Hekia Parata: Speech to the Iwi Chairs Forum

Speech – New Zealand Government

Five years ago New Zealanders overwhelmingly voted National into Government. The National-led Government immediately set about implementing its plans, and we have made steady progress to help deliver more jobs and higher incomes for New Zealanders.Hekia Parata
Minister for Education

28 November, 2013

Speech to the Iwi Chairs Forum

Five years ago New Zealanders overwhelmingly voted National into Government.

The National-led Government immediately set about implementing its plans, and we have made steady progress to help deliver more jobs and higher incomes for New Zealanders.

We were also determined to focus on education; which we felt had been neglected for too long.

We found quite a bit that needed attention.

Education had become all about which schools were going to close and what demands the teachers unions were going to make of the Government, not about how we as a nation were going to raise the achievement of our children to meet the challenges of the world they were growing up into.

We found we had the necessary quantity of teachers but not a necessary focus on the quality of teaching. And so I will touch today on what we have done to focus the discussion on the quality of teaching, including supporting the profession to have the best teachers and education leaders it can.

We found that the periodic national and international studies on student achievement had New Zealand stagnating in reading and declining in maths and science, but we did not have the data to understand why at an individual child level.

We also did not have any form of national assessment model for years 1-8, while there had been heavy investment in the secondary sector – with good success.

So while the National Qualification’s Framework and NCEA was bringing some clarity in terms of achievement in the secondary sector, nothing gave similar clarity in terms of how our younger children were progressing at primary school. You as parents and grandparents had no real systematic, evidence based idea how your children and mokopuna were doing at school and what practical steps you could take to support them.

For these reasons we took the step that seemed radical at the time but is now seen by most parents and many teachers as logical. We introduced National Standards so we could have, in effect, a “real time”, individual student learning record as a basis of raising achievement child by child, classroom by classroom, school by school, year on year rather than waiting for the three yearly national or international samples.

It is interesting to note the corollary between that lack of data from year 1- 8 and the fact that young boys, especially young Māori and Pacific Island boys, were falling out of the system from about year 8 or, worse, being moved out of the system through a high use of exemptions, exclusions, and stand downs – all reflecting a worrying level of disengagement. At one point in the last decade nearly 50% of Māori boys were not in school at the end of the last year of compulsory schooling. We had to change the expectation, not just of the boys, but of their family, whānau and their teachers that this was an acceptable way to engage with the education system.

It was condemning generations of our young and it was just not on!

As a result of investments in programmes like Positive Behaviour for Learning (PB4L), review of absenteeism and reform of the attendance service, and a relentless focus on individual student achievement more kids are staying at school now.

We found that the system ran as independent sectors – so there was the Early Childhood sector, the primary sector, the secondary sector, and the tertiary sector, and all its different parts. The transitions between each had become the burden of the child because the adults – us – were not making sure the sector was sufficiently joined up to ensure some care was taken when passing children from one part of the sector to another.

I dare to imagine a world where all teachers formally handover their young charges to the next sector with a meeting, a discussion between professionals about each child, a passing on of their learning story and so on. I even dare to dream that one day we will have an education system that sees itself as operating from 0 – 18. I am determined. It is why I have focused on the system as a whole and the learning journey of the student from 0 – 18, and worked to focus less on the sectoral divisions.

We are getting there and much of what I will touch on today demonstrates that.

I still need to crack the one remaining gap – a form of national assessment that can operate to support teaching of years 9 and 10 students, and part of my response is to offer, from next year, all schools access to what is known as the Progress and Consistency Tool (or PaCT for short). And, actually it is a PaCT. It helps teachers deepen their understanding of the NZ curriculum, to know how their students are progressing and what they might do next to support each student, to provide detailed reporting to parents with examples, and to engage the student themselves in directing their own learning.

National Standards rely on the professional judgment of teachers and PaCT is designed to support teachers to make those judgments. It is being developed with the teaching profession, for the teaching profession.

This is a tool teachers have asked for. They wanted more consistency and reliability about the overall judgements they make in reading, writing and mathematics. The tool responds to that need and will support professional teacher judgments and will help track achievement into year’s nine and ten and secondary schools may choose to use PaCT to continue the learning story of their students.

The tool helps teachers create a clear picture of student achievement and progress, consistent in and between schools. This information can inform a learning plan to support each student in achieving their learning goals. It helps teachers clarify what a student knows and can do, and what they still need to learn.

