Some very brief advice on the way forward

Teacher organisations should play the election pretty straight: the just announced principles by the NZPF are a good model. These principles look more at general matters, which I think is the way to go. National standards should be played down a little, with the emphasis on weaknesses showing up in the wider curriculum, the long-term implications of national standards (for instance, reduced learning challenges for brighter children, and reduced engagement in learning by children, especially boys), and lost education opportunities as a result of misplaced government priorities.

Teacher organisation bashing will form a major part of National’s election strategy, a heart-tugger for the anti-teacher brigade – this should influence our overall strategy. (The plan by the government is to have a mass movement of statutory interventions on Monday, 21 November, with the election date the following Saturday.)

The schools that are going to continue to standout from compliance should announce that now, away from the election, in their own time, so as to get maximum publicity for their moral witnessing. They should plan it carefully, especially with the chairperson, making sure that the moral base for the stand is made clear, and the narrower as well as the wider deleterious effects of national standards are communicated. After interventions occur, principals and teachers will be gagged, so Eastern European-type communication will need to be engaged in – that could include providing information to websites such as this one.

In undertaking such communications do not use your own computers or home phones or, of course, Facebook. These could be investigated by the States Service Commission officially. As well, there is a very active dirty tricks’ part to Tolley’s office which includes Facebook scrutiny and other digital scrutiny, the use of Whale Oil, and a whole range of occurrences. Anyone actively opposed to national standards knows what is happening and is feeling the effects.

The schools that are going to comply, should fully comply, but should also keep informing parents and media about the absurdity of the data being gathered, and the harmful effect on children in both the narrower and wider sense.

Those schools that are complying but with the duress statement in their charters (a statement that has a moral basis, making it a moral statement) should not tolerate any extra attention, if there is, it should get in touch with NZPF with the prospect of legal action. And remember, Student Achievement Practitioners (SAPs) have no particular rights to function in schools.

The recourse to legal action and its ready availability to schools is of considerable importance. There are four types of legal situations:

Schools that are not going to comply (possible legal recourse could be such matters as the Treaty of Waitangi, human rights, rights of boards, processes used, rights of a set of schools – Steiner, for instance: all of these are not winnable recourses, except for, perhaps Steiner, but nevertheless, interesting)

Schools that were waiting for genuine discussions with the ministry of education which did not eventuate (we would probably win these ones)

Schools which eventually complied but are being threatened with extra attention without legal intervention being sought (we would probably win these ones)

Schools that are in a complex situation

Schools that step out of line will be threatened with a loss of professional development opportunities – make it clear to boards that most professional development is worse than useless, focusing as it does on national standards not the curriculum. The only worthwhile professional development is in numeracy, and that has been greatly reduced and what little there is, has been allocated to kura kaupapa.

We should all be clear that the attack on teachers is a world-wide phenomenon with its origins in deep-seated economic problems. This means that combating it is not fully amenable to education by simply using education arguments. For one thing, the ideological movement against teachers has its own vocabulary which encompasses metaphors that mean the argument is lost before it has begun. As well, it is not only a battle between teachers and the system, but between parents and the system – parents have been replaced by the public, with parents cut out of a voice nearly as completely as teachers.

What I’m saying is that this a long-term struggle, more a matter of not losing ground rather than defending it.

Finally, I’m recommending that a system’s conference be initiated under the banner of protecting the public education system and involving a wide range groups and individuals. The initial intention would not be publicity but developing a national strategy and a co-ordinating group to organise infrastructure, policy papers, events, and suchlike to influence the public and policy makers.

Have a good break – with the grass drying out from the Waikato fog, I’m outside to do the lawns.

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