NZEI letting teachers down


If unions don’t understand why they aren’t always well regarded they need look no further than this:

The teachers’ strike is going ahead tomorrow because the venues for union meetings were already booked.

The primary teachers’ union offered that explanation when asked why the pay offer it received on Thursday wasn’t enough to avert next week’s action. . . 

The NZEI’s teacher lead negotiator Liam Rutherford told the Weekend Collective the offer came through really late in the piece.

“And so to that extent, we didn’t consider calling off the strike because we’ve got venues booked around country.”

Rutherford says they have been really flexible, but when you already have so many meeting venues booked, a half day to consider an offer is not enough. . . 

The Employment Relations Authority recommends teachers accept the offer.

Teachers have a lot of sympathy for their claims not just for more pay but also for better conditions.

But continuing with  strikes before considering the latest offer will do them and their cause absolutely no good.

That the union justifies continuing strike action because it has booked meeting rooms will erode sympathy further.

NZEI is letting teachers down and this nonsense supports the argument that too often unions do what’s good for unions, not their members.

When unions write policy


Anyone who doubts what unions get from supporting Labour need look no further than policy  to reopen Hillside Workshop:

. . . In November 2012 about 90 Hillside Engineering Workshops employees were made redundant in the South Dunedin facility’s partial closure, after KiwiRail failed to find a buyer for it.. .

Several factors including changing demand and union intransigence which prevented the business modernising to compete in the 21st century, were responsible for Hillside’s demise.

That the Chinese-made wagons KiwiRail bought in preference to locally made ones have had problems is no reason to resurrect the workshop.

The government has no business in a business like this.

It would be returning to the bad old days of subsidised industry.

KiwiRail was one of the last Labour government’s big spending mistakes.

It is continuing to cost the country far too much money which would be better spent in many other areas.

The only reason to continue throwing good money after bad is political payback for union support.

That’s what happens when unions write policy.

It might be good for them but it won’t be good for the country.

Education is another area where unions are flexing political muscles:

The country’s biggest teacher union has overwhelmingly rejected the Government’s $359 million education policy.

The announcement today by NZEI that 93 per cent of teachers and principals voted “no confidence” in the policy could potentially scupper the Government’s Investing in Educational Success plans.

The policy, announced in January, has divided teachers and principals and only minutes before NZEI’s announcement the Minister of Education revealed a memorandum of understanding has been signed with a number of principals from other organisations across the country.

NZEI president Judith Nowotarski said 73 per cent of the more than 25,000 members that voted rejected the proposed new roles outright, rather than trying to change the policy through negotiation. . .

This is another example of the pressing need for a professional body to advise and advocate on educational matters rather than an industrial one.

A professional body would have the best interests of education and pupils front and centre rather than their political views as the union does.

Some unions are affiliated to Labour and have voting powers. Some support them with money and people-power for campaigns. Some support them by fighting National government policies.

Policy they like, and possibly write, is their payback.

If it was an employers or business group doing that for National and against Labour it would be called corruption and buying power.

When unions do it, it’s just business as usual.




NZEI tramples on mana


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.


Contagious excellence


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.

Opt in and targeting better than universal


NZEI is urging the government to vote for the bill to provide children in low decile schools with breakfasts and lunches.

This is a blunt instrument. It’s also an expensive and wasteful one.

Fonterra has offered all schools free milk and some have chosen not to take it because their children don’t need it or the staff think it’s too much work.

Allowing schools to opt in and targeting those whose pupils are most in need is far better than a universal approach which will be cost more and generate more waste.




Last night Education Minister Hekia Parata issued a media release headlined International studies show changes must be made to improve education outcomes.

Education Minister Hekia Parata says two international research studies on student achievement released tonight confirm that more work must be done to improve our education system.

“While we have a good education system overall there are persistent signs of under-performance. The findings of these studies must serve as a wakeup call.  We cannot take for granted that our overall achievement at the senior end of our system can be maintained if we do not improve the system all the way through.

“Unfortunately these results show that we are either standing still or falling behind in reading, maths and science.  We must pay urgent attention to what these studies tell us and tackle some system-wide challenges.

The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), was completed between November 2010 and October 2011 for Years 5 and 9 and shows marked drops in maths and science achievement, particularly at middle primary school level, and no improvements in reading literacy.

“While we have some high performing children, we have many children who lack basic skills and knowledge, particularly in mathematics and science, compared to children of a similar age in other countries. That is seriously worrying,’’ says Ms Parata.

“These studies indicate that we need to increase our focus on improving teaching quality and leadership. And, as our own research shows we must give particular attention to transitions – when children move from one level of schooling to the next.