The clarity of PaCT reports will allow informed discussions between teachers, students and parents about a student’s progress and achievement.

Teachers will be able to track their student’s progress and use the tool to inform teaching programmes and guide decision making in response to new information, opportunities or insights.

School leaders will be able to see exactly how their school is progressing and where extra help may be needed.

Boards of Trustees will be able to track progress towards their school’s goals and targets and plan for their school’s future.

And, the additional benefit is that good information entered once can generate multiple reports for different purposes. Admin time and paperwork is reduced!

I am also investigating the adaptation of the Adult Literacy Tool for the year 9 – 10 gap and look forward to updating the sector on my progress there.

I have been around the education sector for many years and have had a lifelong interest in education – with both my parents as teachers, and some of my siblings also working in the education sector. I am passionate about education and what a good education did for me, and what it can do for our young people.

We have an education system that is in the top half in the world. It gives our students a platform to compete here at home and internationally. Most of our kids are successfully getting qualifications they need from school and we must celebrate their success and the professionals, along with the whanau and Boards of Trustees who make that possible every day.

I am very aware that we cannot rest on our laurels, because the rest of the world sure isn’t. And that is why our Government’s education plan is about giving every young person a better education, and raising achievement for five out of five.

The reforms I have announced since becoming Minister, which I will quickly outline are not about tinkering, and some are challenging to the old way of doing things, but the evidence is clear that they are necessary to make sure we have an education system worthy of our children.

We want all our kids to be leaving school with the skills they need to reach their potential in the modern economy. That means lifting up those who are being left behind, and encouraging those who are doing well, to do even better.

To do this, we need to find new approaches to accelerating the progress and achievement of our children. We need to look at everything we do – from high-level policy settings to what happens in the classroom, to how our schools engage with their communities. We must meet the needs of all students, and enable each and every one to fulfil their potential in education and in life.

Why is this important?

Education can make a two-fold contribution to our country. It builds our social and cultural strength, and our productivity. That’s important for our economy, and it’s important for New Zealand.

We are a small country that must make up for size with smarts. We must out-think our competitors. We must be able to turn clever ideas into commercially successful products that we can sell to the world. We must attract overseas businesses to use our expertise.

To do this, we need a skilled and qualified workforce that meets the demands of business and industry; that adapts to new and changing technologies. We need entrepreneurs, innovators and inventors.

And we need New Zealanders who are culturally adept, fluent and intelligent in different cultural contexts and ideally, linguistically capable, as we seek to trade and service economies and societies with whom we have shared and growing interests.

But it is equally important for us as New Zealanders.

We must leverage our bi-cultural heritage and increasingly multi-cultural richness.

Education is absolutely vital to achieving this. We need our system to equip all young New Zealanders to be successful participants in, and leaders of, a 21st century economy, and society.

Knowledge, qualifications and skills are a key that opens the door to better jobs, better incomes, and better life opportunities. This leads to improved economic and social outcomes for New Zealanders and in turn a more prosperous New Zealand for all.

That’s why we are committed to raising educational achievement for five out of five of our kids. Successful young New Zealanders grow the potential of our country; disengaged, dislocated, disappointed young people don’t.

We do not have a generation to waste.

It has been quite apparent for some time – certainly before I became the Minister but also before National became the Government – that New Zealand’s education system, while still world class and in the front rank of education systems globally, was slowly falling behind in some of the key metrics by which education systems are judged at a global level – and indeed at national and individual level.

Now I do not want you to think that this Government’s sole focus is on how we compare against other countries when it comes to Education.

Some of what makes our education both unique, and very successful, is the focus we have on educating in a very kiwi way.

But nonetheless measurement is an important part of any learning environment, and a range of reports over the last decade has painted a worrying picture of a slow decline in some key areas when New Zealand students are compared with their overseas counterparts – with mathematics and science education being at the front of that.

Countries with which we traditionally compare ourselves have to varying degrees suffered similar fates – and the emerging Asian dynamos, in an educational sense – China and her territories, Vietnam, Korea – have made great strides ahead in these same surveys.

The next OECD ranking will be coming out next week.

It is probable that New Zealand may well slip again as we see a further improvement especially of Asian countries.

