Posts Tagged ‘schools’

Charter Schools – Another lie from John Banks!

2 August 2012 43 comments



Somewhere in New Zealand is a building. It’s not signposted and it most likely looks like any other building in any other town or city.

The only difference is what this building contains.

This building contains all the stupid ideas that humanity has ever come up with in the last 100,000 years or so. It’s quite a big building, because there are so  many stupid ideas that have been collected; filed; and lovingly stored. There is practically  a stupid idea for every occassion.

This is the building where National and ACT Ministers go to get their next big, “bright”, idea.

This is where John Banks, along with Hekia Parata,  went in search of  the lunatic concept that is known as “Charter Schools”. It was stored in a little shoe-box, labelled,

“Dumb and Dumber – how to Dumb Down Your Child Using Taxpayer’s Money

Stupid Idea #2,717,990: Charter Schools”

The idea goes something like this;

  • Organisations  and/or private companies will set up schools – Charter Schools
  • Charter Schools would be managed by said Organisation/Church/Company, but funded by the taxpayer
  • Charter schools could be run for profit, or non-profit
  • Charter schools need not employ qualified, trained teaching staff
  • Charter School managers would negotiate salary levels and employment conditions directly with employees – so a “teacher” could be hired on minimum wage – $13.50 an hour
  • Charter schools would set their own hours, term dates, etc.
  • Charter schools can set their own curriculum
  • Charter schools could be run by religious groups such as the  Destiny Church cult

Education Minister Hekia Parata and Associate Education Minister, John Banks, today announced the framework for the New Zealand Model of Charter School  – or, as they have euphemistically branded them, the Orwellian-sounding  “Partnership Schools”, or pandering to culturally-sensitive niceties,  “Kura Hourua” .

In effect, ACT and National will be using tax-payer’s  money to fund private schools. Not since farming subsidies has National  come up with such an odd way to throw our taxes at private companies and organisations.

Private schools and educational institutions have always been a part of New Zealand’s social structure. They were usually religious-based, such as Catholic high schools; Jewish schools; or private training  institutions.

Many have now become “State integrated” schools,

There are three types of school: state, private (or registered or independent) and state integrated schools. State and state integrated schools are government funded. Private schools receive about 25% of their funding from the government, and rely on tuition fees for the rest.

State integrated schools are former private schools which are now “integrated” into the state system under the Private Schools Conditional Integration Act 1975  “on a basis which will preserve and safeguard the special character of the education provided by them”.

According to Ministry of Education statistics, of the 286,886 secondary students (Years 9–15) enrolled in New Zealand schools at 1 July 2011, 81.9 percent (235,048) attend state schools, 12.4 percent (35,631) attend state integrated schools, and 5.6 percent (16104) attend private schools.

See: Wikipedia Secondary education in New Zealand

The odd thing about Charter Schools is that they are an American construct, originating in 1988, and with the first Charter School law enacted in 1991 in the US.

See: Wikipedia Charter Schools

It could be  justified that Charter Schools is an  American attempt to employ  free-market principles to produce better education outcomes,

Caps on the number of charters in a state drag down performance as much as lax oversight, because they cramp the diversification of the market and discourage investment…


Since 1993 15% of charter schools have shut their gates, most because of low enrolment, a sign that the market is working.”

See: The Economist – Charting a better course

It’s hardly surprising that our American cuzzies would turn to their precious capitalist Market Place for solutions to their poor education system.

In a recent OECD PISA report, member states were ranked according to education outcomes for reading, mathematics, and science. The results were… educational.

See: OECD PISA report Education at a Glance, 2011

The graphic below is an abbreviated version of data gleaned from the report,



It’s interesting to note that in reading achievement, Finland, New Zealand, and the US ranked;

# 3 Finland

# 9 New Zealand

#18 United States

In mathematics,

# 2 Finland

# 9 New Zealand

# 26 United States (below OECD average)

In science,

# 2 Finland

#10 New Zealand

# 23 United States

Any reasonable, rational adult could conclude that Finland must be doing something better with it’s  education system than either New Zealand or United States.  However, since  right wing political parties like National and their low-information supporters don’t always engage in issues on a reasonable, rational level, it’s usually left up to the public to persuade National to review policies that are incoherent and based more on dubious  ideology, rather than proven methods.