“We must ensure that children develop good reading and writing skills from the moment they start school. Given the critical role this has in starting children on the right path it would suggest that our best and most experienced teachers are needed most at this level.

“In the transitions work that our Education Review Office has done they have also identified how important it is to create a successful transition at Year 9 so that the progress to NCEA2 is much more planned and assured.

“We need good, quality data so we can see how a child’s learning is progressing. We are starting to see the benefits of that this year with the first reporting of National Standards data. The data enables us to support all learners and target those who are falling behind much earlier and give them the help they need. We have a five year plan to improve the quality of that data.

“We are also working with schools to better understand and use their data to change the way that teaching occurs when it is clear that what is being done is not working.

“ERO has also identified the importance of using assessments to get better learning – rather than assessment simply to have assessment. National Standards is built on developing consistency and progression and not on a high stakes national test, as happens in other parts of the world.

“Given the disturbing trend reflected in the PIRLS and TIMMS studies it is important that we get on and embed national standards into routine practice.

“We know that the strength of a parent’s involvement with their child and their school makes a very positive difference.  It also helps to identify those families that may be struggling and to find the assistance needed from other agencies.

“We need to ensure parents are involved in their child’s learning, that they know what questions to ask teachers and how they can best support their child’s learning. 

“We also need Boards of Trustees to ensure that their main focus is on raising student achievement. The changes we are proposing in the Education Amendment Bill will provide more clarity for schools and Boards of Trustees, and ensure children’s needs remain the central focus for our educators.

“We must work with parents, children, teachers, principals, Board of Trustees, the education sector and experts to address the issues raised by this research.  We want all our children to leave school with the skills they need to reach their potential in a modern society.”

This is carefully worded.

It acknowledges the good work being done, outlines concerns and accepts that improvements are needed, notes the importance of assessment for better learning rather than assessment for its own sake, recognises the important part parents play in their children’s education and the need for everyone in education to work together to address the issues.

Contrast that reasoned message with this advertisement from the NZEI which appeared in last night’s Oamaru Mail – and presumably other papers:


It says:

The Government is imposing standardisation and competition on our primary schools, claiming this will make schools and teachers more accountable.

These failed policies from overseas known as the “Global Education Reform Movement” (GERM) are infecting our schools through the introduction of National Standards, school league tables, charter schools and performance pay for teachers.

New Zealand has a world leading education system. It does better than countries where the GERM has been introduced. When a GERM infection arrives schools and centres get ill and kids learn less.

New Zealand educators have an antidote to the GERM.

We want fair and equitable education for everyone.

We pledge to work together with parents and communities to ensure all our schools are great schools.

And we will continue to work to ensure every child gets the education they need.

To find out more visit

Full marks for emotion and confusion (imposing standardisation and offering charter schools?) ; zero for reasoning.

It’s a stark contrast to the reasoned and factual release from the Minister.

That was embargoed until 10 last night. The advertisement appeared in yesterday’s paper which is published in the morning.

Could it be the two are related and the union knew what was coming, or is it just a coincidence?

Election returns


Candidate returns and registered promoter expense returns for last year’s election and referendum have been made public.

A summary of data disclosed in each candidate return is now available here.

The information includes amounts disclosed for donations, contributions to donations, anonymous donations, and overseas donations, and election expenses for newspaper advertising, radio and television advertising, internet advertising, and other forms of advertising.

• Candidate returns organised by electorate are available here.

• Candidate returns organised by party are available here.

Only registered promoters who spent more than $100,000 on election or referendum expenses during the regulated period (which started on 26 August and ended on 25 November 2011) were required to file a return. Copies of the registered promoters’ returns are available here.

Only four organisations filed promoter returns: Campaign for MMP spent $156,568.61 and Vote for Change spent $79,047.66 on the referendum; the New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) and Public Service Association (PSA) spent $280,100.86 and $196,368.34 respecitively on the election.

Any thoughts on which party or parties the two unions were promoting and whether they thought it was money well-spent?

This is how grown ups act?


Teachers at the NZEI conference yesterday responded to Education Minister Anne Tolley’s speech by holding up placards in silence.

Is this how grown ups act? Is this what they teach their pupils about good manners?

This wasn’t about education, it was about politics.

The reaction was pre-arranged. The teachers weren’t there to listen and learn, to ask questions or discuss, they were there with closed minds to protest.

It looked like it was unanimous too, but then given the bullying someone who dared question the union line got, it’s probable everyone who is working with National Standards as they’re supposed to be would have stayed away.

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