Post-election thoughts, the possible new minister, our suggested stance, and I think I have cracked the online platform thingy (I name it)

Post-election thoughts, the possible new minister, our suggested stance, and I think I have cracked the online platform thingy (I name it)

I predicted in a posting some time ago that Anne Tolley would, in the next cabinet reshuffle, be gone as minister of education – the prediction was based on John Key’s predilection for change with a strong public relations’ element but, in effect, representing no change at all. Indeed, all the more dangerous for the deceptiveness inherent.

But just recently I was told she had ‘put her hand up’ for another term, which made me hesitate about being too definite. Then the Kawerau announcement was made, in other words, the decks seemingly being cleared to ease the way for a new incumbent, I took that as bye-bye Tol-ley.

Newspapers have now leaked details of a possible National reshuffle with Hekia Parata taking Education and Tolley, Police.

The main point of this posting is to say that any change will be for the worse, and to remind readers that schools bring out the bully in Key and in his selection of ministers of education the bullies.

The Parata whanau is a formidable one which thrives on antagonism. The capability of Parata family members is beyond question, their open-mindedness very much in. Hekia Parata’s charisma, intelligence, drive, East Coast ego, and oratorical skills, also her personal variability, will make dealing with her, in my view, even more of a challenge than dealing with Tolley’s frumpishness. Parata will be seen as having exuberant charm overlaying unwavering ruthlessness. Two characteristics to look out for are personal vindictiveness and being enamoured with power – the crunching joy of it. When that joy goes, she will. So let’s drain it.

Parata family members are red-hot supporters of national standards. And, unlike Tolley, who only came to understand them, Parata family members do understand them, albeit from a mainly secondary perspective, they just refuse to countenance arguments opposing them. Any hope that she might be open to change is beyond the dangerously naïve.

My prediction is that having thrown a bucket of water over Tolley, we will very soon be wishing all we could see of Parata is a pair of red shoes.

I think, though, that Tolley’s freakishly wrong decision about Pasifika bilingual education might well be reversed. Parata will be looking to send a signal (false though it will be) of greater reasonableness, and I predict Pasifika education will have that knot cut. But we must not let our guard down because that signal, if sent, will appease only to deceive. (And who knows, even the Moerewa decision might be open for reverse.)

A new minister, whoever it is, must be judged by his or her actions, on mainstream education matters, or we will have fallen for Key’s ploy.

I have to keep reminding readers, as fragile as our situation is, that we have done well.  National standards were hardly mentioned in the campaign (except for one notable exception – see below) or in advertising; there was the furtively late release of National’s education policy; there was the cancellation of the planned orchestrated move to statutory interventions on 21 November; Tolley was kept under wraps; nearly every political party has lined up against national standards; and now intimations of her education portfolio relinquishment.

With regard to any change of minister, teacher organisations should be dignified and gracious in their murmurings of good will; make clear their conditions for any co-operation with the government (which provides the opportunity for a recitation of their opposition to national standards); offer an alternative way to meet the government’s declared aims for national standards; but be absolutely clear there will be no participation in any form, of any nature, with anything to do with advising on, or contributing to, the implementation of national standards.

One false step by any of the teacher organisations and New Zealand will be condemned to the whole unmitigated disaster as a life sentence; and the teacher organisations to serious rift.

Now to National’s education policy:

In National’s education policy, I was taken aback by how Christchurch schools are getting nothing but bumf. We should all get in behind calls for extra support for the schools of that stricken area.

And all the rest of the document is bumf, except for the section headed ‘Strengthen accountability and performance measurement’.

And therein lies the battleground for the next few years.

Our schools are going to be up to their gunwales with measurement.

Schools will be required to have online, a linear ‘progress’ charting each child’s school career performance. Leaving aside the desirability of such an ostentatious focus on testing, a key point will be whether that linear progress will include overall teacher judgement, and how dominant asTTLe will be in the linear progress. Given the high stakes’ involved, it will either be a shambles or a straitjacket.

