

Children take their lead from adults. they have been let down by those who should be showing leadership.

Finally, community is much more than a school. If there is a collective view that the community will die because the school has been merged with a boost of $11m then there are some seriously confused people in that community. Real community will be looking for opportunity and growth. Instead the blinkers are on and one has to question the sincerity of those in key roles and their agenda. I do wonder if the principal lives in Phillipstown or if his personal residence is in some other suburb. . .

It’s time for the adults to act like grown-ups, take some deep breaths and do what’s best for the children.

That’s accept the decision and work to ensure the transition to the new school is as seamless as possible.




NZEI tramples on mana

March 28, 2014

Iwi leaders are incensed by NZEI’s latest publicity stunt:

The proposed protest by the Primary School Teachers Union (NZEI) to deliberately coincide with the International Summit on the Teaching Profession to be hosted by Aotearoa New Zealand will not be tolerated and left unchallenged, say prominent iwi leaders from throughout the country.

We as iwi leaders stand together in strongly condemning the NZEI. We call on them to cancel their protest for the greater good of Aotearoa New Zealand. We also issue a strong call to all Maori members of the NZEI to withdraw their membership at once. Their mana as Tangata Whenua must surely count for something and take precedence over their unionship.

The tikanga of mana is at stake. We will not stand idly by and allow the mana of the Minister of Education, the Honourable Hekia Parata, her people, our people to be manipulated and trampled on. We, Dr Apirana Mahuika, Sir Toby Curtis, Sir Mark Solomon, Raniera Tau, Willie Te Aho, Awanuiarangi Black, Tiwha Puketapu, Naida Glavish, Sir Tamati Reedy and Pem Bird caution NZEI that they are putting their hard earned excellent reputation earned over a sustained period of time on the line and for what purpose?

The International Summit is the most prestigious educational event on the world calendar, a huge coup for our Minister of Education, Hekia Parata. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity for Aotearoa New Zealand to showcase all aspects of our fabulous education system to renowned educational leaders from throughout the OECD community of nations.

It should be an occasion when all diverse sectors of Aotearoa New Zealand, our cities, our towns, rural communities, whanau, hapu and iwi join together as one, putting any differences we may have aside and focus instead on the positives that make us a great nation in which to bring up our children. We have much to be proud of, indeed we have much to celebrate and share.

Ideas and innovations will be discussed. Inspirational addresses will be delivered and all for the express purpose of advancing not only our national educational interests but also those of the global community. And yet despite all of this, we are going to have to witness the deeply offensive and cynical spectacle of a once honourable union exploiting this event for their own selfish needs, whatever they are.

It is not to late to exit with dignity. NZEI we urge you to come into the whare.

I presume the protest being referred to is the rally in Queen Street this Saturday.

The teaching summit is being held in Wellington so it is unlikely anyone going to it will be troubled by or even know anything about the rally.

However, the timing is a coincidence which suggests a deliberate attempt by NZEI to emphasise the negative while the positive is being celebrated at the other end of the island.

It also suggests they are more interested in politics than education.

UPDATE – one rally is going to be marching on parliament.

Education Minister Hekia Parata said she was disappointed with the protest timing, especially given NZEI’s involvement in the organisation of the summit and being part of previous delegations to New York and Amsterdam.

She would continue to have a relationship with the union, which was one of the objectives of the cross-sector forum that was set up following the first summit.

“We will continue to try to work together but it does take two.” . . .

Nga Kura-a-Iwi, a federation representing Maori schools, has also spoken out against the NZEI and the “disrespect” it has shown the summit.

Co-chairwoman Arihia Stirling said it was an “inappropriate time to be airing dirty linen”.

“It’s wrong to do this now, we don’t have people dying in the street, we don’t have people bleeding at the hands of the education sector . . . it’s poor judgment of the leadership of the union to do this at this time.

“Why would you air your dirty linen in front of the world when it’s imperative we get the rest of the world down here to learn and strengthen our education system?” . . .

The timing and venue mean it’s not less about education and more about politics.

It’s far less about making a point about poverty, it’s directly aimed at embarrassing the Minister while she’s hosting an international event.


If you have to teach appropriate . . .

March 14, 2014

Teachers’ Council’s disciplinary tribunal member and principal of John Paul College in Rotorua, Patrick Walsh, wants appropriate behaviour with pupils to be a mandatory part of teacher training.

. . . Mr Walsh says there are basic rules to guide teachers’ behaviour.

“They don’t need to be a friend of a student – and there’s a distinction between that and being friendly. Secondly, use of social media: it’s not appropriate for a student to join your Facebook page, to text students late at night in the weekends, to accept gifts and whether it’s a good idea to attend a 16th or 18th birthday party of a student.” . . .

This has been prompted by a blurring of lines between what was acceptable between teachers and pupils.

Teachers have accepted gifts of underwear, and invitations to students’ birthday parties – and later claimed to be unaware such actions were inappropriate. . .

Good grief – aren’t teachers supposed to be responsible adults and role models to their pupils?

If you have to teach them what’s appropriate in teacher-pupil relationships are they the appropriate people to be teachers?

Waging war on success

March 6, 2014

Why would anyone oppose schools which are proven to be successful?

. . . All four Harlem Success Academy charters serve primarily minority student populations (all are 93.5 to 97.1% black and Hispanic) and low-income households (75 to 80% of students qualify for free or reduced lunch), and yet all are ranked academically higher than about 97% of all schools in New York state based on standardized test assessments in math and reading.

What a truly amazing academic success story!

Q: With those kinds of impressive results for some of the city’s most at-risk student populations in Harlem, couldn’t that proven record of academic success be replicated in all public schools? Wouldn’t you think that these Harlem charter schools would be recognized as academic models for the rest of the city and the state?

A: In a more sane world where students and learning are the No. 1 priority, the educational establishment would be “falling all over itself” to copy the proven educational success of charter schools like the ones in Harlem profiled above. But in the insane world of New York City, the liberal mayor and liberal teacher unions are waging a war on the city’s successful charter schools like the ones operated by Success Academy Charter Schools. Preservation of the status quo and a continuation of the current failed public school model, and preserving its power, are the primary concerns of the teachers unions and their administrative enablers, which now includes the new New York mayor. . .

This sounds familiar.

New Zealand’s first partnership schools have only recently been established but unions and opposition MPs aren’t giving them a chance.

Opposition parties and unions have already damned charter schools here.

Conventional schools work well for most pupils but they don’t work well for all..

Those young people who for a myriad of reasons fail in, or are failed by, conventional schools should be given a chance to succeed in partnership schools.

Damning them before they’ve had a chance to show what they can do is playing politics with pupils most in need of something more than business as usual in conventional schools is offering.

Politics before pupils

February 19, 2014

Another partnership school, Te Kura Hourua o Whangarei, a Maori boys secondary school, opens this week.

It was expecting students to attend Whangarei Boys High, a state secondary school, for specialist subjects like art, but teachers there have vetoed the move.

The PPTA says charter schools are a political experiment which undermine the public education system and should stand or fall on their merits. . .