One simple fact; Finland does education better than us, and way better than our American cuzzies.

When it comes to charter schools, it’s mostly an American ‘game’. Few other countries follow it.  Finland certainly doesn’t,

“… What can we learn from Finland and South Korea?

Finland probably has the most successful school system in Europe. Tests of 15-year-old students from 34 nations find the Finns leading in reading, mathematical literacy and scientific literacy. Finnish schools have been in a reform mode for the past 40 years.

Yet, Ms. Ravitch says, “Finland rejects all of the ‘reforms’ currently popular in the United States, such as testing, charter schools, vouchers, merit pay, competition, and evaluating teachers in relation to the test scores of their students.”

The Finnish system is built on rigorously prepared teachers. Teacher training in Finland is an elite profession, open to only the most qualified and offered at only eight universities, which have formidable entrance requirements. Teachers are high achievers, well paid and highly respected.

Ms. Ravitch, who was in Finland last year, found bright and cheerful schools where students engaged in music, dramatics, play, and academic studies with 15-minute recesses between classes. She found that: “Free from the testing obsession that consumes so much of the day in American schools, the staff has time to plan and discuss the students and the program”. “

See: Lessons from Finland, Korea

How do our Finnish cuzzies do it, you may ask. Perhaps a clue can be found here, by Paul Frysh, from CNN,

The most important lesson the United States can take from Finland is the “preparation and development of high-quality teachers,” Paine said.

This starts with honoring the profession, he said.

“In Finland, it is a tremendous honor to be a teacher, and teachers are afforded a status comparable to what doctors, lawyers and other highly regarded professionals enjoy in the U.S.,” he said.

In addition, like other professions, teachers gain seniority and tenure primarily on the basis of training and experience, and teacher unions have a strong voice in shaping education policy — all very controversial in the United States.

The profession is held in such high regard that competition to get teacher training is fierce. Nationally, only about 10% of some 7,000 applicants to primary school programs are accepted annually to Finnish teacher training programs, according to statistics from the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture.

And it’s not about the money.

“In Finland, they do attract the very best and brightest into the profession, and it has nothing to do with money. It has everything to do with the respect that is given to the profession,” Paine said.

In fact, teachers in Finland are paid about the same as teachers in the U.S.

One young Finnish teacher, asked why he went into the profession, told Paine: “Because it is the most honorable of all professions. It is a patriotic, national calling to be a teacher.”

But what he learned in Finland, Paine said, is that the respect must be more than just lip service.

Administrators in Finland really listen to teachers, then back up their words by giving teachers autonomy and resources, said Paine.

“If you want enduring, lasting student learning, there’s no easy way around that but to invest your time and your resources, including money, as close to the classroom as you can possibly get and that’s with the teacher.”

Part of this investment is in initial teacher education.

In the U.S., most teachers accumulate debt paying for their education, teacher-mentoring is rare and training ranges wildly from a few weeks of training in alternative teacher training programs such as Teach for America to world-class four-year and graduate college programs.

In Finland, by contrast, teachers train for free, receive a stipend and begin hands-on teaching with a mentor almost immediately. All school teachers must hold a master’s degree in addition to four or five years of undergraduate training to be permanently employed, and teachers without a master’s are given time and resources to get it.

And it turns out that well-respected, well-educated teachers stick around longer.  “

See: West Virginia learns Finland’s ‘most honorable profession’: Teacher

So Finland did not achieve it’s high education outcomes through short-cuts and fads such as “charter schools” and  performance pay. Their strategy was a greater investment in the teaching profession itself. It wasn’t about the school structure – it was about the teachers – the men at women who actually front up, at the chalk-face, of our class-rooms.