But note the next paragraph: ‘This will allow us to measure the value a school is adding to a student’s education …’

Especially note the ‘us’ and the vagaries inherent in the notion of value added.

This charming policy section then moves right along to declarations of improving ‘the use of data by education agencies to support investment and accountability processes’.

Note the use of the plural, meaning that direct online information will be fed to both the ministry and the review office.

Then the key statement that the ministry will: ‘Use the Network for Learning as a technological platform to support collection and dissemination of data and knowledge’.

It is this Network for Learning platform, I predict, which will be the collection point for data, and the means for reformulating this into cohorts according to the machine’s notions of national standards, and disseminating this to enable league tables to be formed.

After a number of networkonnet postings exploring online platforms and what the ministry is up to, I think I have cracked it. The Network for Learning Platform is to be based on the pernicious online platform set up by the England Department of Education and Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted).

The name of the platform is RAISEonline and its purpose is as a ‘Data management facility to import and edit pupil level data and create school-defined fields and teaching groups.’

To provide a further national testing element (in other words reducing overall teacher judgement to near nothingness) asTTle is being re-normed, supported by asTTle-based rubrics, to provide near assumptive asTTle finality – any school variations from asTTle judgements will be pinpointed for reconsideration.

So here we have our new secretary for education, imported from England, a no doubt delightful middle-class person, but with no classroom background – to re-colonise our education system with practices from the class-ridden, white-dominated and, especially given its generous funding, wallowing English education system. Ofsted and RAISEonline, it should be noted, have been singularly unsuccessful in achieving any marked or sustained success.

Then two nasty little items:

‘We’ll also shift the resourcing model, so it incentivises performance.’

This introduces a motivation that isn’t needed. A few schools will be put on pedestals on the basis of goodness knows how reliable evidence, on goodness knows how reliable decile ratings, to shame other schools.

And in initial teaching education, what does ‘a formal assessment of a ‘disposition to teach’ mean?

It is all so Orwellian, as Ovid said, ‘Principiis obsta!

Note how all this comes under the heading of that invidious word ‘accountability’.

Please excuse me if I repeat a part of the previous posting, indicating what National really has in store for us in the years ahead.

In last night’s debate John Key came out with a shocker about schools, a shocker we should make sure haunts him throughout his remaining years in office: He said (and I need help here with the exact wording) that ‘[Schools, teachers] are letting down [society, New Zealand, children, us].’ The comment was made in the context of 33% of Maori children leaving secondary school with low level qualifications.

After all I’ve written on the National government and education, it might surprise some that I was shocked, but I have been. For the elected head of a government to come out and say such a thing, to say such a thing so baldly, is without parallel in our political history and, I suspect, the political history of comparable countries.

No ifs no buts – New Zealand schools are letting New Zealand down.

All this because the government wants a scapegoat for its failing economic, social, and employment policies.

At the nub of all this is the word ‘accountability’ and its use in the context of education. In no other area of state activity is this word so widely used and so central to the arguments of its critics.

If, however, the word ‘responsibility’ is used instead, a far more appropriate and humanistic expression than accountability with its numbers-based metaphorical allusions then, for the open-minded observer, the many ways schools demonstrate their responsibility to the children who attend them, becomes immediately apparent. 

The word ‘accountability’ is used to alienate for a purpose: generally to disadvantage teachers to the advantage of others; specifically to establish a situation that means whatever achievement public education delivers won’t be sufficient. 

In the last thirty years in Western countries, accountability has mainly been used against schools for their ‘failure’ to achieve the utopian impossibility of having children from straitened circumstances achieve as well as children from privileged ones. The fantastical pressing for ever rising accountability is used to justify ever greater political and bureaucratic intervention, and a breakdown in the trust in public schools.

John Key you are, in the context of being a New Zealand prime minister, the ultimate scumbag

Which part of this expression of Key’s attitude does anyone not understand?

My prediction is that, as happened immediately after the last election, National will bring in under urgency, and through ministerial regulatory powers, a number of anti-teacher laws and regulations.

We need to be united and alert.

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