This posting is close to my heart: a journey starting with Stoop

Graham Stoop does his best to soften what adds up to little more than teacher bashing. I call it the smarm with the harm, and we’ve had enough of it from Key to Pants Parata to Longstone to Stoop.

Don’t ever again, Graeme Stoop, say something that smarms with something that harms. It is the harm bit that makes the smarm. If harm does not follow smarm, then smarm is not smarm, but unqualified praise, and teachers deserve loads of that.

This is a posting that takes some surprising directions. I have been looking for awhile for a starting point to make some observations about the state of the curriculum in primary school classrooms. I didn’t want it to be a detailed response, just enough to get the message across. Either what I have to say will strike home with you or it will leave you confused, perhaps resentful, even angry.

Then came the Stoop review office report with its typically sneaky way of undermining teachers, and John Minto’s excellent media release in response. In a somewhat convoluted way I sensed my chance.

This is the structure of the posting: John Minto’s media release; Stoop’s review office report; my reaction to Stoop’s report is to detail how the faults he accuses teachers of are the very ones that have been imposed on schools as a result of the review office’s 20 years of school domination.

Then in what may seem a surprising departure, I provide a touch of my personal professional experiences since leaving the education system to battle for child-centred education and a rich curriculum, to provide detail of how the review office has almost wiped out the holistic, indigenous New Zealand education culture, imposing a fractured, fragmented curriculum in its place based on the 3Rs. In contrast, I provide a glimpse of how that holistic culture still has a foothold, the beauty and power of teacher-developed knowledge, and the way teacher-developed knowledge has been ruthlessly suppressed or strategically ignored by politicians, bureaucrats, and most academics.

Finally, I briefly outline my view of the state of the curriculum in primary school classrooms. It is not a pretty picture. But I stress at all times that it is not the fault of teachers and schools, it is a system’s matter. While some teachers and schools have done their best to resist the system’s insistent pressure, mainly exerted through the review office, teachers and schools have been significantly undermined. And I point out that a system’s fault can only be remedied by a system’s change, which is nowhere in prospect, including on the books of the teacher organisations.

Let’s read John’s media release for QPEC (Quality Public Education Coalition): Media Release:

ERO – a biased political weapon for the government

Another month and another biased ERO report attacking schools, principals and teachers.

ERO claimed yesterday’s report was a ‘wake-up’ call for teachers, principals and Boards of Trustees and highlighted what it said was schools’ “three most important shortcomings” –  schools need to focus on the needs of individual students, provide a rich curriculum and use assessment results to plan their teaching.

This report is meaningless because it is so negative and biased. It lacks the balance and independence that is essential to its national evaluation function. In this report, ERO has simply trawled through four years of reports to pick out and highlight the most negative aspects of teaching and learning they could find and then launch a broadside against public schools.

New Zealand has an excellent public education system which overall stands close to the top of OECD rankings but listening to the ERO one would think our children attended banana republic schools.

The report is also completely useless as a practical guide for schools to improve teaching and learning. This is incompatible with ERO’s claim to want to ‘assess and assist schools’. So what is its purpose?

It seems clear the report is part of government plans to ‘soften up’ parents to see public schools in a negative light and so support the government’s destructive drive for performance pay for teachers, national standards, league tables and charter schools.

By acting in this biased way, the ERO has become the mouthpiece for the government, picking on public education with such broad political attacks that make it impossible for schools to respond effectively.

Dealing with an ERO report like this is like trying to wrestle with a marshmallow.

We saw this in the 1990s when schools in low-income communities were ERO’s soft targets – now it’s the entire public education system.

If ERO continues to produce such biased reports lacking in objectivity then parents will rightly lose confidence in using their findings.

The ERO must become a genuine evaluation agency of the education system rather than the willing political weapon it has allowed itself to become.

John Minto

National Chairperson

QPEC

022 085 0161

09 846 3173

johnminto@orcon.net.nz

 

Brilliant!