By comparison, Charter schools have had a poor education outcome in the US, according to a 2009 report by Stanford University’s Centre for Research for Education Outcomes (CREDO),

The group portrait shows wide variation in performance. The study reveals that a decent fraction of charter schools, 17 percent, provide superior education opportunities for their students.

Nearly half of the charter schools nationwide have results that are no different from the local public school options and over a third, 37 percent, deliver learning results that are significantly worse than their student would have realized had they remained in traditional public schools.


A study done by Stanford University found that charter schools on average perform about the same or worse compared to public schools.

Source: Wikipedia Charter Schools

These findings underlie the parallel findings of significant state‐by‐state differences in charter school performance and in the national aggregate performance of charter schools. The policy challenge is how to deal constructively with varying levels of performance today and into the future…


… Our national pooled analysis reveals, on the whole, a slightly negative picture of average charter school performance nationwide.

On average, charter school students can expect to see their academic growth be somewhat lower than their traditional public school peers, though the absolute differences are small. “

See: Stanford University: Charter School Performance in 16 States (USA)

So the question we now pose is; Why do it? Why borrow from a country that has worse education outcomes than us – instead of looking toward an education system from a country near the top of the OECD?!?!

Hekia Parata stated,

We want all our students leaving school with the skills they need to reach their potential in the modern economyPartnerships schools or Kura Hourua will be based on international best practice and will ensure high levels of accountability and flexibility, while being tailored to New Zealand’s education environment.  “

See: Ministers announce framework for Partnership Schools

In which case, who in their right mind emulates a nation’s education system that has a worse ranking on the OECD scale than we do?  Because if that’s the standard that John Key, Hekia Parata, and John “I-can’t-recall” Banks is searching for, then perhaps we should emulate Indonesia.

They’re at the bottom of the scale.

If anyone knows the answer to this question, you may have unlocked the enigmatic, convoluted inner-workings of a right wing politicians brain.

As for John Banks – he was interviewed on today’s (2 August) Radio NZ “Checkpoint” programme, where he stated,

“… because I know, Suzie [RNZ interviewer] , that for the kids that are not engaged in the education system today, abandoning them to the dole is not good enough. This does work in Britain, does work in America, does work in Finland, does work in Switzerland, and this special partnbership schools are going to work here.

Radio NZ Checkpoint: Associate Education Minister on charter schools

Unfortunately for Banks, his comments are not supported by evidence,

  1. Charter schools “does not work” in the United States. The CREDO report states quite clearly that only 17% showed any appreciable improvement in outcomes. The remainder showed either no difference (46%) or a worse outcome (37%).
  2. Finland does not use the Charter schools system; Finland rejects all of the ‘reforms’ currently popular in the United States, such as testing, charter schools, vouchers, merit pay, competition, and evaluating teachers in relation to the test scores of their students.”
  3. This blogger can find no evidence that Charter schools exist in Switzerland. Indeed, quite the oppposite; “In Switzerland, most children go to public schools. Private schools usually are expensive and people tend to think that students of private schools probably didn’t make it at the public school. Public schools include “Kindergarten”, “Volksschule” (elementary school), “Gymnasium” (secondary school) and “Universitäten” (universities). Most municipalities provide kindergarten, primary and secondary schools. Most cantons provide at least one secondary school. There are eleven universities in Switzerland, nine are run by cantons, two are run by the confederation“.  See: Information about Education in Switzerland
  4. Of the countries mentioned by Banks, only Britain has Charter Schools, which they call academies. This blogger can find no peer-reviewed study to confirm their effectiveness or otherwise.

Once again, John Banks appears to be lying to the public. Nothing that escapes his lips can be taken at face-value.