The school has other options but this is a shameful example of putting politics before pupils.

Should be easier to sack

February 10, 2014

Quote of the day:

. . . Policy announcements will need companion steps to help them succeed.

For instance, National’s plan to improve leadership and teaching needs to ensure employment law enables prompt pathways for dismissing principals or teachers who are not able to lift their performance sufficiently. Current arrangements are cumbersome and do not act in the interests of children. . .  Linwood Avenue School’s principal Gerard Direen.

It isn’t only schools which find it difficult to sack people who aren’t up to the job they’re employed to do.

Spare partnership schools – Labour chair

February 9, 2014

New Zealand’s second partnership, or charter, school was opened last week:

The Rise Up Trust is a not-for-profit community organisation which provides education services for Pacific and Maori whanau. It currently provides after-school mentoring to South Auckland families.

It grew from a home school started in her garage by ’Auntie‘ Sita Selupe, a teacher on parental leave from Mangere primary school in 2006, using examples from the children’s own lives as the basis for teaching.

Pacific Island Affairs Minister, Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga, spoke at the opening ceremony and commended all those involved in getting Rise Up to where it is today and looks forward to its students’ success.

“This Government is committed to raising educational achievement amongst Pacific students at all levels. Improved achievement at school will carry these young people into further education, better jobs and ultimately better lives” says Mr Lotu-Iiga.

“We have already started seeing improved results in Pacific achievement in all areas but we are relentless in our pursuit to see all Pacific children succeeding in their educational achievement. Partnership Schools allow our Pacific parents a greater choice in education that better suits their children’s needs.”

The school’s programmes have been designed by teachers who have grown up and worked in South Auckland schools for many years.

The programmes are tailored to the students, their families and the wider Mangere East community where 64% of the population is Pacific.

The academy will follow the New Zealand curriculum and employ registered teachers. 

“I congratulate Rise Up Trust for their commitment to raise achievement for all our Pacific children. I look forward to our communities supporting them as we all work to see our children succeed in all things,” says Mr Lotu-Iiga. . .

Among those supporting the school is Sally Ikinofo, Labour’s electorate chair in Mangere, who is asking the party to spare partnership schools if they win the election:

. . .Rise Up is the first Pasifika charter school, offering a Christian-based education involving the whole family and teaching the national curriculum to 50 children up to Year 6. Forty-seven children have been enrolled.

Ms Ikinofo, who also chairs the school’s board, says it is a scary time for them because of Labour’s promise to repeal the partnership schools legislation.

She is lobbying Labour MPs to keep the school open, because she says it can make a difference to the education of Pasifika children.

If Labour does repeal the legislation, the Rise Up Academy and others like it should be allowed to continue as special character schools, she says.

The Opposition has been stridently opposed to partnership schools.

This plea shows that they are out of touch with their own people who understand the potential gains for children most in need of them.

Clearing out the clutter

February 4, 2014

Education Minister Hekia Parata has established a taskforce that will free up schools to focus more on raising student achievement, and identify regulations that are obstructing this.

. . . The Taskforce on Regulations Affecting School Performance will investigate regulations that may distract or hinder schools from focusing on raising achievement for all young people.

“Last year we amended the Education Act to set out for the first time the statutory purpose of school boards, which is to do all in their power to raise achievement for all students. Research also shows that 71% of our secondary school principals reported a desire to spend more time on educational leadership,” Ms Parata says. 

“By establishing the Taskforce we are taking action to ensure Boards and school leaders can continue to focus on raising educational achievement for all students and not be stifled by low level compliance and regulations.”

The Taskforce members are:

  • Murray Jack (Deloitte) – Chair
  • Jill Corkin (Principal, Snells Beach School)
  • Howard Fancy (former Secretary for Education)
  • Janet Kelly (former President of NZSTA, extensive experience in school governance)
  • Renee Wright (Te Tari Tautoko – Te Runanga Nui o Nga Kura Kaupapa Maori o Aotearoa)
  • Tim O’Connor (Principal, Auckland Grammar School)
  • Warwick Maguire (Principal, Burnside High School)
  • Prof Neil Quigley (Victoria University of Wellington)

“This Taskforce will bring together some of New Zealand’s foremost education practitioners on regulation, governance, and education. It is my expectation that the Taskforce will recommend changes to existing practices, rules and regulations in order to raise student achievement,” Ms Parata says.

The independent Taskforce will undertake a targeted consultation process starting in early 2014.

 “I am expecting a final report by 31 May 2014 identifying possible changes to rules, and regulations to achieve better education outcomes. The Taskforce will also identify areas of possible change that would benefit from further investigation,” Ms Parata says.

“My goal is to clear out any clutter and support schools to operate with flexibility and continue with their strong commitment to raising achievement for all students.

“This is an exciting piece of work for this Government as we continue our strong focus on helping five out of five young people to achieve their educational potential,” says Ms Parata.

This is a much-needed initiative and not only in education.

If we could clear out the clutter of low level compliance and regulation from other sectors too, New Zealand would be a far more productive country.

Schools have choices

February 4, 2014

Schools don’t have enough money?

This one does:

. . . About 250 new iPad minis were given to children starting the new year at Te Akau ki Papamoa, a decile 4 school in Bay of Plenty, yesterday.

A further 45 tablets have been ordered for late enrollers.

So far the school has invested about $50,000 to ensure all its senior students have their own device. They retail for about $450 each.

Hundreds of schools around the country have implemented “bring your own device” (BYOD) policies, where students are either told or allowed to bring electronic devices such as iPads or laptops to assist their learning.

Principal Bruce Jepsen told the Herald that concerns about such policies creating a “haves” and “have-nots” situation meant his board of trustees chose a different approach.

He said another problem with students bringing their own devices was the variety, which could hinder teachers trying to corral a classroom full of different technology.

The school already had about five iPads in every classroom – around 150 across its 500 students.

Every student in Years 4 to 6 received an iPad yesterday. The plan is to extend the programme to the junior school eventually.

While many schools would balk at the cost, Mr Jepsen said it had been possible with careful budgeting and some fundraising.

A Tauranga Energy Consumer Trust subsidy will pay 50 per cent of the initial $101,000 cost. But Mr Jepsen insisted the school was committed to the initiative with or without assistance, with another $60,000 budgeted for that purpose.

“[The grant] means we are able to progress the second phase of rolling out to the junior school a lot quicker.” . . .

Accepting that decile rankings are blunt instruments, decile four reflects a community that isn’t wealthy but careful budgeting and some fundraising has given this school choices.

That’s what happens when you allow them to make their own decisions on how to spend their money in the best interests of their pupils.

Green policy radical red

January 27, 2014

Labour’s former leader David Shearer has realised the faults in his proposal for free breakfasts in school:

. . . Is it right to impose a one-size-fits-all solution on to every low-decile school in the form of a food hand-out?

There’s an old saying: give someone a fish and it will feed them for a day; teach someone to fish and it will feed them for a lifetime.