The sentence that interests me most is the following:

‘The report is also completely useless as a practical guide for schools to improve teaching and learning.’

John has struck on the very essence of how the review office functions.

 The following is the review office media report:

Date: 29/08/2012

A new report released today by the Education Review Office (ERO) highlights what it believes are the three �’ pressing’ issues for New Zealand’s education system.

ERO says that it is important for schools to understand these three issues if New Zealand is to raise the achievement of all learners.

The findings in the report, Evaluation at a Glance: Priority Learners in New Zealand Schools, are a synthesis of 15 national evaluation reports produced by ERO over the past four years about primary and secondary schools.

Dr Graham Stoop, Chief Executive and Chief Review Officer for the Education Review Office, says that together these reports provide compelling evidence and it’s time for schools to take note and start making the changes needed.

‘Some of the same issues from four years ago are still coming through today,’ he says.

‘The Government has a set a target of 85 percent of 18 year olds achieving NCEA Level Two or equivalent by 2017. Schools need to urgently start addressing the issues identified in our latest report if this target has any chance of being met.’

‘By raising these issues we want to encourage the start of a bold transformation that we would like to see happen in the education sector, especially for the groups of priority learners.’

The three issues all relate to how well schools are focusing on providing an education that addresses the needs of students.

Issue One: The need to shift the focus to student-centred learning.

Issue Two: The need to knowledgeably implement a responsive and rich curriculum.

Issue Three: The need to use assessment information to know about, and plan for, students’ learning.

In its report ERO says: ‘New Zealand prides itself on its child-centred approach to learning, yet ERO’s national evaluations would suggest that practice is not matching the rhetoric. ERO has found that some schools are not positioning students at the centre of learning and teaching. Students have simply been forgotten amongst the daily business of ‘delivering’ education, including meeting the requirements of NCEA.’

It also says: ‘In many ways New Zealand can be proud of having an education system that positions us amongst the better performing nations in the international educational rankings. However, we know that the significant gap which exists between our top performing students and our lowest performing students (the priority learners) must be urgently addressed.’

Dr Stoop says ‘it is ERO’s great privilege to be in classrooms every day and to see good teaching practice in action. There are wonderful examples happening right across New Zealand and we are pleased to be able to include these in our reports.’

This new report includes examples of good practice to guide schools for improving their practice.

Read the report

Now let’s get this right Graeme Stoop, watch my pen?

New Zealand is the most successful country in the world at helping children from poverty-affected homes; it is these children, as you well know, who form the bulk of low-performing children, whom you yuckily label ‘priority learners’.

 You must stop saying New Zealand teachers are failing to help such children.

Your reports are not the truth.  By nature of your position the truth is beyond you. A person in a powerful position unable to tell the truth, is a person very damaging to the children of New Zealand.

Later on in this posting, I will be making some trenchant criticisms of teaching and learning in New Zealand primary school classrooms, nearly all of these as a result of twenty years of fear-based domination of classrooms by the education review office and, latterly, the effects of national standards.

You make three criticisms of schools:

Not focusing on student-centred learning

This is utterly erroneous; New Zealand primary school teachers are deeply focused on student-centred learning, the problem is the learning they are focused on is often centred on the wrong kind of learning: the kind of learning the review office has pressured schools to adopt.

Anyway, your interpretation of student-centred learning is really a label for just the opposite: adult-centred learning.

For you, you child-centred learning is centring learning on children decided by the bureaucracy and the government; for me child-centred learning is centring learning on the child as guided by the needs of the child.

You were reported as saying that education is important because children are our future.

It’s not all about you Graeme.

You might better have said that education is about the child’s future, but even better about the child’s present. Some awful things are done in the interests of children’s futures, much better for the child’s future, to do good things for the child’s present.

Not implementing a responsive and rich curriculum

Your office has devastated the wider curriculum and the richer curriculum, and made no apologies about it.

There is something of the ‘let a hundred flowers’ trap about this one. In 1956, Mao Zedong, declared, ‘Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend’ and hundreds of thousands took Mao at his word, and were promptly rounded up and shot.