There are  further points that warrant attention,


ACT has, in the main, been quick to oppose  subsidies.  It is a Party that prefers the “free market” approach. Indeed, it went so far as to oppose subsidies for superannuitants for  GP visits, power bills, and insurance.

See: John Banks –  Speaking Truth To (Grey) Power

ACT has condemned Kiwisaver subsidies –  incentives for people to save for retirement  –  as a “bribe”.

Likewise, subsidies for doctor’s visits and University education were condemned as not in the “public good”.

See: Saving New Zealand: Building a More Prosperous New Zealand

ACT condemned the previous Labour’s job-creation programme, which invested $251 million subsidising young people into work, as an  “expensive band-aid”.

See: Labour Created Record Youth Unemployment

Yet, at the same time, ACT sees no contradiction in subsidising private organisations, churches, and corporations to set up and run Charter Schools?

One can only surmise that corporate welfare is still very much an integral part of ACT policy. “Money for mates” – business mates – is one way to put it.

If someone wants to set up a school, within certain Ministry of Education guidelines, then let them spend their own money on such a venture. This blogger sees no reason why the taxpayer should be spending our taxes on private enterprises. That is not why we pay our taxes.

Untrained Teachers

The prospect that Charter Schools will be staffed by untrained “teachers” beggars belief. This is not how a modern nation upskills it’s people – by engaging untrained staff instead of highly educated professionals.

If National is  going for the cheaper option, where untrained “teachers” are paid minimum wages to teach vulnerable, low socio-economic children – then what is the point of spending millions of dollars on teacher training?

Especially when Education Minister Hekia Parata recently  announced last week that a postgraduate qualification would become the new minimum requirement for all trainee teachers.

As Hekia Parata stated, on 16 May, National’s new policies would include,

1. Invest an additional $60 million over four years to boost new teacher- recruitment and training

2. Ensure that student teachers are equipped with the best teaching practices for 21st century learning

3. Shift to a post-graduate qualification for new teachers

4. And give stronger mentoring and coaching for those teachers working towards full registration.

See: Hekia Parata: Raising achievement for all in Budget 2012

Parata went on to say,

Even so, our National-led Government is committed to improving the quality of teaching through an ongoing investment of just over $300m over the next four years in professional learning and development.

 · Today I am pleased to announce that in Budget 2012 we will invest a further $511.9m of new money into quality frontline education services.

 · Quality teaching is about holding high expectations of, being able to relate to and finding what works for every single child in the classroom. That’s what every one of our teachers needs to be able to do.

So if National is pushing for new teachers to attain postgraduate qualifications – an expensive investment in on-going education – then what is the point of spending taxpayers’ money on setting up  Charter Schools staffed by untrained or poorly trained staff?!

On what planet does this make sense to anyone? Planet National?

The Finns certainly did not achieve their #2 and #3 rankings on the OECD scale by dumbing down the teaching profession and opting for second-best.

In contrast to Parata’s 16 May statement, it is sobering to note that the 2 August media release by Hekia Parata and John Banks, announcing the advent of Charter Schools, did not once mention teachers or improved teacher training.

Not once.

See: Ministers announce framework for Partnership Schools



That little fact speaks volumes about National/ACT’s reliance on ideology rather than common sense.

John Key’s insistance that we shouldn’t get “hung up” on the issue of untrained teachers in classrooms simply boggles the mind.

See: Key: Don’t worry about unqualified teachers

In this instance, his casualness will have raised eyebrows and probably a few hackles.  His suggestion that “he would be happy with his children being taught by unregistered teachers” is a derisable joke – Key sends his kids to expensive private schools.

The stench of hypocrisy…

But I’ll leave the last word to investigative journalist/documentary maker, Bryan Bruce,

So… charter schools will not have to employ qualified teachers. What a brilliant idea!

Let’s see …next we could have charter doctors, charter dentists, charter architects, charter engineers… all totally unqualified.. and Hey! we could get rid of universities.. Think of all that lovely money we’d save.

Goodbye student loan – who needs one?