Of course, we all agree that no child should be hungry at school. But what’s missing is a programme that will not only fix that but also improve nutrition and ensure self-reliance.

Before coming into politics I ran huge feeding programmes for starving kids, including one for 30,000 children in Somalia.

Without that food, those children would have died. But the programme was always designed to be temporary. As soon as the crisis passed, the families moved on, relying on themselves.

My fear is that we will institutionalise dependence through relying solely on a feeding programme. We need to be far more forward-looking. . .

Unfortunately Labour’s potential coalition partner hasn’t seen the light.

The party’s policy announced yesterday is to provide:

. . . 1.     A dedicated School Hub Coordinator ($28.5 million per annum)
The Hubs Coordinator will work for the school to recruit adult and community educators, early childhood, social and health services and explore other opportunities to develop a unique hub in conjunction with the school and its community.
2.     Free afterschool and holiday care programmes ($10 million per annum)
We’ll provide free after-school care and holiday programmes for every child at decile 1 to 4 schools, and we will expand access to Out of School Care and Recreation (OSCAR) low income subsidies to children at decile 5-10 schools.
3.     A national school lunch fund ($40 million per annum)
The Fund will make lunch available at all decile 1 to 4 primary and intermediate schools, but will be available to other schools based on need.
4.     Dedicated school nurses in decile 1-4 schools ($11.6 million per annum)
School nurses will deliver primary health care to children and their families in the school environment where they are known and trusted. . .

 Not only have the Greens not taken note of Shearer’s concerns, they haven’t done their homework on what support is already available:

Education Minister Hekia Parata says the Green Party appeared to be completely unaware of what happens every day in schools up and down the country when it wrote its latest policy ideas.

“We already have around 300 nurses working with virtually every school in the country and with a particular focus on low decile-schools.

“We already provide social workers for every decile 1 to 3 primary school in the country, under the Social Workers in Schools scheme.

“There are already a number of schools operating as community hubs, so it’s not a new idea, but it’s also not a concept that should be forced on every school.

“With Fonterra and Sanitarium we already provide a breakfast in schools programme five mornings a week to any school that wants it.

“We have increased our funding to KidsCan who provide services like raincoats and shoes for children and provide school lunch packs from donations.

“We already subsidise after-school care and holiday care for about 50,000 children, with assistance targeted at low-income families.

“We are already investing $1.5 billion in early childhood education, up from $860 million in 2007/08. Participation in early childhood education has risen to almost 96 per cent and we are focusing on improving participation amongst the most vulnerable groups.

“The Greens should do their homework. They are clearly unaware of all the things the Government is doing in this area, and they are also clearly in denial that the biggest influence on children’s achievement is quality teaching, says Ms Parata. 

“Quality teaching raises achievement for kids from all schools, no matter what their decile ranking, which is why we announced our big new investment on Thursday to raise teaching practice and strengthen school leadership.

“If the Greens really cared about getting better results in education they would back that policy instead of opposing it, and they would do the work to understand what is already happening in terms of providing additional support for children in school.”

Steven Joyce put it more succinctly:

Free milk and breakfasts (paid for by Fonterra and Sanitarium) are given to any schools which want it – and not all do.

Among those which don’t are some decile 1 -4 schools who will have publicly funded lunches foisted upon them.

Other support already provided is targeted at those in need.

In spite of the danger Shearer has seen, the Green Party will use public money to fund policies which institutionalise dependence, waste money where it’s not needed, foist food on schools that don’t want it and treat some of the symptoms but do nothing to address the underlying causes of the problems.

Cotton-woolling children more dangerous in long-run

January 26, 2014

A small country school was told by a visiting inspector to replace it’s barbed-wire fence in case one of the children hurt themselves on it.

The principal said that was the point.

These were country kids, they knew about barbed-wire and the fence was to keep them off the road.

The inspector was also concerned about pine trees in the playground in case the children climbed them.

The principal said they did climb them – just as they climbed trees at home.

The principal had the backing of her board and other parents – and now they have the backing of research:

Chaos may reign at Swanson Primary School with children climbing trees, riding skateboards and playing bullrush during playtime, but surprisingly the students don’t cause bedlam, the principal says.

The school is actually seeing a drop in bullying, serious injuries and vandalism, while concentration levels in class are increasing.

Principal Bruce McLachlan rid the school of playtime rules as part of a successful university experiment.

“We want kids to be safe and to look after them, but we end up wrapping them in cotton wool when in fact they should be able to fall over.”

Letting children test themselves on a scooter during playtime could make them more aware of the dangers when getting behind the wheel of a car in high school, he said.

“When you look at our playground it looks chaotic. From an adult’s perspective, it looks like kids might get hurt, but they don’t.”

Life is chaotic and play is a very good way for children to learn how to deal with it.

Swanson School signed up to the study by AUT and Otago University just over two years ago, with the aim of encouraging active play.

However, the school took the experiment a step further by abandoning the rules completely, much to the horror of some teachers at the time, he said.

When the university study wrapped up at the end of last year the school and researchers were amazed by the results.

Mudslides, skateboarding, bullrush and tree climbing kept the children so occupied the school no longer needed a timeout area or as many teachers on patrol.

Instead of a playground, children used their imagination to play in a “loose parts pit” which contained junk such as wood, tyres and an old fire hose.

“The kids were motivated, busy and engaged. In my experience, the time children get into trouble is when they are not busy, motivated and engaged. It’s during that time they bully other kids, graffiti or wreck things around the school.”

Parents were happy too because their children were happy, he said.

Children need freedom to play and experiment and let off steam.

But this wasn’t a playtime revolution, it was just a return to the days before health and safety policies came to rule.

AUT professor of public health Grant Schofield, who worked on the research project, said there are too many rules in modern playgrounds.

“The great paradox of cotton-woolling children is it’s more dangerous in the long-run.”

Society’s obsession with protecting children ignores the benefits of risk-taking, he said.

It’s far better for children to learn from small risks with relatively harmless consequences when they’re younger than big risks with serious, possibly fatal consequences when they’re older.

Children develop the frontal lobe of their brain when taking risks, meaning they work out consequences. “You can’t teach them that. They have to learn risk on their own terms. It doesn’t develop by watching TV, they have to get out there.”

A few might learn from other people’s mistakes but most of us have to be the other people.

The research project morphed into something bigger when plans to upgrade playgrounds were stopped due to over-zealous safety regulations and costly play equipment.

“There was so many ridiculous health and safety regulations and the kids thought the static structures of playgrounds were boring.”

When researchers – inspired by their own risk-taking childhoods – decided to give children the freedom to create their own play, principals shook their heads but eventually four Dunedin schools and four West Auckland schools agreed to take on the challenge, including Swanson Primary School.

It was expected the children would be more active, but researchers were amazed by all the behavioural pay-offs. The final results of the study will be collated this year.

Schofield urged other schools to embrace risk-taking. “It’s a no brainer. As far as implementation, it’s a zero-cost game in most cases. All you are doing is abandoning rules,” he said.

There’s a lesson here and not just for children and schools.