Certainly when I attended the International Summit of the Teaching Profession in Amsterdam this year there was much talk about the rise of the Asian countries in terms of their education systems performance.

It was, incidentally, one of the reasons I sent a cross sector delegation of New Zealand’s education leaders to Asia last month, to take a first-hand look at what is working for them and what is driving their success, when compared against their peers in the OECD.

What we learnt from that exercise is that they have a focus on excellence in all aspects of the education system and that there is very strong alignment between what is developed in policy and what is delivered in practice. Importantly there is a strong focus on the quality of teaching and educational leadership, with a very determined cultural context of educational aspiration for all.

But this does not mean we want to import everything Asia is doing, and it also does not mean that New Zealand is standing still – and as I go around the country I see amazing and innovative education taking place every day – but I do believe we do need to refocus ourselves, and adopt strategies to power us forward again, .

This is not because we are in competition with our OECD colleagues to be top of the class (although that is always nice) but because we must ensure that our children are receiving an education that compares with those from other OECD countries because the world our children will be going into will be one in which they are competing for jobs and opportunities with kids from these countries.

It is also useful to benchmark ourselves against others because it provides useful information – nothing more, nothing less.

There is no replacement for quality teaching and passionate, enthusiastic, energetic teachers, led by knowledgeable, thoughtful, determined leaders. And central to my approach as Minister has been to bring a much needed focus on teaching quality and strengthening the value we place on the important work that teachers do.

I am quite clear that we need to considerably grow the quality of teaching practice and education leadership, raise student achievement, and build a professional culture driven by successful outcomes. This would allow us to slough off the current cultural carapace of interventions, inputs, programmes, that have slowed our system to pedestrian pace.

Today’s teachers do an outstanding job, but their practice and development has not consistently kept up with the demands we place on them, especially in areas such as Mathematics and Science where they are telling us they are not as confident as they would like to be.

When I became the Minister almost two years ago I was determined that we refocus the system so that the leadership of the profession sat with the profession – the principals supported by excellent boards of trustees.

I immediately called together a Ministerial Cross Sector Forum on raising Achievement comprising all sector leaders and key state agencies – so we could work together on areas of common interest – such as a quality teaching agenda and professional development of our teachers and education leaders. The focus of the Forum has been on the system as a whole for the purpose of giving every child a better education.

We have made some very strong strides together, and it was exciting to be able to announce recently, after extensive consultation with the education sector, that the Teachers Council will be replaced with the Education Council of Aotearoa/New Zealand (EDUCANZ), which will take on a broader mandate to lead the teaching profession and drive innovation and improvement in quality teaching initiatives and professional development.

We need a profession that isn’t afraid to take the steps necessary to ensure quality teaching is happening in every classroom, at every school, for every student.

As Andreas Schleicher, Deputy Director for Education and Skills and Special Advisor on Education Policy to the OECD’s Secretary-General, said in his recent visit to New Zealand “it is not the diversity of children in the classroom that is the challenge; it is the diversity of teaching practices in that classroom.”

The profession must set the bar high and make their expectations of themselves clear. They must also create the conditions for these expectations to be met, and hold their staff and themselves accountable when they are not.

They are responsible for supporting the innovation that will drive change and improve performance at their school.

We are already seeing these innovations at all levels of the education system – from primary schools embracing new initiatives aimed at better transitions from ECE to primary school such as Sylvia Park School’s Mutukaroa programme to support vulnerable children in their first year at school, East Tāmaki’s embrace of maths initiatives, Māngere Central’s online learning of Japanese; to secondary schools offering new vocational pathways through trades academies and service academies, such as those in the Southern Initiative or out in West Auckland or the various versions of the Canterbury Fridays, where schools have created multiple pathways and flexible timetabling to work with the student, rather than always and forever expecting the student to fit the institution.

There are many wonderful, innovative initiatives being taken in schools up and down the country and we need to surface them more. We need to inspire our communities with the work that schools are doing and create a more constructive conversation in which those communities want to participate. We must create a culture of celebration and in so doing raise the status and value of the profession.

We also need to lift up the status of the profession in the eyes of the community. In 2014 we have an exciting range of initiatives to do just that – starting with New Zealand winning the right to host the ‘World Cup of Education’, the International Summit on the Teaching Profession in March. This summit brings education Ministers from the top ranked OECD countries who discuss and share experiences about the performance of our education systems, and are jointly convened by the OECD, Education International and the Government.