Hip hip! for our charter politicians John Banks and Hekia Parata . Hurrah !

Now our Charter kids won’t have to worry about the future.

They won’t have one.”

See: Facebook -Inside Child Poverty




Previous Blogposts

Privatisation of our schools?!


Education shake-up ‘biggest for years’

Destiny Church may get funding for new school

Key defends state-funded private schools

On charter schools – Gordon Campbell

OECD:  Student Performance in Reading, Mathematics and Science

OECD: PISA – Education at a Glance 2011

Ministers announce framework for Partnership Schools

Charter schools could employ unregistered teachers

Keep religion out of schools

Charter Schools Still A Pig

Government allows non-qualified teachers into school system

New charter school model ignores findings of research

Key: Don’t worry about unqualified teachers

Stanford University: Charter School Performance in 16 States (USA)

The Economist: Charting a better course

Radio NZ: Checkpoint – Plan to allow unregistered teachers into charter schools

Lessons from Finland, Korea

West Virginia learns Finland’s ‘most honorable profession’: Teacher

Majority against hiring unqualified teachers

From around the world

Salon: Education reform’s central myths

allthingslearning: Can a teacher “create” LEARNing THAT LASTS?

BBC: Academies told they can hire unqualified teachers

New Statesman: The American revolution in English schools

Huffington Post: In Support of the Whole Child

Other Blogs

No Right Turn: Charter schools are bad schools

Local Bodies: NZ Charter Schools Defined

The Standard: Incoherent education policy

The Standard: Robber’s charter



= fs =

Why did the Kiwi cross The Ditch?

6 March 2012 3 comments



During the Cold War, Eastern Europeans used to “vote with their feet” and escape to the West. Often that migration was done at great personal risk to themselves and their families.

The Poles, Hungarians, Czecks, East Germans, et al, who crossed from the Eastern European Zone did so in search of freedom – political, economic, and social. For them, the repression in their home nations was sufficient motivation to up-root and leave behind family and friends, in search of something better.

Whilst the risk isn’t quite the same for us (no armed border guards; semi-rabid guard dogs; sentry towers with searchlights and machine-gun posts), New Zealanders are still voting with their feet,

Full Story


Unlike their Eastern European cuzzies, New Zealanders are not leaving simply to improve their financial lot (though that certainly plays a major part).

I believe there is much more involved in the psychology behind this migration.

Since the Rogernomics New Right “reforms” of the late 1980s, New Zealand  has been socially re-engineered. New, neo-liberalistic values of obeisance for wealth; state sector “efficiency”; low taxes; minimal government;  user pays in many, previously free social services; and a quasi-religious intolerance of those at the bottom of the socio-economic scale who are left behind in the mad scramble for money and status.

A new creed of Personal Good trumps Social Needs, and Individual Rights/Needs trumps Community Well-being.

It is a New Right puritanism that demands solo-mothers (but not solo-fathers) “go out to work” –  blind to the concept of raising a family as being a vital form of work.

It is the demand for Individual Rights to have 24/7 access to alcohol – irrespective of harm caused to society (see BERL report) and the eventual cost to tax-payers.

It is the craven reverance shown to 150 Rich Listers who increased their wealth by a massive 20% in 2010 – whilst condemning working men and women who are struggling to keep their wages and conditions in the face of an onslaught by employers, emboldened by a right wing government. (Eg; AFFCO, Maritime Workers, ANZCO-CMP Rangitikei)

It is a nasty streak of crass, moralistic judgementalism that blames the poor for being poor; invalids for being born with a disability or suffering a crippling accident; solo-mums (but not solo-fathers) for daring to be responsible enough to raise a family; and the unemployed for being in the wrong Place/Time when the global banking crisis metastasized into a full-blown worldwide Recession, turning them from wage earning tax-payers – to one of crony capitalism’s “collateral damage”.