Some rules and laws imposed for safety’s sake are necessary but too many are counter-productive.

Trying to cotton wool society is just as dangerous in the long-run  as cotton-woolling children.

It might reduce risk but it also reduces people’s willingness and ability to think and take responsibility for themselves and the consequences of their actions.

Exactly where the line between too little and too much lies is a moot point.

This research shows it had been crossed and it’s good that the school had the courage to act on that.

Frame this

January 25, 2014

This was the announcement:

The next step in our plan to raise achievement.

And this is the response:
Photo: Great support for our education policy to get even better teachers in front of our kids: www.national.org.nz/SON2014.aspx

The support of the STA isn’t surprising – they support good policy without political bias.

But the Principals’ Federation, Secondary Principals’ Association and Post Primary Teachers’ Association aren’t usually enthusiastic about anything National proposes.

It was a good idea to frame the comments, such support is rare.

Better education will reduce inequality

January 24, 2014

The biggest criticism against the proposals to improve educational achievement Labour leader David Cunliffe could come up with was that they don’t address inequality.

He’s wrong.

Education is one of the best ways to life people out of poverty.

One very good example of this is our newest minister, Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga:

During his maiden speech to Parliament he said his father had walked from Ponsonby to Parnell to save the bus fare, while up to 16 people lived in his family’s three-bedroom house in Mangere.

How do you rise above poverty like that?

However his education, which he described as “the key to unlocking so many of the opportunities that I have enjoyed in life” has been impressive.

After attending Auckland Grammar, Lotu-Iiga studied law and commerce at the University of Auckland, before being employed at top law firm Russell McVeagh.

He then travelled to London where he worked as a financial analyst for the Bankers Trust, while completing an MBA at the University of Cambridge.. .

All children deserve the education which provides them with the key to unlocking opportunities.

They also deserve the loving and supportive family which he credits for his success too.

Addressing deprivation in that area is harder than improving education which was the focus of yesterday’s announcement.

But it’s not a matter of either better education or policies which address either problems, it just isn’t all together in one day.

Yesterday’s focus was education, other policies will follow.


Contagious excellence

January 24, 2014

Th Post Primary Teachers’ Association is ‘cautiously optimistic’ about proposals for new, and better paid, roles for teachers and principals announced by Prime Minister John Key yesterday.

PPTA President Angela Roberts said she was “cautiously optimistic” and welcomed the extra resourcing to support teachers, as well as greater collaboration between teachers across schools.

She said its ability to work as intended would depend on how it was implemented, but welcomed Mr Key’s promise that the profession would be involved in implementing the new roles. . . .

She said it provided the potential for good teachers to advance their careers without having to leave the classroom to take up leadership positions.

“It feels like what they have done is not just recognise and reward the great teachers, but once they’ve recognised those great teachers they will treat them for what they are, which is a great resource, and enable them to support their colleagues.”

That’s high praise from the organisation which normally opposes anything from National on principle.

Principals’ Federation President Phil Harding said the announcements were significant for both principals and teachers.

“It’s hard for me to say it but I’m pretty damned impressed. It is a huge amount of new money and I have never seen such a transformation of ideas and discussion into policy and money in my life. It has gone from a theoretical discussion about how the system needed to evolve and change just last year to the appropriation of significant resource.”

He was hopeful it would work as intended and believed the $50,000 financial incentives for good principals to take on challenging schools were sufficient. . . .

Why it’s hard for him to say he’s impressed has a lot more to do with politics than education, but at least he’s said it.

The School Trustees’ Association, which is more focussed on the impact on pupils than teachers, is less guarded in its enthusiasm:

Keeping great teachers in the classroom and investing in better career pathways for our teachers and principals is a great way to start the new year, says NZSTA President Lorraine Kerr.

“We’ve been talking about finding better ways to boost collaboration between schools for a long time.

It’s exciting to see the talk being converted into action,” she says. “This is a really good initiative.”

Providing better career pathways for our teachers and principals is an idea that that we fully endorse, as is developing a better way of supporting teachers and principals to continually improve their professional practice. Boards will be enthusiastic about the message this sends about valuing our principals and teachers. We will need to work through the practicalities of how Executive Principals

and Expert Teachers being off-site two days a week will shake down in their own schools, but boards are generally very proud of the expertise their staff have, and will be eager to share that expertise with other schools in a structured way as long as their own staff and students don’t lose out as a result.

It is good to hear the commitment to working through the practicalities through consultation with the sector, and NZSTA is looking forward to playing a constructive part in those discussions. We have all shown a lot of good faith over the last year or so, including principals’ groups and teacher unions, by engaging in open discussions with Minister Parata. The Ministerial Cross-Sector Forum is a good example. It hasn’t always been easy, so it’s good to see that investment in relationship-building bearing fruit.

If we do this right, there is potential for these new positions to make excellence contagious through all our schools. That will be our opportunity for 2014.

Challenge accepted.

The NZEI is sceptical which means it can’t see past its politics to the benefits this will bring to teachers and more importantly pupils but Audrey Young writes they and the opposition:

will look as though they are opposing it for the sake of opposing it.

Key has identified an age-old problem in schools that really good teachers often leave the classroom to progress their careers.

Credible research over the years has linked good teaching to good results by pupils.

Most of us know that anecdotally because we’ve experienced it.

We don’t need credible research to know that good teachers can lift achievement and that good principals can have a huge impact on the school environment, the expectations and teaching quality. . .

It’s difficult for unions to argue against this without shooting holes in their arguments about how important teachers are.

. . . Teacher unions have found it difficult to accept performance pay because it necessarily implies some teachers are not performing well. They fear it could undermine the collegiality among teachers that is vital to successful schools.

But the way that Key has outlined the new teacher positions however looks less like a policy to divide and rule teachers and more like something all teachers should aspire to becoming. Hopefully it will also lift the status of the teaching profession in society.

The teacher unions need to accept that plans to improve teaching need not be an attack on their members. . . .

Rather the opposite is the case.

Improving teaching, rewarding good ones, helping all of them getting and treating them like the professionals they should be is good for them and those they teach.

Education is the key

January 23, 2014

Education is one of the most important keys to better outcomes in life.

Prime Minister John Key has recognised this in announcements made in his state of the national address today.

He announced four new roles: Executive Principal, Expert Teachers, Lead Teachers and Change Principals.

I have copied the whole speech, with the announcement and explanation in bold.

Good morning. I hope you all had a good Christmas break and you’re starting 2014 eager and energised.

I know I am.


And I know the Government is, because there are a lot of things to get done this year.


Later in the year there’ll be an election, where I’ll seek the support of New Zealanders to continue the direction this country is going in.


The economy is growing. More jobs are being created. Family incomes are rising. Crime is falling. More elective surgery is being done in public hospitals. Long-term welfare dependency is falling. And we’re continuing to help families and older New Zealanders with generous income support.


As a country, we can keep going in this direction and continue to make gains, or we can change direction and go backwards.


