The consultation phase of the Education Act Review is either highly cynical or a snub to the profession.

I was shocked to return from a month away from the news-cycle to discover the government had announced the consultation phase of the Education Act Review in a tight six-week period in the last weeks of term 4.

These weeks are the busiest of the year for most educators, when many run close to burnout. In these weeks, NZEI members write reports, run school fairs and productions, undertake assessments,  support transitions for families and children who will start in the following year, often as the culmination of a year of working 50-60 hours weeks. Families can be stressed at this time too, requiring extra support.

The Ministry/Minister’s Office must be aware of this so to announce ‘consultation’ at this time is either a ploy to minimise consultation with the profession or a sign of its intention to bypass the profession with this critical new law that will set the direction of the education system in coming years.

A lot of work has been going on behind the scenes on initiatives that will feed into this review, and the resulting legislation. The Taskforce on Regulations Affecting Schools Performance is a key piece of the puzzle. It was led by the former head of the accounting firm Deloitte’s, Murray Jack. Treasury is also taking an active interest in school funding, and there has been a reprise of the line that it is a good idea for funding to be linked to school performance.

The good news is that primary teachers and principals will be able to discuss the issues at PUMs, being held for collective agreement negotiations, in the next few weeks. NZEI member leaders are current putting together tools and analysis to make having a say much easier.

Consultation closes on December 14 and new legislation will be introduced toward the middle of next year. A process of select committee hearings will follow, then final legislation will likely be pushed through Parliament toward the end of the year, and go live in 2017.

The sad bit is the mountain of evidence/research that shows successful education reform involves government, the profession and the ministry working together collaboratively. Instead it looks like government prefers to try and impose another top-down model.

NZEI president Louise Green took a measured tone to the announcement of consultation, calling for debate and a strong national consensus on what is needed to ensure a high quality, free public education system that meets the needs of every child.