In all this, having a sense of community; of belonging to a wider society; and of being a New Zealander  – has been sublimated. Except for ANZAC Day; a national disaster; and when the All Blacks are thrashing the Wallabies, we show very little sense of nationalistic pride or social cohesion.

Indeed, I recall some years ago being in a 24/7 convenience store in downtown Wellington, on ANZAC Day. It was not yet 1pm, so by law alcohol could not be sold.

I noticed a customer in the store selecting a bottle of wine from the chiller and taking it to the checkout, to purchase. As per liquor laws, the checkout operator could not legally sell that bottle of wine, until after 1pm.

The operator explained that it was the law; it was ANZAC Day; and it was a mark of respect (most shops weren’t even open before 1pm).

The customer, a  fashionably-dressed young(-ish) man remonstrated with the checkout operator and said in a voice loud enough for everyone in the shop to hear; “I don’t give a shit about ANZAC Day. I just want to buy this wine.”

And that, I believe sums up our present society. That young man simply didn’t care. He  wanted something and he couldn’t believe it was being denied to him.

To him (and others like him, who usually vote ACT and/or National), all he knew was that he WANTED a THING and his right to have it, if he could pay for it, was paramount.

What does that say about a society?

Firstly, what it says is, to some folk,  a society is little more than a flimsy, abstract concept – and not much more – with ‘Society’ being subservient to the demands of the Individual.

Secondly, if Society is nothing more than an abstract concept – as one person recently wrote to me on Facebook – then there is no way whatsoever that an individual can feel a sense of “belonging”.

“Belong” to what? A geographic place on a map that happens to have a different name and colouring to another geographic place adjacent to it?

If people who happened to be born in a Geographic Area; designated “New Zealand”; coloured pale-green on the map; decide that they can earn more money in another Geographic Area; designated “Australia”; coloured ochre on the map – then moving from “A” to “B” is nothing more than a logistical exercise. Kinda like shifting house from one street to another.

When we have no concept of “society” – then people will “vote with their feet”. They simply have nothing else to consider when making a decision except solely on material factors.

An expat New Zealander, living in a Geographic Area across the Tasman Sea, told the “Dominion Post“,


“A Victorian-based Kiwi with a student loan debt, who did not want to be named because he did not want to be found by the Government, said he did not intend to pay back any of his student loan.

The 37-year-old’s loan was about $18,000 when he left New Zealand in 1997. He expected it was now in the order of $50,000. The man was not worried about being caught as the Government did not have his details and he did not want to return to New Zealand.

“I would never live there anyway, I feel just like my whole generation were basically sold down the river by the government. I don’t feel connected at all, I don’t even care if the All Blacks win.

“I just realised it was futile living [in New Zealand] trying to pay student loans and not having any life, so I left. My missus had a student loan and she had quite a good degree and she had paid 99c off the principal of her loan after working three years.”Source


If we extrapolate this situation to it’s logical outcome, it becomes obvious that New Zealand’s future is to become a vast training ground for the global economy, with thousand of polytechs, Universities, and other training institutions churning out hundreds of thousands of trained workers for the global economy.

Our children will be born; raised; schooled; educated; and then despatched to  another Geographic Area. It gives a whole new meaning to Kiwis “leaving the nest”.

When Finance Minister Bill English  told Radio New Zealand,

We know roughly what the recipe is, policies that support business that want to employ and create opportunities, that provide people with skills and reward those skills.

“We are getting those in place, despite the fact that we’ve had a substantial recession. We believe we can make considerable progress over the next four to five years.” – Source


… he was quite correct – though not quite in the way he was intending. New Zealand will “provide people with skills and reward those skills” – just not for this country.

National leader John Key, once again, was of in la-la land as usual when he said,

Over the last three years I believe we’ve made some progress, so much that we have been closing that after-tax wage gap, we are building an economy that is now growing at a faster rate than Australia, but it will take us some time to turn that around.” – Source


Dear Leader really should stop smoking that wacky baccy. It’s all utter rubbish of course. The economy is not “growing at a faster rate than Australia” (except in Key’s fantasies) and rather than “closing that after-tax wage gap” – it’s actually been widening.