And moving forwards is the only way to ensure we achieve the long-term growth that really changes New Zealand’s fortunes and provides more opportunities for Kiwi families.


I can assure you I take nothing for granted when it comes to the election.


Each and every vote will have to be earned.


We have to work hard as a government, every day, to keep earning the trust and support of New Zealanders.


It may be election year but we won’t be slowing down. There is far too much to be done.


MMP guarantees that every election is a tight contest.


We’ve shown we can deliver strong and stable government. We work with other parties for the good of the country, even when those parties have different policies.


That’s what MMP requires.


I have always been optimistic about New Zealand.


As a country we have huge potential.


And as we begin 2014, things are really picking up.


The economy will grow strongly this year.


Our economic growth is forecast to be one of the highest in the developed world in 2014.


That means wages will keep growing, more jobs will be created and living standards will improve right across the country.


And it means we are catching up to other countries.


The Government will produce a budget surplus next year, when most other countries will still be in deficit and building up debt.


At the same time we are returning money to families and businesses through hundreds of millions of dollars of ACC levy reductions.


We have a business growth agenda with hundreds of initiatives to improve the productivity and competitiveness of the economy.


These range from negotiating free trade agreements, to boosting funding for business R&D, to rolling out ultra-fast broadband.


The Government’s investment in infrastructure is bearing fruit as projects get off the ground and others are completed.


A lot of work, for example, will be done this year on the Waterview Connection in Auckland, which will transform the roading network in our biggest city. And this year construction will begin on the Kapiti Expressway and Wellington’s long-awaited Transmission Gully project.


This summer is the most active season ever for oil and gas exploration, with the industry spending up to $750 million. At the same time, the Government is strengthening the regulations that govern drilling, particularly in deep water.


We have a big programme of work this year to increase the number of houses being built around the country so there are more opportunities for young families to own their own home.


We are working to deliver better public services for New Zealanders – through the Police, courts, public hospitals, schools, tertiary training, and the many other ways that people and businesses deal with government.


Our approach is to put everyday New Zealanders at the heart of everything the Government does, so we organise services around them.


We now have more Police spending more time on the front line. We’ve introduced a range of measures to make communities safer, support victims, and rehabilitate offenders. Recorded crime is now at its lowest level in more than 30 years, with a 17 per cent drop over the past three years.


Over 40,000 more New Zealanders will get elective surgery this year than in 2008, and they will get that surgery faster. Almost all children under six can now go to the doctor after hours for free.


We are improving industry training and rebooting apprenticeships, and we’re on track to get 14,000 additional new apprentices in New Zealand.


More people than ever are getting tertiary qualifications.


We’re delivering significant reforms to the welfare system, with a far greater emphasis on work.


We’re making progress in the big task of cleaning up waterways, and protecting and improving water quality right across New Zealand.


And we are continuing to support Cantabrians through the aftermath of the earthquakes and the rebuilding of their city.


Household incomes have been rising faster than the cost of living, right across the board, and income inequality has been declining. Despite what our political opponents try to claim, it is simply not true that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.


We are a very steady, centre-right government with the interests of all New Zealanders at heart.


Our approach is always to take the public with us by clearly outlining our actions and priorities, and always keeping in mind why we are in government – to make New Zealand a better place for Kiwis and their families.


So when I look forward to 2014, I do so with confidence and with optimism.


But that doesn’t mean the job’s done – in fact it’s just begun.


It’s vitally important that over the next few years we continue to build on the hard-won gains we are making as a country.


That includes a huge improvement in managing the country’s finances.

We have made careful savings, been disciplined with spending, and run the public sector far more efficiently.


That’s a lot different than the previous government, which increased spending by 50 per cent in just five years. That spending helped push mortgage rates to almost 11 per cent and crippled the internationally competitive parts of the economy.


New Zealand can’t afford that approach again.


The Government will get back to running surpluses next year. At first they will be very small but they will build up over time. There might be some room for modest spending or revenue initiatives, but the top priority has to be getting our debt down.


The Government has borrowed – on behalf of New Zealanders – around $50 billion over six years to get the country safely through a recession, the greatest financial crisis since the 1930s, and one of the most expensive natural disasters in history.


In better economic times we have to reduce that debt.


That will lift national savings, and help keep a lid on interest rate rises as the economy heats up.


We also have to lock in the improvements we are making to New Zealand’s economic settings. And we have to lock in the progress we are making in delivering better public services.


Those changes will continue to serve the country well.


New Zealand now has the opportunity to significantly improve its economic fortunes and provide a better future for New Zealand families.


We can achieve the long-term lift in economic performance that this country has aspired to for so long, providing we keep to our steady and responsible programme.


The alternative to locking in our programme of change is to go off into left field. And I really do mean left field.


I’ll give you an example. If Labour and the Greens ever got in they would be the only government in the world to want less competition in their electricity market.


Less competition means higher prices. In Ontario, where they have the closest thing to Labour’s electricity proposal, electricity prices have gone up more than twice as fast as in New Zealand.



On top of that, Labour wants an emissions trading scheme that would put up household energy bills by $500 a year – just like that.


They want people to work two more years before they can retire.


They want to reintroduce national awards like we had in the seventies – so hello strikes and goodbye productivity.


They want to put up income taxes and introduce a new tax on all productive businesses and farms in the country.


When you look at it closely, the alternative prescription from Labour and the Greens is a combination of high spending, untried economic experiments and a lack of focus on what really matters.


It would be a huge step backward when the country is so obviously moving forward.


So this year I want people to think hard about where New Zealand is going, and how to keep us on the right track.


I want people to think about who can provide strong, stable government in what is still an uncertain world.


And I want people to think about whose judgement and integrity they can trust.


I have always been very clear that the biggest influence on my judgement, and the way I think about politics, has been my upbringing.


I came from a family that didn’t have much. But I was able to do well and have a successful career.


That’s partly because of the beliefs instilled in me at home – to work hard and to aim high.


But equally important was the education I received at my local primary and high schools in Christchurch, and at Canterbury University.


That education opened the world to me.


So my upbringing and schooling shaped my views quite profoundly.


I believe people are ultimately responsible for their own lives and the well-being of their families.


But I also believe the Government should do what it can to provide children and young people with opportunities to succeed and do well, no matter what their family background or life circumstances.


That’s why I have personally pushed through a number of policies for young people, including better mental health services, better trades training, greater support for teen parents, and breakfasts in schools.


I visit a lot of schools around the country, because they play a huge part in shaping the lives of our young people.


And I take my hat off to the teachers and principals across New Zealand who are making a real difference in lifting achievement.


A mountain of evidence shows that the quality of teaching – inside the classroom – is the biggest influence on kids’ achievement.


I think everyone can remember the best and most inspirational teachers they had at school. I certainly can, and they made a big difference to my education.


The evidence also shows that, after teaching quality, the second biggest influence on achievement is school leadership.


To recognise this, we’ve introduced the Prime Minister’s education awards for, among other things, excellence in teaching and school leadership.


That excellence is part of the reason our top students do as well as the best students anywhere in the world, and we should be rightly proud of that.