Schools are warned that the review office is playing games here, the rich curriculum reference is more a ploy worked out with Parata to give her something pretty to say to principals to as she trolls the country talking to principals.

Also, by Stoop saying he went back into past reports, he was fitting in with Hekia’s Nelson story about education plateauing.

Let me tell you of an incident that occurred recently at a Tauranga school, one that sums up two decades of review office domination of classrooms: the principal sat down with the review officers on their arrival and said how proud the school was of its inquiry learning. The chief review officer leaned forward, confidingly, helpfully, and said: ‘Look, we are not interested in your inquiry learning, our visit is about the testing.’

The need to use assessment information to know about, and plan for, students’ learning

 This is a calumny. It’s the calumny the review office uses to dominate classrooms. It’s the calumny that silently desiccates the wider curriculum. It puts teachers in an impossible situation.

Let me tell you about a treacherous behaviour Graeme Stoop undertook four years ago that bears on this: that bears on the lie that teachers don’t have assessment information and know how to use it to inform children’s learning.

This treacherous behaviour explains the lengths you and your office (I’m speaking to you Graeme – hold on, is this me losing it and doing a Clint Eastwood?) will go to establish your psychological and regulatory dominance over classrooms, and makes clear the immorality of the office’s underlying philosophy

In the Explanatory note to the national standards legislation there is only one number of focus and that number was that 57% of schools were ineffective in gathering and using assessment information.

Where did number come from immediately Graeme?

Yes, a footnote to a National Party 2008 election pamphlet.

And where did that number come from Graeme?

Yes, the 2007 review office report.

And was that number to do with literacy and numeracy Graeme?

No.

So why was it there as part of the legislation of the New Zealandparliament?

What were the numbers in the 2007 report to do with literacy and numeracy?

93% for English and 91% for mathematics.

Why weren’t those numbers in the Explanatory note Graeme?

Why was the number 57% put in Graeme?

Why aren’t you answering Graeme?

You had a statutory responsibility for the numbers in the legislation, Graeme. But the number was put in and stayed in.

You, you disappointing individual, betrayed your profession, and the children and teachers of New Zealand; a betrayal that characterises review office functioning.

This 57% as against 93% and 91% expresses in numbers the government rationale for national standards, but also the review office’s grip of the education system over two decades.

There is something else, somewhat more subtle, but just as damaging to schools embedded in your ‘assessment information’ criticism.

Embedded in there is advocacy of a style impossible of attainment. How the review office loves that kind of advocacy. In review office advocacy for what teachers must do, nothing is impossible, and the more exquisitely impossible the better.

Stoop’s Issue Three appears reasonable: teaching should be informed by assessment information, and it holds true to a certain extent for reading and numeracy but when expressed by review officers in schools, it comes out as John Hattie’s individual feedback which he ranked 1, and providing formative evaluation which he ranked at 3.

The moment I read Hattie’s two highly placed ideas I said that in no classroom in the world would this occur, that it is academic fantasy, an example of charlatan research. And I was right. On investigation, I found Hattie’s big education idea of feedback was based on three sets of results using music as an education reinforcement for children with severe learning difficulties; and his third ranking idea was drawn from two sets of results, both to do with special education children.

I don’t want to get too detailed here, but in primary school teaching, resolving children’s learning difficulties is largely and better resolved holistically in the course of children being involved in class activities. Formal and informal evaluations might well inform individual attention in the course of an activity, or points made in the teaching of those activities, but most gain comes through the teaching power of the holistic process.

Graeme, you and most of your review officers wouldn’t recognise genuine ‘student-centred learning’ if it jumped up and hit you on the nose.

What a cheek telling New Zealand public school teachers they ‘need to shift the focus to student-centred learning.’

It is utterly unbelievable you could be saying that.

There are, indeed, some severe weaknesses in present-day classroom practice but nearly all of them are as a result of the functioning of your organisation.

(In the effect on children’s learning I have described national standards as being the same as the education review office but on speed.)

