Technology cuts to do with amalgamating intermediates to secondary schools

National’s overall staff cuts are about bulk funding (see the previous posting); the particular intermediate staff cuts are about amalgamation. What has happened in Kawerau will occur in other places and at a fairly fast pace. Technology departments will be in secondary schools not intermediates.

There is something of an irony here – of all the teacher groupings, AIMS, while opposed to, say, national standards, has pedalled a somewhat softer line. AIMS has been more willing to schmooze with National and the ministry. The AIMS executive has recently had a busy round with the minister and top bureaucrats, but not a word of this devastating policy change. So there they were earnestly discussing away, when all the time this policy had been developed in secret, then squirrelled away to appear on budget day.

The lesson, it seems, still has to be learnt, that public school education is a scapegoating opportunity for National politicians; that National has no feel for public education. In Hekia’s case, she has her eyes on leading the National Party. Do you think she really cares about the finer points of how education change will affect public school teachers and children? For National politicians, bating Maori used to be the populist game, now it is bating public school education.

I want to make it quite clear, I am a strong supporter of intermediates, and so should principals of all public schools. I call on them to support the campaign that needs quickly to be mounted to save technology in intermediates and, indeed, intermediates themselves.

Intermediates, when they stay liberal, generous, and focused can be particularly beautiful organisations. And technology touches all children, not just a few as at secondary; Maori and Pacific Island children so often flourish in the technology time; ingenuity and inventiveness can be encouraged, and technology provides such welcome variety to the increasingly formal curriculum.

Which brings us to the very necessary campaign to save technology – and intermediates. How up to it is the AIMS executive? Except for Gary Sweeney who I happen to know because I have his media release in front of me, I don’t know who they are, and don’t particularly want to know, because I don’t want this to get personal. As I said, AIMS seems to have been set up mainly for schmooze delivery, not campaign fighting, so I have some doubts about its ability to change mode. But I would be delighted to have these doubts dispelled.

Certainly, they can run a sports tournament – the annual one is a wondrous thing.

Please AIMS, no talk of a delegation to Wellington, the destruction of technology was in the budget, and is a few weeks from being in regulations. Bill English is running the show not Hekia. Nor will there be any admission by National of its long term plans for intermediates. Going to Wellington would be like an alcoholic visiting a pub, in no time at all, you would be back into schmooze control.

I have received a huge number of e-mails expressing outrage, but is the executive getting these in the volume and intensity I’m experiencing? Yesterday, my web site had 1700 hits, the greatest number in a day in the web site’s five-year history.

The pain of those writing on the internet was palpable.

Yet Gary Sweeney’s media release was unbelievably mild. Perhaps, he was in a state of shock.

The media release was headed: ‘Technology under threat from government changes to school staffing’. All very flat.

I have not given up on him, because he did hit some good notes, but all in a Sunday stroll tone.

Gary talked in such a tone of principals having ‘to make some hard decisions’, how the policy change will be ‘interpreted as a narrowing of the curriculum’, and how ‘technology and specialist subjects will be hit hard’.

Oh dear – not exactly a call to arms.

A central campaign committee needs to be formed, co-opting I suggest outside members, and then representatives ready for action throughout New Zealand. A media kit needs to be assembled for these representatives. Organisations likely to be sympathetic should be roped in, for instance, Federated Farmers, trades groups, nutritional groups, groups concerned with science and innovation. Local newspapers will pick up on this issue big time. Technology in intermediates is about being a New Zealander, many adults will have fond and nostalgic memories of their time at technology; technology is also about the New Zealand we want it to be. Intermediates have a terrific case and, unlike national standards, will not be difficult and complicated to get across.

Yes – there should be marches.

But what should be the overall strategy? National won’t back down, so isn’t it hopeless? No – it isn’t.

I’m not talking party political, but National is on the way out – Labour and the Greens need to be lined up, but first there is a need to make the issue a big and popular one.

Greens will quickly be on your side, and remember they are polling at 15% and climbing. Labour is a problem, first it has a spokesperson most people struggle to recall but, more importantly, Shearer is trying to rebrand Labour away from unions and teacher organisations, this means Labour is willing to sacrifice, even if momentarily, our public schools.

Hold Shearer’s nose to the grindstone. Labour has promised to do away with national standards, now get it to bring back technology into intermediates, and declare Labour’s undying love for the institution overall.

Now – get to it. We’re all watching and ready for action.

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