But we can’t be complacent.


As I’ve said a number of times, far too many kids do poorly at school, and that’s not something to be proud of.


New Zealand stands out among other countries for the wide gap we have between our top students and our lowest-performing students.


International studies also show that we are not keeping pace with achievement in other countries, particularly in maths and science. In fact, we have been on a gradual downward slide since the early 2000s.


In 2000, for example, our 15-year-olds were ranked fourth in the OECD’s study for achievement in maths, with only Hong Kong, Japan and Korea ahead of us. Now we’re ranked 23rd.


Today’s 15-year-olds in New Zealand are performing worse, on average, than 15-year-olds in 2000.


That’s despite a lot more money being spent on education.


So that has to be a call to action for all of us.


There’s no doubt we have a good education system. But it’s not as good as it could be. We need to make some changes.

For some time, the Government has been looking at what international research and evidence in education tells us, what the best performing countries are doing, what teachers and principals are saying they need, and what initiatives have been working here in New Zealand.


The first thing we did was start collecting better information, through national standards, because without good information everyone is simply stumbling around in the dark.


National standards have taken time to bed in, and we’re working to improve the consistency of assessments. But the information they provide has been invaluable in determining where to put resources and effort to lift achievement.


Because lifting achievement, each year and in measurable steps, is the whole point of going to school.


So what’s next?


Well, if teaching practice and school leadership are the most important factors for achievement, then it’s obvious we need to strengthen the teaching profession and strengthen school leadership across the 50,000 teachers and 2,500 schools in New Zealand.


There are a number of things we want to do.


We want to keep top teachers in the classroom rather than having to go into management positions, or leave teaching altogether, to progress their careers. At the moment, our best teachers work their way up the career ladder by doing less teaching, and that shouldn’t be the way it works.


We want to support a culture of collaboration within and across schools. That means the really good principals and teachers spending a lot more time sharing what they know, and how they work, with other principals and other teachers.


We want the best teachers and principals to lead a step change in achievement and we are going to pay them more to get it.


So today I am announcing four new roles for principals and teachers in New Zealand schools, and investing an extra $359 million into teaching and school leadership over the next four years.


These are changes that will benefit kids across New Zealand, because high-quality teaching leads to better achievement at school.

The first new role is an Executive Principal.


Executive Principals will be the top principals from across the country.



They will provide leadership across communities of schools, supporting other principals to raise student achievement.


We envisage there will be around 250 Executive Principals, or about one for every 10 schools, on average.


An Executive Principal will remain in charge of their own school but be released for two days a week to work across a grouping of schools, which will include primary and secondary schools.


Executive Principals will have a proven track record in raising achievement and they will pass on their knowledge and expertise to other principals.


They will be appointed by an external panel, for up to four years. Executive Principals will be paid an annual allowance of $40,000 on top of their existing salary, and they will be judged on their results.


So that’s the first new role.


The second is a similar sort of position, again working across a group of schools, but at the teacher level.


These teachers we are calling Expert Teachers, and we intend to establish around 1,000 of these new positions.


Expert Teachers will have a proven track record in raising the performance of their students, particularly in maths, science, technology and literacy.


Expert Teachers will be based in their usual school, but will be released for two days a week to work across their school grouping, under the guidance of their Executive Principal.


They will get alongside other teachers, working with them to develop and improve classroom practice and raise student achievement.


Executive Principals will oversee the appointment of Expert Teachers and the appointment will be for up to four years. They will be paid an annual allowance of $20,000 on top of their usual salary.


Executive Principals and Expert Teachers will drive a whole new level of collaboration between schools and between teachers, with best practice becoming widespread across school communities.


The third new role we are going to introduce is for the top teachers in schools.


We want the best teachers to be recognised for improving student achievement and to act, in a formal sense, as role models for other teachers.


So we are going to introduce a new role – a Lead Teacher. There will be around 5,000 Lead Teacher positions across the country.

Lead Teachers will be high-performing teachers who can demonstrate the best classroom practice.


Their classrooms will be open to other teachers almost all the time, so teachers can observe and discuss classroom practice with a model professional.


Lead Teachers will be paid an annual allowance of $10,000 on top of their existing salary. That allowance is in recognition of their status and their new responsibility in helping other teachers to raise achievement.


These new roles of Expert Teachers and Lead Teachers means more good teachers will stay in a teaching role, because they can see a career path that keeps them in the classroom where they are so effective. And that has huge benefits for the children they teach.


We are going to give extra funding to schools so teachers can take time out of their normal classroom to work with Expert Teachers and Lead Teachers.


And we are also going to establish a $10 million fund for schools and teachers to develop and research effective teaching practice in areas such as writing, maths, science and digital literacy.


The final change I want to announce today is that we are also going to better match up schools that are really struggling, with really excellent principals.


To do this we are going to establish a new role of Change Principal.


Change Principals will be top principals who are paid an additional allowance of $50,000 a year to go to a struggling school and turn it around.


Around 20 Change Principals will be appointed each year, for up to five years.


At the moment, the incentive is for principals to go to larger schools, where the salary is higher, rather than to schools that are the most challenging.


We are going to change that.


So those are the four new roles we are creating – Executive Principals, Change Principals, Expert Teachers and Lead Teachers.


With all these new roles there are details to fill in and employment implications for teachers. The next step is to sit down over the next few months with representatives of the education profession, including unions, to further develop these proposals.


That process might result in some changes to the details of the policy, but our intent is clear. We want to recognise excellent teachers and principals, keep good teachers in the classroom, and share expertise across schools and amongst teachers.

And we intend to introduce the new principal and teaching roles from next year.


We plan to spend an extra $359 million over the next four years to fund these proposals, with the full-year cost rising to more than $150 million a year by the end of that period.


That’s because we are prepared to invest in long-term policies that lift achievement.


In the end, these initiatives are about kids.


High-quality teaching leads to better achievement at school – the evidence is overwhelming.


And doing better at school has a profound impact on the lives of young New Zealanders – economically, of course, but also in terms of their ability to participate in society and contribute to their families and communities.


As you can see, we’ve got plenty on, and plenty of new ideas to keep pushing the country forward.


New Zealand is heading in the right direction.


The Government’s economic programme is laying the foundations for a stronger economy, sustainable jobs and higher incomes.


We are making real progress in delivering better public services for New Zealanders and getting on top of issues like crime and welfare dependency.


And as you can see today, we have big plans for education.


It’s important we continue to lock in and protect the gains we’ve made and keep making progress.


That takes constant hard work, oversight and judgement.


It takes a team working together and all heading in the same direction.


And it takes a government that is united, focused and energised.


Ladies and gentlemen, that’s what I can promise New Zealand in 2014.


Thank you.

Education Minister Hekia Parata said the Government’s $359 million investment in education over the next four years will support teachers and principals to lift student performance in every school.

The investment will create four new teaching and leadership roles in schools – Executive Principals, Expert Teachers, Lead Teachers, and Change Principals – and was announced today by Prime Minister John Key in his first speech of the year.