To complement this event, we will hold education festivals in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch to bring education to the community and shine a light on the great things that are happening in New Zealand’s early childhood centres and schools. We will also more formally celebrate success at the inaugural Prime Minister’s Education Excellence Awards which aim to recognise and celebrate excellence in teaching, leadership, community engagement and governance at Matariki in June next year.

We are ambitious to see all our children reach their potential and this requires every part of our education system to be doing the best that it can. We cannot simply relocate the difficulties to the next part of the system. That is how a whole generation of young people can fall through the cracks.

We must stop simply repeating the mantra that “ours is a world class education system” and ensure that we implement the practice of it – whether the curriculum, the qualifications framework, the review and evaluation, the best evidence synthesis, the devolved yet collaborative schooling network, the high quality professionals, the engagement with community.

That is why we have instituted key target outcomes that we will be held accountable for These Better Public Services targets relate to key parts of the system – ECE, primary schooling and secondary and the secondary / tertiary interface. Lifting the educational achievement of these young people is the driving force behind the Government’s Better Public Service education targets.

They are ambitious targets but our young deserve no less.

We aim, in 2017, to have:
• 98 per cent of all school entrants having participated in early childhood education
• 85 per cent of all 18-year-olds having achieved a minimum of a Level Two qualification, NCEA 2 or equivalent
• 85% of primary students at or above national Standards as a bridge between the two, and,
• 55 per cent of 25-34 year olds having gained an NZQF level 4 qualification

The results are meaningful.

For instance, there is strong and pleasing growth among Māori children in ECE with 92.7 per cent participating in ECE before starting school. Nearly 400 more Māori children starting school had attended early childhood education than at the same time last year.

Growing community engagement to increase parental demand for better quality ECE is a key focus.

Community Action Groups have been established in areas of low participation e.g. Wairoa, Kaitaia, Meremere and Porirua. The government helps communities make connections between their identified ECE needs, available funding streams/initiatives and to draw in support from other agencies and organisations. It is also working to increase ECE supply through more innovative ways of engaging and contracting (e.g through high trust/outcomes focused contracts) with providers.

After early childhood education, parents then send their most cherished creation – their young child – to school. We entrust schools with our children and with the high expectations we have of and for them.

The platform for learning is formally built in these critical primary years. All of us want to understand at regular intervals how well the building of that platform is progressing and strengthening. That is why we introduced National Standards.

National Standards, for our primary and intermediate students, let us see how kids are doing and identify early those who need more pushing, those that can be lifted more, as well as those who are falling behind. National Standards aim to lift achievement in literacy and numeracy (reading, writing, and mathematics) by being clear about what students should achieve and by when. This helps students; their teachers and parents, families and whānau better understand what they are aiming for and what they need to do next.

Consequently at the same as introducing National Standards, we also required schools to implement “plain English reports” to parents. All of the actors in the system that can influence raising student achievement need to have an accurate picture about where and with whom we need to make extra efforts.

The data gained from National Standards school level results has given us a richer picture of the system than we have had previously. For example, we now know that across the 2,100 primary schools in New Zealand there is a consistent pattern of decline in achievement from around Year 4 to Year 8, across a wide range of curriculum areas. This picture is reinforced by things we are learning in National Monitoring Studies. We have a very solid programme of surveys and research to get a much deeper understanding of where we can make system improvements in support of schools.

Thanks to much stronger data, including National Standards results, we know where we can better target our resources. Yesterday I announced a $10.5million targeted investment to accelerate Mathematics and Science teaching and learning. These resources will be firmly targeted where the need is greatest – and data helps us do that.

We got a lot of heat for our introduction of National Standards, but that noise has slowly disappeared as the value of the National Standards data has come to light.

The “3 Rs” are not the be all and end all of education – but they are a very useful pointer towards how children are adapting to their learning environment

Parents have almost universally welcomed this level of exposure – they have embraced achievement data and many teachers have as well, despite what you may hear in very selective reporting.

Ensuring that year 8 students arrive from primary school ready to engage at secondary school level is essential for their success.

We must deliver pathways for educational achievement that can be reflected in a National Certificate of educational Achievement at level 2 as a minimum.

When young people transition from school to work, or to further study, we need to ensure they all have the knowledge and skills they require to succeed and progress. The Government is committed to supporting all 16 and 17 year olds to participate in education or training to help them get to where they want to be.

The challenge for secondary schools is to retain all students, especially through those vulnerable years 9-10, and to ensure they secure a passport to a better quality of life. At present one in five 15-16 year olds is dropping out. We want all 18 year olds to have a minimum NCEA level 2 qualification and we are improving the rate and number of students leaving school and those aged 18 years that have qualifications.

Here are a few statistics:
• 74% or 44,623 out of 60,019 school leavers reached NCEA level 2 in 2012
• That is a 6 percentage points rise in school leavers reaching NCEA level 2 under National since 2009
• More kids are staying in school. Early leaving exemptions fell to 313 last year, from a peak of more than 4,000 applications in 2005 – a 93% decrease under this Government.
• For 18 year olds we have set a target of 85% having achieved NCEA Level 2 or better in 2017
• Currently 77.2% or 48,917 out of 63,328 18 year-olds have achieved NCEA Level 2 or better.
• For Māori though the figure is 60.9% (8,196 out of 13,467) of 18 year-olds
• For Pasifika the figure is 68.1% (4,591 out of 6,741) of 18 year-olds

So while rates of achievement for Māori are improving, they are still lagging behind.

We must all own that problem.

And our government has in the increase to Vote Education every year of the past five years despite the challenging global financial times; up 74% in ECE spending and 40% in schools.

In addition, we have invested $700million into building an ICT platform for all schools. On Tuesday, together with Prime Minister John Key and Associate Minister of Education, Nikki Kaye, we “switched on” the first school, Massey Primary, to the new network for learning, N4L. It will provide free, fast, uncapped quality data to schools, and support a portal for teachers and students alike.

All schools will have the opportunity to switch on by 2016. This will allow us to modernise our education system, excite kiwi kids to significantly develop their digital literacy, and challenge teachers to deliver blending learning opportunities to support that.

To continue to accelerate the pace of learning for Maori students, I am announcing a programme today called Building on Success .

This programme brings together a range of previous programmes and funding into a cohesive package that specifically targets Maori success at school.

Building on Success has three key aims:
• achieve accelerated and equitable outcomes for Māori students and achieve the vision of ‘Māori enjoying and achieving education success as Māori’ (Ka Hikitia – Accelerating Success 2013-2017)
• develop school leaders’ and teachers’ skills, knowledge, relationships and capability to more effectively enable education success for Māori students in collaboration with whānau, hapū, iwi and the community
• support schools to achieve the vision, principles and competencies for Māori students in particular, as outlined in the national curriculum documents, the New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa.

As I have said, we have made some progress but there is a worryingly persistent equity gap which means we need to do more, more quickly.

Building on the evidence of what works for Māori students and what matters to them as culturally vibrant, enthused and aspirational young people is the key to getting sustainable system shift.

We have learnt a lot from programmes like Te Kotahitanga and He Kākano. They have been instrumental in helping us learn about effective teaching practices and leadership that directly impact on raising Māori achievement as Māori. In addition, Starpath, with its focus on using data and supporting learners’ pathway planning has a focus on increased academic achievement for Māori learners.

Building on Success combines the successful elements of these programmes and wider effective literacy and numeracy initiatives into a comprehensive model that will extend their benefits to more schools and their students more quickly.

The Government will invest $31 million over the next three years to achieve the gains for Māori students they rightly deserve.

Around a quarter of secondary schools will be involved in Building on Success at any one time, in partnership with their local communities.

Nationally, Building on Success will be delivered by a consortium of Waikato University, Auckland University and Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi: the providers of Te Kotahitanga, Starpath and He Kākano respectively.

In the Whanganui river rohe, the Whanganui Iwi Education Authority, Te Puna o Whanganui, and Cognition Education Limited (an education provider), have partnered to deliver a localised version of Building on Success, titled Te Kākahu.

Under Building on Success, schools will work with the programme facilitators to design a tailored programme informed by the individual school and student achievement and participation data. Boards of Trustees, leaders and teachers will be challenged to focus effort on embedding the identity, language and culture of their Māori students into school programmes and teaching practices.

At the centre of the programmes is an expectation that schools will build on or in some cases be supported to begin relationships with iwi and whānau. This will maximise the potential for Māori students to experience authentic learning opportunities and enjoy and achieve education success as Māori.

The Ministry and the Building on Success providers are absolutely committed to working for and with iwi. This work has been at the local level in the establishment phase. We intend to intensify this involvement with iwi over time.

I am also very pleased to be able to release to you today a set of Education Profiles – a one page info-graphic that shows us how our Māori young people are doing in education, and a one page info-graphic on how children in your rohe are doing.

I would encourage you all here today to check it out and find out how your young Māori are doing in your rohe and what we can all do to ensure their success in the future.

This is a call to action!

Successive governments have wrestled with the problem of students who leave school but lack the forward momentum to propel them into tertiary study, training, or employment. While many students have already planned their tertiary pathway before they leave year 13, some give up on education at secondary school and do not see a pathway ahead for themselves.

This government has worked hard to bridge that gap with Youth Guarantee which is about providing new opportunities for 16 and 17 year olds to achieve education success, and to progress into further education, training or employment. Young people need clarity, flexibility and choice in how they get to where they want to go. The goal of Youth Guarantee is that all young people will achieve level 2 NCEA, which is seen as the minimum qualification for success in today’s world.

In April 2013, we launched Vocational Pathways. The Pathways help students plan and guide themselves through their learning-work journey, and enable educators to better design their curriculum and assist their students on that journey. The Pathways give employers greater confidence that students are better prepared and have the learning skills that they require. There are five Pathways for students Primary Industries, Construction and Infrastructure, Manufacturing and Technology, Service Industries and Social and Community Services.

Since 2011, the Government has established a further 13 Trades Academies, and put in place 8,700 fees-free Youth Guarantee places in tertiary education. This brings the number of Trades Academies to 22, along with 26 Service Academies, to assist students to gain an NCEA Level 2 or an equivalent qualification. In 2012, a total of 10,174 students were enrolled across these three programmes.

A further 1,800 fees-free Youth Guarantee places will be in place by 2015, bringing the total to 10,500, and a further 800 places in Trades Academies will be established in 2014. This will bring the total number of places across Youth Guarantee places, Trades and Service Academies to 15,000 with more than $440 million budgeted for this provision over the next 3 years.

And in the secondary-tertiary interface, we must give young people choices that set them off on real and meaningful options for further education, training, or employment.

What the evidence tells us is that too many of the kids that our system has been careless with are Māori and Pasifika students, those who come from lower socio-economic homes, and those who have special needs.

We can, and must, do better for them. For too long, too many of these young people have left school without the qualifications and skills they need to succeed. For too long they have been “those kids” said with the voice of low expectation, and dismissed with the fatalism of “we know which ones”. Well, since we do, we must not simply label, we must act. We cannot be careless about their futures. They are part of ours.

This year we released Ka Hikitia – Accelerating Success, an update of the Māori education strategy, and the Pasifika Education Plan for the next five years.

These strategies build on the successes we have seen for Māori and Pasifika students, and accelerate the pace for much more of it. And, in Budget 2013, we made significant further funding investments in backing these, and other initiatives such as Partnership Kura.

We also made some strong investments in Māori medium, supporting the drive for more teachers and for supports to keep our kaiako in kura for longer. Dr Sharples, as the Associate Ministers of Education has been working on these areas and we are thinking about Māori language development in education from kōhanga to kura, to wharekura and on to wānanga.

We also expect a fully inclusive education system in which every child with special needs is learning and succeeding. Success for All – Every School, Every Child is our plan of action to achieve this.

We are already seeing good effect with our Intensive Wraparound Service, a new and tailored approach to each individual young person and their carers. I am aware that we need to constantly improve our special education provision and we will do so in better collaboration with the sector.

A whole programme of activities is underway designed to ensure more children get support; higher quality teaching; better use of resources; better coordination between agencies; and more support for families when times get tough.

All our education strategies have strands that focus on the roles families and communities can play, to support increased education success.

Partnership Schools/Kura Hourua are a small but potentially important part of this drive to involve communities and tailor education provision that meets the needs of students who have or are falling behind. The five partnership schools that have already been announced have indicated a focus on Māori and Pacifica kids – and they will provide a necessary alternative to an education system that has let these kids down. Two are in Northland, an area where our education system is struggling to meet the needs of Māori in particular.

I know that there are those who oppose these schools in the most intimidatory way but I cannot for the life of me understand why. They are using qualified teachers to deliver the curriculum, are attracting a great deal of support from communities and whānau, and I would hope that everyone will give these five schools a chance. The kids deserve it and it is, at the end of the day, about them. I would also remind all of us hat we have over 2500 state and independent schools in New Zealand- so five looking at doing things in a new more flexible way is hardly earth shattering, and after all, for the kids these schools are targeting, nothing else worked, so we would be foolhardy not to try a new model. And no one is forced to attend them!

My hope is that, if this model proves a success, iwi will get behind these schools and others that will open in 2015.

More broadly this Government has recognised the important role parents and community play in the education of our young.

The Government is committed to strengthening governance in our schools, and giving schools and parents a clear picture of how their children are progressing and achieving in their learning.

These two commitments are intrinsically linked. I am talking about the role of parents in demanding responsive, effective education, and the role of Boards of Trustees, as governors, in representing their communities’ interests in terms of a school’s direction and outcomes.

Again to give substance to our intent, we increased funding to the NZ School Trustees Association by 84% in Budget 2013 and are in the process of centralising all authority for Board support in this body.

Our work on governance establishes a more deliberate and strategic approach to how we will support parents and communities – the ‘demand side’ to improve student achievement if you like, along with the ‘supply side’ of better governance.

It is ultimately through a strong parent’s voice and clear understanding of how good education practice can life student’s achievement that schools will transform.

I was really pleased therefore to see the Education and Science Select Committee members decided this year to hold an enquiry into parental involvement in education to look at where the gaps are and what best practice in this area looks like.

This Government recognises that investing in education means that schools need high-quality infrastructure, and the types of environments that will support the delivery of future-focused teaching and learning practices.

The Government has increased its investment in infrastructure, so that we can:
• deliver 21st Century learning environments that feature safe, flexible, sustainable and inspiring learning spaces
• support the high level of digital literacy needed by today’s learners in a competitive global economy

It is the combination of investing in our schools, classrooms and digital infrastructure; in fast and improved access to quality content online services – and the technology skills of our teachers – that will help bridge the digital divide and deliver the dividends we are seeking.

My colleague and Associate Minister Hon Nikki Kaye, is doing a superb job in pushing forward the Government approach, which as I have mentioned, aims to see every school connected to ultra-fast broadband via fibre. It is more expensive but it is no less than our children deserve.

Our aim is for young New Zealanders to be the most digitally literate in the world so they can have every opportunity to be more innovative and better compete in a modern economy.

And, as well as this significant nationwide system change, I have also been focusing on Christchurch. Last month, after a year of intensive consultation, I announced an investment of $1.137billion to build 1200 new classrooms, repair 1200 more, in 115 schools across the greater Christchurch education network.

It has been a relentlessly tough time for the people of greater Christchurch, and our government has been committed to a comprehensive programme to rebuild and renew. The education network has been a part of that and I am pleased that we are now moving to the next stage and parents, children, and schools can have certainty – and the most modern learning environments in the country.

Summary

Across the education system, we are taking action to make it work for all of our students.

We inherited an education sector in 2008 that had seen lots of cuts and a bit of tinkering, but no focus on how we move our system, our teachers, our parents, and most important, our children forward.

We have taken this head on by having the very clear focus and action plan I have outlined today. It has not always been popular or easy. Change is difficult. But if we don’t change the parts of our system that are not working we will keep getting what we have been getting. And that is unacceptable. I am focused on this education system of ours humming again for all our young children – for five out of five, not one, two, three, or four out of five. But for all our kids.

It is not enough to rest on our laurels – we must continue to innovate, or else we will get left behind by the other top education systems.

This is a challenge – but with the actions we have taken as a government we will overcome the challenges in the education system, while also focussing on lifting to even greater heights the many who are doing well already.

And I call on all of you here – as iwi leaders as well as parents and grandparents, to play your part, and throw your weight behind what we are trying to achieve.

You are a pivotal part of a system – and our teachers and children need your support, as the system, of necessity is revitalised around them.

The challenges ahead of us are extensive, but I know that you all of us, New Zealanders, are up for the challenge.

As Minister of Education, I certainly am!

And I go into 2014 with zest and vigour, optimistic and focused, determined, as our Government is, about delivering a better education for all our children and young people.

Thank you. Nga mihi nui.

ENDS

Content Sourced from scoop.co.nz
Original url