Worse than that, employers – with support from National  – are actively engaged in a “class war” against their own employees to lower wages and to destroy workers’ rights to bargain collectively through a  Union.

The lockout of AFFCO workers  and threat by Ports of Auckland Ltd to casualise and contract out their workforce is nothing more or less than a campaign to reduce wages and increase profits for shareholders.

So much for Key’s bizarre claim “we have been closing that after-tax wage gap“. (No wonder we trust politicians at the same level as used-car salesmen.)

Not a very pretty picture… and yet that is the future we seem to be creating for ourselves.

How do we go about undoing the last 27 years of free-market, monetarist obsession?

Do New Zealanders even want to?

We should care – quite a bit, in fact.

The more skilled (and semi-skilled) people we lose to another Geographic Area, the fewer taxpayers we have remaining here.  Those taxpayers would be the ones who would be paying for our retirement; our  pension; and caring for us in Retirement Homes up and down the country.

Which means, amongst other things, that we’d better start paying Rest Home workers a more generous wage rather than a paltry $13.61 an hour  –  or else we’ll be wiping our own drool from our mouths and sitting for hours on end in damp, cold, incontinence pads. Even semi-skilled workers contribute more to our society than we realise.

If we want to instill a sense of society in our children – instead of simply living in an “economy” or Geographic Area – then we had better start re-assessing our priorities and values.

We can start with simple things.

Like; children. What is more important; a tax-cut, or providing free health-care and nutritious meals at schools for all children?

(If your answer is “Tax cut” because feeding children is an Individual and not a  Social need, then you haven’t been paying attention.)

Children who are all well-fed and healthy tend to do better at school. They learn better. They succeed. And they go on to succeed in life.

But more importantly, if society as a whole looks after all children – irrespective of whether they were lucky enough to be born into a good family,  or unlucky to be born into a stressed family of poverty and despair – then those children may, in turn look after us in decades to come.

If we want our children to feel a part of a society – our society – then we have to instill that sense of society in them at an early age.

Who knows – instilling a sense of society in all our children may achieve other desirable goals; lower crime; lower imprisonment rates; an urge to contribute more to the community;  less family stress and divorce; stronger families; less community fragmentation and alienation…

We’ve tried everything else these past three decades – and things aren’t getting better.

The focus on materialism and Individualism has not delivered a better society, higher wages, or other beneficial social and economic outcomes. Instead, many of our fellow New Zealanders are turning away and going elsewhere for a better life.

Quite simply, if people are Voting with their feet, then this is a Vote of No Confidence in our country.



Dear Minister…

John-Paul Powley



Dear Anne Tolley, and John Key

I woke up this morning and read your education policy as summarised in the media. This whole article on your proposed education policy made me furious.  The article suggested that these were the key points:



Target of 98 per cent of new entrants in school having participated in early childhood education by 2015

New interactive website for parents to choose “the best” local ECE service

New funding model to be trialled in 2014


Require publication of National Standards data in 2012

New assessment of “disposition to teach” for trainee teachers


A long time ago when National Standards were introduced I predicted that they would creep to Secondary schools and that we would  see league tables.  It didn’t bother me that on both points you said this wouldn’t happen.  It was clearly a lie, and it is no comfort to me to see my predictions turn out to be correct.

It seem to me that there is simply no possibility of negotiating with your government in good faith and this makes me angry, because I am a reasonable person who believes that conflict is a dead end.