“These changes are the next step in our plan to raise student achievement in our schools,” Ms Parata says.


“We introduced National Standards so we can get a picture of how our students are doing in school and ensure we target assistance to those who need it.


“Since we came into government we have been spending more than ever before in education, despite tight fiscal times.


“While our education system is doing a great job for many kids, on an international scale our achievement ranking has been gradually declining since the early 2000s.


“We need to enhance the teaching and leadership in the system to raise achievement for five out of five young New Zealanders.


“These new roles will recognise and use talent where it’s needed most and will be implemented from next year to support communities of schools across the country.


“It is intended all roles will be fully in place by 2017,” Ms Parata says.


The new roles are:

  • Executive Principal – These will be highly-capable principals from across the country, with a proven track record, who will provide leadership across a community of schools while remaining in their own school. Each will work with around 10 schools, on average, from primary through to secondary, and support and mentor the other principals in these schools. This role will be offered on a two-year fixed-term basis and be linked to specific objectives for student achievement across the community of schools. Executive Principals will be freed up for two days a week to work with the other schools in their community. They will be paid an additional allowance of $40,000 a year in recognition of their new responsibilities. Their own school will also receive funding to backfill their role for the two days a week they are working with the other schools in their community. It is anticipated there will be around 250 of these roles when the rollout is completed.


  • Expert Teacher – These will work with Executive Principals, and will include experts in areas like maths and science, digital technology and literacy. They will work inside classrooms, including in other schools within their community of schools, with teachers to help lift teaching practice and improve student achievement. This role will be offered on a two-year fixed-term basis and be linked to specific objectives for student achievement. They will receive an additional allowance of $20,000 a year in recognition of their new responsibilities. Their own school will also receive funding to backfill their role for the two days a week they are working with the other schools in their community. There are likely to be around 1,000 Expert Teachers when the initiative is fully in place.


  • Lead Teacher – These will be highly capable school teachers, with a proven track record, who will act as a role model for teachers within their own schools and the other schools in their community of schools. Their classroom will be open for other teachers, including beginning teacher, to observe and learn from their practice. They will be paid an additional allowance of $10,000 a year in recognition of their status and new responsibilities. It is anticipated there will be around 5,000 Lead Teachers when this initiative is fully implemented.


  • Change Principal – These will be employed to lift achievement in schools that are really struggling.  Many schools that are performing poorly want to recruit an outstanding principal to turn their results around. Principals appointed to these roles will be paid an additional allowance of $50,000 a year on top of the salary the recipient school offers. This will encourage great principals to select schools based on the size of the challenge rather than the size of the school. The roles will be fixed term (3-5 years) and will be particularly focused on lifting student achievement. It is anticipated about 20 of these roles will be needed each year.


“The profession has been telling me career pathways for school teachers and principals, and opportunities to learn from each other, are important. This has been echoed by OECD evidence and is further supported by what our own education leaders saw during a recent visit to Asia.


“Late last year I sent a delegation, including the Secretary for Education, and senior representatives from the education sector to Hong Kong and Singapore – two of the best performing countries in the international PISA study.


“Informed by the delegation’s experience, as well as clear international evidence and best practice in New Zealand, I think we have come up with what is a uniquely Kiwi mixture that will lift achievement for our students.”


Ms Parata says the changes are significant for the education sector, and she has asked Secretary for Education Peter Hughes to work with the sector unions and other key groups, including NZ School Trustees Association (NZSTA) as representatives of Boards of Trustees, on the details of how the new roles will work.


The new investment also includes a $10 million Teacher Innovation Fund, which will enable team-based, teacher-led research and development at a practical level, working within schools or across groups of schools. 


“I am really delighted that this investment will provide career pathways and raise the status of the profession – as well as lift student achievement,” Ms Parata says.


The investment will work alongside existing initiatives such as the $37.5 million Quality Teaching Agenda.


“We have also recently established the Prime Minister’s Education Excellence Awards, and will host the International Summit on the Teaching Profession in March, together with education festivals in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch,” Ms Parata says.


“We have progressed work to transform the NZ Teachers Council into a proposed new body, EDUCANZ. Changes to initial teacher education are also being made, with new post graduate qualifications being offered from this year.


“The National-led Government has an unrelenting focus on giving all our young people a better education and raising achievement for all,” Ms Parata says.

Education is the key to success and breaking the cycle of deprivation.

These proposed changes recognise the import part good teachers and principals play in improving achievement for all pupils.

Rural round-up

January 20, 2014

EU economist predicts fall in meat consumption – Carmen Paun:

Meat consumption will never reach previous levels, Tassos Haniotis, director of economic analysis at the European Commission’s directorate general for agriculture said on Tuesday. . .

Taking a shot at NZ farming’s next seven years – Pita Alexander:

Can we really forecast accurately what might happen with agriculture over the next, say, seven years and what the key issues may be for New Zealanders?

The answer is no, but in honour of Nostradamus and other great crystal bowl devotees let’s take a shot at what lies ahead.

Over the next two columns I will lay out 26 points for farmers and others to mull over. Who knows, 70 per cent of them might come to pass in some shape or other.

1 – There will be more volatility in the next seven years than there has been in the past seven on all fronts. You must include this, and cope with this, in your business plans.

2 – The importance of Fonterra for New Zealand will increase – it is important now but expect a further increase. . .


Farm cropping for the love of it – Jacquie Webby:

Nigel Wilson has been a cropping farmer pretty much “since he can remember” and for this South Canterbury farmer, it’s a full-on occupation with a serious array of equipment to help keep the wheels of his farming operation turning.

“I knew I didn’t want to be a dairy farmer and my parents had run a cropping operation, so here I am,” he says.

One of Nigel Wilson’s most productive (and picturesque) crops is white clover and he has about 100 hectares which is in full flower.

“White clover is grown for export to the United Kingdom,” says Nigel. . .

International Year of Family Farming in 2014:

A United Nations organisation is running the International Year of Family Farming in 2014 with the aim of raising the profile of family farmers and smallholders in developing and developed nations.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation is running the International Year of Family Farming in 2014 with the aim of raising the profile of family farmers and smallholders in developing and developed nations.

One of the New Zealand ambassadors for the year is Lake Grassmere sheep and beef farmer Doug Avery who says family farms are incredibly important as they provide people with what they need to exist – food.

He says worldwide families are responsible for most of the world’s food production which gives meaning to the slogan ‘every family needs a farmer’. . .

