Like many parents all around New Zealand I served on the Board of Trustees of the primary school that my children attended. It wasn’t always an easy job but I learnt a lot about the way schools were run and I valued the opportunity to be involved at this level in the education of my kids.
Recently the Government announced that it is going to carry out a complete review of the entire education system from early childhood education right through to tertiary education.
As with a lot of this Government’s reviews, so far there is very little information about what exactly the scope of this review will be but there has been speculation that the current system of school administration and Boards of Trustees may be axed. I think this would be a shame and I know many parents would agree with me.
While there is always room for improvement and it is sensible to evaluate how things are working periodically, we shouldn’t make change for change’s sake. The Government must recognise that many areas of education are working very well. For example, Maori and Pasifika achievement has increased significantly in the last decade so we must continue that momentum.
Unfortunately charter schools - one of the mechanisms that showed the most promise for those who were not succeeding in the conventional education system – have already been effectively abolished by this Government purely on the basis of ideology.
Similarly National Standards have been kicked to the curb, despite having been broadly supported by parents who appreciated having a plain English indicator of how their children’s learning was tracking, and despite having nothing concrete to replace them with.
There are also early indications that the new Government wants to make modern learning environments mandatory rather than a choice for schools despite many parents having concerns about how these are working in practice.
It is unfair and disruptive to students, parents and teachers that every time there is a new Government, there are major changes to the education system. For this reason the National Party has indicated that it would like the opportunity to to work with the Government on these reforms to ensure there is better political consensus and the system doesn’t get tipped on its head every time the government changes.
We have already said we would be keen to work with the Government on areas where we can get cross-party agreement, such as the 30-year plan. However it is important that this is a robust and proper process of collaborative decision-making as we are not interested in just being asked to tick the box once the review is done and dusted.
As with many of the Government’s intentions, the devil will be in the detail. However, I hope that the Government will provide us with more information about its review sooner rather than later to avoid leaving parents, teachers and students uncertain about what the future holds for their communities’ schools.