Yours is an organisation which has done great harm to education in New Zealand and especially child-centred learning and a rich curriculum.

I’ve seen it happen, year by year, and it has given me considerable anguish.

You should remember that I left the formal education system as a senior inspector of schools after years of promoting developmental education and cognitively and affectively challenging ‘feeling for’ approach and producing publications about them.

I left the formal education system for one purpose: to protect child-centred learning and the ability of teachers to promote a rich, wider curriculum.

For you to come out and be referring to such beautiful things in education is repulsive to me.

Child-centred learning and genuine humanistic learning in the wider curriculum is a delicate flower, requiring sensitivity, wisdom, and experience to nurture.

What is this?

What is this Graeme Stoop?

Is the New Zealand education system the education equivalent of a Soviet-style New Economic Plan? Is this a ‘great leap forward’? All fantasy and impossibility to be cruelly pursued to the glory of the planners and the misery of the people.

You can’t turn up one day, out of the blue, and say, the review office now values child-centred learning and the wider curriculum, now get to it, and if you don’t we’ll soon be talking down our noses to you about it.

The curriculum in an education system is not a tap that you can just turn on and turn off. I know you think like that because it suits your bureaucratic purpose.

You have obviously discussed that matter with Parata because she came out with a strangulated version of it in the now famous Nelson speech.

Was it her idea or yours?

Clearly the message has got through that national standards and your organisation’s curriculum impositions on schools were devastating the wider curriculum so you did a hospital pass to schools.

Thank-you Graeme.

Then you go on to say without a blush that New Zealand public school teachers need to knowledgeably implement a responsive and rich curriculum.

What kind of clown are you?

Now, I want to return to 1990, because my personal education history bears on the matter in hand.

When I left the system, I founded Developmental Network Magazinewhich was subscribed to by nearly every primary school in New Zealand; I took courses around New Zealand on developmental, and the ‘feeling for’ approach. I also produced a stream of picture-based social studies resources. I went from Kaitaia to the Bluff and up and down, again and again.

Also in that time I was associated with Learning in Science Project as a research fellow. I also wrote substantial parts of the international science publication Science Alive which is hanging in its rather splendid blue packaging in virtually every primary school store room in New Zealand.

I’ll leave it there, except to say that if you want to know what the magazine was like, well, just like the web site, but with paper.

And then there were the people I met, hundreds of them: I often say ‘found’ but they would all have found themselves without me; in fact we found ourselves and in the interaction influenced each other.

A few names. There was John Faire who I came across teaching in a developmental manner, mathematics, work stations, driving teaching style. Now a principal of genius. Like all the people who are child-centred, deeply frustrated with the review office system and philosophy; resenting wasting so much time trying to protect what little we have left when he should be out and about inspiring others for a lot more.

There was Chris Graham who I came across in a small country school near Te Puke working away at developing his child-centred style. He became a wonderful arts adviser, with that allusive style necessary to making art an adventure. He was dumped, when arts advisers were dumped and is now doing relieving work.

Have you discussed the effects of the dismissal of the advisers on the wider curriculum Graham? Of course not, bureaucrat first, truth any old place or, even better no place at all.

And then there were the host of stjcs. They were wonderful and in this respect there is a glimmer of good news. The years 1 and 2 of our schools are still, as far as child centredness is concerned, still in fairly good shape. I wrote a homage to stjcs in the ‘The Battle for primary school reading’. I have relocated Part 1 of this to precede this posting.

A good number of junior children, of course, are being knocked about but the junior area teachers are being wonderfully protective.

Stjcs wisely and diplomatically (as a rule) keep principals and review officers at a distance as they weave their magic, fighting hard to give their children time to develop as children.

There is even something good to say about the review office in this respect. For the first ten or so years, through the ’90s, there were, as it happened, some very strong former junior teachers in the review office who protected the junior area from the worst aspects of the review office philosophy and associated practices. I knew you were there, I was very conscious of what you were doing, and say thank you, thank you, thank you.

At the same time stjcs, and others teaching committed to the developmental philosophy, including Marie Clay, were locked in a tremendous battle with Professors Tom Nicholson and Bill Tunmer who were intent on pushing phonics and creating a kind of reading panic.  They used their professorial position and the media to make life most difficult junior area teachers. Complete victory came just recently with some definitive research showing New Zealand children and the whole reading style clearly superior, especially in the long term, to the reading performances of a group of Scottish children taught under a phonic’s regime. I have relocated the posting, ‘Pursuing Nicholson’ to precede this posting.

To become a child-centred teacher does not need books, does not need academia, it just needs a moment of revelation, and from then on experience guided by that revelation.

The New Zealand holistic, indigenous education culture, the child centredness is still alive; still in the hearts of most New Zealand primary teachers. Leaving aside the barbaric education nature of the present government and their bureaucratic associates, the greatest difficulty child-centred teachers face is the ruthless dismissal of their knowledge or ignorant dismissal of their knowledge by academics who want to rule the roost with their evidence-based crow and cackle, many of them having no idea about New Zealand child-centred teacher knowledge and how it is developed, not wanting to have any idea about it, self-servingly dismissing it as myth and ritual. Politicians well beyond National show no respect for it, Trevor Mallard, for instance. Worse, when I write about teacher-developed knowledge, I know there are a large number of principals out there wondering what the hell I’m talking about.

For the teacher knowledge to come through strongly, teachers need, of course, a reasonably free, enlightened, and sympathetic atmosphere. However, teacher-developed knowledge is still there, still holding on, still being believed in and developed; a kind of underground of enlightenment, whispered in confidence, encouraged with smiles, love, respect, reassurance, and quietly shared experience. Teacher-developed knowledge is out there, answering fundamental questions about teaching, informing teaching practice, and bringing brilliant and wonderfully satisfying results.

I was in the classroom observing the student teacher of the year 6 class. Both the student teacher and the associate teacher were beautifully as one, and what I was observing was admirable but predictable. I looked forward to the post-lesson discussion (as I always do).

The discussion went well and, as it developed, I did what I always do, asked the student teacher the main aim of the curriculum areas she took. On this occasion, reading and written expression. Very rarely can student teachers (or teachers) answer anywhere satisfactorily these main aim questions, and never for written expression. Teachers, because of WALTs, an idea imposed by the review office, rarely look above the horizon, and these WALTs are out of control, not organised by a main aim. I said I observed the written experience, which went better than most, and I saw the writing, but where was the experience?

I could see the student teacher was getting it.

The discussion that followed was powerful, by now I was just listening.

I ended by giving the student teacher two starters, not necessarily for the second visit, that would have been crass, but for her consideration at leisure.

Even transactional writing, I said, needed the affective, needed heart.

And for writing I said, at a pragmatic level, what is reading about?

Getting children to read books, she said.

Stronger than that?

Getting children to love reading books.

Well, why are you fiddling around with school journals?

When I returned to the classroom a week or so later, I saw a reading lesson that was a celebration and exploration of books; books the children were reading, that had been carefully chosen by the children in association with other children, or the student or teacher.

And I saw a transactional writing lesson on a matter that had the children deeply involved: ‘What are your views on cross-grouping for mathematics?’

This was no writing on one of those ghastly templates or a tailed-off routine of a few grudging sentences, this was deep affective involvement, with the results to be given to the as-yet unsuspecting principal. (The children, on the whole, while they respected the reasons for the cross-grouping, didn’t like it.)

In the wonderfully productive post-lesson discussion that followed, I suggested the student might like to read a posting of mine, ‘Albert and the discovery thieves’.

A few months later I received the following e-mail:

Hello Kelvin

I hope all is well?

I’m not sure if you will remember me but I was one of the … students that you evaluated at … this year in June.

I have been meaning to e-mail you for some time now to thank you for pointing out ‘Albert and the Discovery Thieves’ for me to have a look at.