Dairy farmers from across the nation oppose supply management – The Bullvine:

Dairy producer groups from around the country have teamed up to urge Farm Bill conferees to oppose Supply Management. Dairy Farmers do not want a dairy Supply Management proposal known as the Dairy Market Stabilization Program (DMSP). A letter has been signed by following dairy farmer associations; The Wisconsin Dairy Business Association (DBA), California Dairies Inc. (CDI), National All Jersey, the Dairy Business Milk Marketing Cooperative (DBMMC), the Dairy Policy Action Coalition (DPAC), the Northeast Dairy Producers Association (NEDPA), and the Kentucky Dairy Development Council.
The letter urges conferees to follow the lead of the House of Representatives, which rejected this controversial new dairy program to impose milk quotas on dairy farmers by a more than two to one margin — 291-135– and replaced it with language that allows farmers to participate in a margin insurance program without being required to participate in the DMSP. “It simply is not factual when Representative Peterson states that all dairy farmers want the government to control the milk they produce on their farms through the (DMSP). Many dairy farmers from all over the country are aligned and opposed to Supply Management,” said Laurie Fischer, Executive Director of the Dairy Business Association. . .

A young dairy farmer with a passion for cows and education – Art 4 Agriculture:

I love educating the youth in the dairy industry and the youth about the dairy industry.

Let me introduce myself, I’m a dairy farmer with a passion for education.

Yes, that’s right, I milk cows on my family farm, 10 minutes from the beach on the mid-north coast of NSW, and I’m about to commence my career as a teacher.

My name is Emma Polson, I’m 24 years-old and I love being a farmer. . .

Results then and now

January 16, 2014

NZCEA exam results were released yesterday when students were able to access them on-line.

That’s how it’s done now which is very different from how it was when School Certificate, University Entrance, Bursary and Scholarship results were released when I was at school.

Then, when computers were in their infancy, results were posted to students and published in newspapers.

One of my abiding summer memories is scores of people sitting on the steps outside the store in Wanaka scanning the paper for their own results and those of friends and school mates.

How things have changed – that would be considered a serious breach of student privacy nowadays.

The results themselves are different too – they used to be presented in percentages which were a lot easier to understand than the credits with their not achieved and achieved ratings today’s students.

Which is better is very much a matter of opinion.

Case for optimism

January 9, 2014

At this time of year when people are making predictions on what the next 12 months will bring, it’s instructive to look back at what people were predicting a few decades ago.

In The Case for Optimism, entrepreneur Fabrice Grinda writes:

Let me take you back in time to the late 1970s for they seemed to mark the beginning of the end of Western Civilization. OECD countries were suffering from stagflation with inflation and unemployment above 10%. We had suffered from 2 oil shocks. The US had lost Vietnam. The Shah had fallen in Iran. The Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan. Dictatorships were the norm in Eastern Europe, South East Asia, Latin America and even Southern Europe. The Club of Rome had made dire predictions that the world would run out of oil, coal and many natural resources within 40 years.

No one predicted that over the next 40 years there would be democracies across Latin America, Eastern Europe and Southern Europe; that inflation and unemployment would fall dramatically; that we would see the greatest creation of wealth in the history of humanity as 1 billion people came out of poverty. 650 million came out of poverty in China alone, completely changing urban landscapes across the country as a whole. Despite 40 years of record consumption of oil and natural gas we now have more reserves than we did then. The way we work and live has been profoundly transformed by computers, the Internet and mobile phones.

If we take a further step back, we can see that over the last 100 years economic downturns, be they recessions that occur every few years or bigger crisis such as the great depression, as painful as they are while we live them, barely register in a background of unabated economic growth. In fact over the last 100 years human lifespans have doubled from 40 to 80, average per capita income has tripled and childhood mortality has divided by 10. The cost of food, electricity, transportation and communications have dropped 10 to a 1,000 fold. Global literacy has gone from 25% to over 80% in the last 130 years.

We have redefined what poverty means. Today 99% of Americans in poverty have electricity, water, toilet and refrigerator. 95% have a television. 88% have a mobile phone. 70% have a car and air conditioning. The richest people 100 years ago could only dream of such luxuries.

We are also living in the most peaceful time in human history; not just of recent history, but in the history of humanity. We are truly living in extraordinary times. . .

He goes on to look at improvements in technology, health, public service, education , transportation, communication and energy and concludes:

. . .  Think about it. Computing power was so expensive we had to limit access to it. Now it’s so ubiquitous we use it to play Angry Birds or check Facebook. Its very cheapness has unleashed an extraordinary wave of innovation.

The same will happen with energy. Once it’s cheap many of our other problems go away. The idea that we will face a fresh water shortage is also ludicrous. The earth is 70% covered by water. The issue is once again accessibility as only 1.3% of it is surface fresh water. However in a world of unlimited energy it’s easy to desalinate salt water. In fact we may not even need to wait that long as new innovative devices like the Slingshot are coming on stream that can generate 1,000 liters of pure water per day from any water source, even saline or polluted.

Once fresh water is abundant food also becomes abundant as you can grow crops in the dessert – and that’s not taking into consideration an agriculture productivity revolution that could come from urban vertical farms.

As people we are truly blessed to be living in this amazing time. As entrepreneurs and investors we have the privilege of helping create this better world of tomorrow, a world of equality of opportunity and of plenty.

Closer to home, Lindsay Mitchell notes 10 positive trends in New Zealand: Assaults in police, incidents of sudden infant death, recorded crime,  smoking, abortion, teenage pregnancies, road deaths, child mortality, Maori suicide and rheumatic fever have all declined.

Of course there are still major problems at home and abroad but both writers provide strong cases for optimism.


If you keep on doing what you’ve always done . . .

December 3, 2013

Education Minister Hekia Parata has announced a review of the Ministry of Education’s Professional Learning and Development (PLD) expenditure in schools.

“The Government invests more than $70 million each year in PLD to improve the skills of our teachers and education leaders. However, the long-term level of underachievement in our education system will not be shifted by doing what we have always done,” Ms Parata says.

If you keep on doing what you’ve always done you keep on getting what you’ve always got and in New Zealand that is too many children who fail at school.

That isn’t always the fault of teachers – a large part of the problem is what happens at home. But that isn’t an excuse for not ensuring teachers are better equipped to help all their pupils.

“The quality of teaching and education leadership has a direct impact on the educational success of our young people. If we can improve the professional learning and development provided to our teachers, then we will see a system-wide lift in student achievement.

“We are determined to raise achievement for 5 out of 5 young New Zealanders and to do that we must ensure that the PLD resource is targeted to back our teachers.

“This review provides the opportunity to ensure that our teachers are getting the right level of support for their development needs and are being challenged to raise the achievement of all students. . . 

This is a very sensible approach to ensure that teachers are as well equipped as possible to help all their pupils.

Can’t write, can’t count

November 13, 2013

Facebook exchange of the day:

Retweeted Gareth Hughes (@GarethMP):

Nice to have dinner with my kids at Parliament & then they came in & watched the debate. Some of the rules from kindy might of come in handy


  • XXXXXX “have”

  • XXXXXX That was why I re-tweeted it.

    The Barbarians aren’t at the gate – they’re inside, tweeting illiterately about their kids.
  • XXXXXXX Green grammar.

  • XXXXXXXX Gareth Hughes demonstrates the need for National Standards in literacy. How much do we pay these clowns?

  • XXXXXX Never mind the grammar. They got the vote wrong on a Bill tonight too. Can’t write, can’t count – they need a good dose of national standards!


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,163 other followers

%d bloggers like this: