NZEI National Executive members met in Wellington with officials to challenge the ministry’s thinking on the review of the Education Act.

The government announced an “update” of the Education Act 1989 in early November. An update suggests tweaks, but the update will consider the purpose of education.

Consultation documents also raise the spectre of narrowly prescribed goals and forms of reporting, based on unreliable data. Public consultation was limited to a rushed six weeks before Christmas.

As one comment had it on Facebook, “If it hadn’t been for NZEI members getting mobilised then a lot could have slipped past under the radar. As it is, some rural areas missed out because there was no workshop close enough to get to.”

The “update” appears to flow from the work of the government’s Taskforce on Regulations Affecting School Performance, which was run by an accountant.

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The “update” appears to flow from the work of the government’s Taskforce on Regulations Affecting School Performance, which was run by an accountant. - Liam Rutherford, teacher, Palmerston North

Liam Rutherford, teacher, Palmerston North

What is being proposed could end up being quite prescriptive – such as narrowly defined goals and how to report to parents. This takes away from the professionalism of educators and the democratic involvement of families. It also means that the law would probably have to be changed again before long – do we want that kind of merry-go-round?

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Manu Pohatu, kohanga supervisor, Hamilton

It is unclear if or how early childhood education is being included in this “update”. If it is not included then what kind of message is being sent about education? What is being proposed doesn’t really reflect the innovation underway on responsive transitions for tamariki moving from kōhanga to kura. The danger is in the new law being too prescriptive.

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Fiona Matapo, teacher, Dunedin.

Fiona Matapo, teacher, Dunedin

Where is the Treaty of Waitangi in this? It is difficult to see how what is being proposed will fit with kura kaupapa Māori. There is an opportunity here to get out of that space where the values of the profession and families don’t align with the values of government. But it is difficult to see how to do this as the process is not transparent.

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Rikki-Sheterline

Rikki Sheterline, principal, Taumaranui

The “update” talks about the responsibilities of the school to the child. But if you’re talking about the child, the whole child, that includes the family. And if there’s no new cash, you can’t expect schools to fix social problems. Schools can be a place to deliver other services, such as health, but it’s not the job of teachers to do this – though many do. It comes back to resourcing.

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Te-Aroha-Hiko

Te Aroha Hiko, special education advisor, Napier

My hope is that next year, when the bill goes to the select committee hearing stage, that there will be a process of consultation all around the country, where MPs really listen to what is being said. I hope that educators and whānau will get involved in that process

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Timeline to the new act

  • Early 2016 Ministry reports to the Minister of Education on the consultation and recommends ways forward on legislative change. This will be signed off by Cabinet.
  • March–May/June 2016 New legislation – “the bill” – drafted by Parliamentary counsel.
  • May/June–July 2016 The bill will be open to written submission, most likely for another six week period.
  • July–December 2016 The bill will get its first reading in Parliament and then the minister has asked for a six-month Select Committee process of oral hearings around the country.
  • End 2016/early 2017 The bill goes to its second and final readings in Parliament and becomes law.

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The role of the profession

The government’s acceptance of a secondary claim that teachers no longer pay fees to EDUCANZ clarifies members’ role as the voice of the profession. In July last year, the Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand replaced the Teachers Council as the body responsible for registration and discipline.

Controversially, members of the new council are now political appointments, and it appears its brief will expand to deliver a politicallydirected agenda. Teachers have historically paid fees to fund the council but the government has accepted a secondary claim in collective bargaining that these fees will now be paid by government.

NZEI members are discussing a similar claim as part of their bargaining. This would recognise that EDUCANZ is no longer representative of the profession.

NZEI was established in 1883 as the voice of the profession, in a political environment that was often hostile to educators and the delivery of quality public education. It became a union some decades later, to meet requirements under then industrial relations law.

In the mid-twentieth century, when educators became respected partners in the education system, a number of tripartite bodies, comprising government, ministry and educator groups such as NZEI, were set up. This led to New Zealand having one of the best systems in the world.

In the current climate of politically-driven education reforms, which work to break up that approach, it is now clear NZEI members are once again the authentic voice of the profession, acting on behalf of students, and maintaining the call for quality public education.