Reading made me think again about everything I had learned about teaching. The insight and thinking behind it makes so much sense, in fact it seems incredibly obvious now that I have read it! I now question the reasoning behind schools pushing the WALTs approach and wonder why it has become such a fad throughout the schooling system.

There have been times where I have observed teachers and found that the WALTs on the board are only surface deep, and due to this the learning is the same. Once the students feel they have achieved the WALT, many will see their task as complete and not take the risk to delve deeper into the understanding of their own learning and take the topic further.

Perhaps this is due to lack of motivation or guidance? And in many cases time constraints? Either way the opportunity still needs to be there so the students can explore, expand on and discover the topics within topics rather than be limited and influenced by a set of narrow, largely discrete objectives.

Yours sincerely

 

Part of what I wrote back was:

At your tender age you have broken through to inspired teaching.

Other people could read ‘Albert’ and agree, but it wouldn’t resonate with them as it has with you.

I know the implications seem straightforward to you, but some people never get it.

(‘Albert and the discovery thieves’ has been relocated to precede this posting. Also to provide some pathos, ‘Reuben and WALTs’.)

The main point I want to make here, is that this teacher is on her child-centred journey and, in one sense, with the breakthrough made, needs nothing more, it is simply a matter of adding to it from experience. And this is the teacher knowledge I’ve been talking about, this is how our culture of holistic, indigenous child-centred knowledge begins and develops.

But when are we going to provide a teaching environment to allow this kind of knowledge to flourish?

Now, as briefly as I can, a narrative of my experiences through the ’90s and into the new millennium at the way the review office has choked and reduced the primary school curriculum.

For the first few years into the ’90s, while the review office was finding its feet, things were remarkably free, though that underlying fear of the way it worked was always there. Kafka explains that the worst fear is feeling guilty but not knowing of what.

Because the review office developed the psychologically manipulative practice of  communicating changes of direction without consultation in language that could mean anything and nothing, teachers were soon constrained into playing it safe; intent on trying to work out what it seemed the review office deemed acceptable.

And then began the drive on coverage which had a great effect on teachers feeling free to really set learning up.

Then, of course, came the demand for everything to be set up to be measurable, or if not measurable, to be immediately observable.

As if the sum total of what was measurable or immediately observable constituted a curriculum area in total.

The invidious WALTs fixed this in place in just about every classroom in New Zealand.

As for social studies and science which as curriculum areas require a delicate and rather beautiful balancing between the cognitive, the affective, and skills – they lost their shape, and projects were back, a little later electronic projects (euphemistically labelled inquiry learning).

The arts fought bravely on, either feast or famine in schools, but rarely involving time for exploration.

In all curriculum areas, time pressures led to teaching units being downloaded, and unmediated units being put into operation to stunningly mediocre effect.

Reading went from books to boring, exhaustive examination of school journals. Boys moved from reading big time.

The heart and the affective went out of teaching, especially in the knowledge-based curriculum areas, as did the focused cognitive challenge.

I won’t go into it here, but writing shifted hugely to the transactional and templates. And oh so boring! Written expression became nearly as desiccated as the transactional. Writing in schools is simply awful.

Numeracy was introduced to great excitement, and under Vince Wright’s leadership stood out as the one curriculum area which allowed the possibility of good curriculum shape.

When Vince Wright left, I came to the same conclusion he did: national standards and the general teaching environment were bound to sink numeracy. Well, they didn’t as quickly as I anticipated, that original excitement giving it impressive longevity. But it is on the slide now, the cross-grouping cutting maths off from the rest of the programme; the teaching becoming more routine; a sense of teachers not on top of things – not being able to go backward and forward in references to provide cohesion; strategies being used in heavy-handed way; and, most telling of all, a severe drop in lively discussion – time pressures, you see.

Significantly, the best numeracy teaching I see now, is in the stingily funded ministry remedial programme ALiM (Accelerating Learning in Mathematics) in which discussion is at the heart of the programme. Numeracy is still there to be saved. It won’t be, of course, because ‘education has to make savings that other government departments have to make.’ No problem for a road; seriously detrimental to a child.

I am not going deeply into the areas of science and social studies, probably because it means so much to me, except to say that the interplay between the cognitive, the affective, and skills – involving whetting children’s interest, helping them to gain knowledge to strong effective end, and challenging children to use their new understandings in new and flexible ways, is an utterly fascinating part of child-centred teaching. To cover this, ‘Curriculum manifesto: This I know – here I stand’ has been brought forward to precede this posting.

Systematising all these narrowing curriculum pressures into place was carried out by the standardised management structures insisted upon by the review office, and taken up by Auckland University principal courses, and STA. This one management structure suits all can be compared with the posting on: ‘Curriculum-driven leadership’ which has been brought forward to precede this posting.

Then the matter of computers. The model I like is the seven or eight computers in a room. I prefer it to the fully wired classroom.

My overall view about computers is that leaving aside their need to be there because they are everywhere else, computers have, in the way they are being used in schools, contributed little and detracted much.

When I look at the value of what children doing using computers, I simply ignore the computer means and look at the learning nature; at best the learning is unremarkable, at worst vacuous.

Computers in the curriculum need to be infused with good curriculum principles so that topics retain their shape. But how is this to be done, when curriculum shape is little known by teachers, and genuine curriculum advisers are entirely absent.

Yet – computers have to be there, I know that.

What to do?

As far as computers being put to good learning use, nothing will happen while the review office is structured in the way it is, and carries out its functions in the way it does. The curriculum withers at the touch of the review office, and it needs to be thriving for computer use to be brought to hand.

It just won’t happen.

At the moment there is a parliamentary select committee enquiring into something called ‘Inquiry into 21st century learning environments and digital literacy’.

Only computer enthusiasts it seems are having a say, so its findings will be askew; what is being said simply reflects, and explains, the dire state of computer use in schools.

But what intrigues me is that even at the material level, I don’t see how anything can happen in the digital area.

To fully computerise all schools would be a huge cost.

To put eight computers into every classroom, with technical backup available, and funding for apps, as well as regular funding replenishment would be a significant cost.

It isn’t going to happen under this government and very slowly, I suggest, under any government.

Yet – other countries will, I suspect, find the money to do so.

It is my view that one of the aims of the present government is to undermine the public schools system to have more private schools, and in that way pass a lot of funding demands over to parents, which will be terribly damaging to Maori and Pasifika children. And finding ways to avoid paying for computers in schools lies at the heart of much of the present government’s behaviour.

The convention in writing the conclusion is to do a speedy survey of what has gone before then adding an ending that has a ring to it. I suppose I could refer to how well John Minto did in his media release, and how badly Graeme Stoop has done in just about everything. And then I could to move to what is at the centre of my education life: our holistic, indigenous education culture. There would be references to that young teacher when the scales fell, very moving for me; and to all the things I said about the state of the curriculum in primary school classrooms, and so on. But I want to do something different and use a literary allusion, as a way of leading to my major plea, the nature of which will be no surprise to you at all.

I asked someone who went to a Gail Loane course how it went. She said it was wonderful. Then I asked her how it went back in class? She looked at me mournfully and resignedly and said: ‘There just isn’t the time.’ Time under the review office years has been a major issue, especially time to put the affective into learning. It is ‘time’, however, of a particular sort, as a concept it is mixed up with what is valued, being unsure, ill-defined demands,  impossible demands, and most of all who is in control.

When I see teachers in school I’m reminded of the White Rabbit: ‘I’m late! I’m late! For a very important date! No time to say hello, goodbye! I’m late! I’m late! I’m late!’ It is not concern about being late for one occasion that is being communicated, but the sense that the White Rabbit is perennially late for something never fully properly defined; a permanent condition.

For the curriculum and system to be restored to health, the review office needs to be fully independent from the ministry, and to have its functions in schools radically restructured.

If this does not happen, nothing good will happen in the education system.

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