Here are some points that I would like to address to you:

  • How can you want 98% of kids in early childhood education, but cut the funding to these centres that make them affordable, and how can you want 98% of kids to go to centres where you do not believe that it is important that 100% of the staff there are fully qualified?
  • What does the term “best” ECE centres mean?  Doesn’t this just mean the centres with the wealthiest and best educated parents?  How does a competitive model in education work when some people can’t afford the best, and are you committed in terms of the massive amounts of money and time it will take to build up struggling centres, or is it a fail-and-close-them-down model?
  • You said that you would not create a situation of league tables two years ago.  This was clearly a lie.  Do you think it is a good model to our students to lie in order to get what you want, and then use double speak to try to pretend that you never said such things in the past?
  • League tables are good for comparing apples with apples, but after the first round of tables are printed there will no longer be apples and apples, there will be schools that are better than others when measured against one criteria.   My daughter started school yesterday, and I know the pressure to send your child to the “best” school and not the local school, but I believe in my local school and I was DELIGHTED to send her to the local school and see her running in and playing with the Somali kids, and the Pasifika kids, and the Indian kids, and the European kids all together, learning together, and being wonderful and curious together, and I can’t help but wonder what will happen to all the white kids when the school down the road does better on the league table, because it is a wealthier and more homogenous school.  Are we committed to a multi-cultural New Zealand or not?  Or is that just talk?  Past experience shows that Europeans like me abandon schools that are sinking faster than rats on a sinking ship because they can, and that parents who can’t afford to make the change don’t (even though they care just as much for their children).  I’m not proud of this fact, but I have to admit it is true.  Do you understand this?  I don’t think that you do, and I think that this is the weakness of a party that is made up of a homogenous and wealthy group and would prefer a voting system where they can just stop mucking about and govern alone.  You do not represent everyone, and you should never, ever be allowed to govern alone for that reason.  Not because I do not like you, but because NO ONE should govern alone.
  • Disposition to teach?  My first years teaching in a low decile school were hell.  I went home, lay down on the floor and cried.  If someone had offered me a job doing something else at the moment I would have taken it.  Now I am at the end of my sixth year teaching and I think I do a damn good job.  Teaching is a long hard road to success, and it is even more brutal and even more important at decile one schools.  My experience of a  decile ten school is that the students can almost teach themselves.  Is it not then true that student teachers in higher decile schools will appear to have a better disposition to teach than those toughing it out in low decile schools?  Where do you want good teachers to go?  Into the low decile schools where the results are low, and they will be judged on league tables, and their position will worsen as white flight takes place over the next few years?  I assume that you are also planning to let parents have “choice” about where they send their kids.  Which means abandoning zoning, and abandoning certain schools whose funding is tied to their roll.
  • Can I ask you this?  What was broken about our education system?  One of the best in the world for decade after decade with results we can be proud of in maths, and reading and writing?  Our identified area of concern was our long tail.  A characteristic that all multi-cultural societies face, and one that they are all battling with.  Why have you created a policy that will disadvantage the schools where the long tail is over represented?  I think that it is so parents who are educated and comparatively wealthy (compared to long-tail parents) can have a good reason to send their kids out of area.
  • Finally, I would like you to show me another country similar to our own where this model has worked over a long period of time.

Yours sincerely,

John-Paul Powley






“Building better public services” – Really?

1 November 2011 1 comment



Here, yet, is another instance of the current government’s ability to say one thing – whilst doing something completely different. (Commonly referred to as telling a lie.)

This issue, though, is perhaps the most serious of all of National’s spin-doctoring.

The promise,



The reality,



Listen to more on Morning Report


Taking money from already stretched school-budgets, to “redirect” into “trade training for teenagers”, seems counter-productive and the consequences will simply be more social problems down the road.

Does this seem even remotely sensible to anyone? “Robbing Peter to pay Paul”?

But that’s ok. We got our tax-cuts in 2009 and last year.

Never mind the kids. They’ll be ok. And if they don’t get a proper education, and go off the rails… well, I guess National will just go ahead with building that new prison in Wiri.

Is it worth it, my fellow New Zealanders?





“Building better public services” – Really?

Lies, Damned Lies, and National Party Campaign Advertising

Greed is Good?