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Tomorrow’s Schools

Press Release – New Zealand Principals’ Federation

Tomorrow’s Schools Last Friday, the much anticipated Tomorrow’s Schools final report was released by the Task Force. Most in our sector welcomed the report which signals some major changes. These changes are outlined under eight key issues in the Report …Tomorrow’s Schools

Last Friday, the much anticipated Tomorrow’s Schools final report was released by the Task Force. Most in our sector welcomed the report which signals some major changes. These changes are outlined under eight key issues in the Report. You can also view a presentation on the report by the Chair of the independent task force, Bali Haque by clicking on the link. Nothing is set in concrete yet.

A consultation period will begin immediately and terminate in April 2019. I urge you to engage with the report and discuss the recommendations with your school communities, then give your feedback. You can make a submission on the report to: tomorrows.schools@education.govt.nz. Task force-led regional hui will take place in February/March 2019. More information on these will be available in early 2019.

Early next year, I intend to conduct a survey on the major recommendations to seek your views and preferences and I will be feeding your responses back to the Minister(s). In this special newsletter, I will outline some of the recommended changes that would have the greatest impact on school leadership.

Introduction – Why have a Review?
The review of Tomorrow’s Schools was prompted by a number of factors. These include that the thirty year old policy did not embrace a long term vision for education; that it had failed to address the discrepancies in learning achievement between high achievers and the most disadvantaged students, which include Māori, Pacific Island and those with significant learning needs; that in practice, support for the profession at all levels (including leadership) diminished; that the policy encouraged a culture of competition between schools; that the policy did not lead to lifting the quality of all schools; that the policy has not sufficiently supported cultural responsiveness in our diverse society.

The values driving the report are made explicit in the statement :

“…we need to focus on an explicit commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi and developing a coherent, connected and interdependent system based on collaboration, support and improvement.”

It is pleasing to see the values of the Treaty embedded in every recommendation in this report, demonstrating a culture of true partnership rather than singling out Māori as ‘a problem to be fixed’.

Governance
The biggest recommended change is to re-focus the responsibilities of Boards of Trustees and introduce Hubs which, like Boards of Trustees, would be Crown Entities. Hubs would replace regional Ministry offices. Hubs would take over a number of responsibilities from Boards of Trustees and from the Ministry. There would be approximately 20 hubs responsible for approximately 120 schools each.

It is well recognised that some Boards of Trustees struggle with capacity and expertise to fulfil all the responsibilities currently required of Board members. It is also recognised that the ‘one school, one Board’ model has encouraged competition between schools, including marketing schools to attract out of zone children. This can have the unintended negative effect of further disadvantaging already disadvantaged young people. Hubs would introduce a collective interest in the school network.

The focus of Boards of Trustees would be the school strategic plan and annual plan, student success and well being, local curriculum and assessment.

The Hubs would take over legal responsibilities, and delegate back to principals control of operational grants, staffing entitlements and recruitment. Hubs would manage property development and 5YA funding, unless this is delegated back to the school; appoint (in collaboration with the Board of Trustees) and employ the principal, process suspensions, exclusions and expulsions. They would also be responsible for Learning Support provision and evaluation of schools (formerly the role of the Education Review Office – ERO), which would have a focus on improvement.
It is suggested that principals would be placed on five-year contracts, after which they may be re-appointed to the same school or appointed to a different school.

It is intended that the hubs would be governed by a Ministerial appointed Board, half of whom would be practising professionals, and half local iwi and community stakeholders.
Under such a structure the Minister’s levers would be limited and the role of the Ministry would change to focus on payroll, property and the business matters that a central agency typically deals with.

How these reforms would play out is yet to be determined.

Questions that some of you have already raised include:
• How might we get the right people to operate the hubs? Who would appoint/employ them?
• How might 5-year contracts for principals affect the tenure conditions of the current collective agreement?
• How much say would a principal have in determining whether at the end of the 5-year contract, the principal stays or changes schools?
• How can we avoid Hubs becoming another unwelcome layer of bureaucracy?
• Where might Communities of Learning (CoL) fit with Hubs?
• There already is a problem securing sufficient learning support expertise and that would remain.
• How will parents feel if their ability to choose their child’s school is diminished?
• Is there sufficient funding to resource the hubs to achieve the aspirations outlined?
• Will Crown Entity status for Hubs give us the functionality we would want?
• How would a new independent school evaluation office monitor and evaluate success and well-being?
Schooling Provision
This section of the Report is about the network of schooling provision and how to improve it. For example we have very poor provision for Kaupapa Māori schooling and transitions remain an issue.
Recommendations cover a dedicated pathway for Kaupapa Māori settings including support for proficient Māori language provision; more stability for the transitions between primary, middle schooling and senior high schools and better use of the Te Kura (Correspondence School) services.

Questions that arise include:
• Where will the fluent te reo teachers come from? Currently there are not enough to cover demand.
• Does this mean that Intermediate Schools will be phased out and replaced with Year 7 – 10 (Middle) schools?
• What are the implications for both full Primary (years 0 – 8) and Secondary Schools should that be agreed?
• How will Te Kura provide their expertise to a wider range of schools?
Competition and Choice
It is well recognised that schools compete with each other more now than before the Tomorrow’s Schools policy was introduced. There are some mechanisms that encourage competition. These include:
• Enrolment schemes and recruiting out of zone children
• Using operations grant money to support international fee paying students.
• Decile ratings creating false perception that they represent quality.
Disability and Learning Support
You will be aware already that there is national strategy now for learning support and an action plan. This comes with increased funding and accessibility. It also comes with an assurance that initial teacher training programmes will include better preparation of teachers in learning needs and inclusion.
Every school will have a SENCO available to them and the Hubs would employ specialist staff, RTLBs, some Teacher Aides and link to health and social agencies. The Hubs would complete all the application processes for accessing the funding that schools require to support learning needs in their schools.

Questions that have been raised include:
• At a time of teacher shortage where will we get the SENCOs from?
• Will this mean that we will have increased specialist expertise available to schools through the Hubs?
• Will all the learning support administration be taken over by Hubs and SENCOs?
• How will this alleviate the problems schools report about severe behaviour challenges?
School Leadership
Developing and sustaining leaders is essential to successful schools. We know from numerous surveys and other research reports that the job of the principal is demanding and principals often find they are doing tasks not relevant to their students’ learning and achievement.
Principals from time to time have difficulties adjusting, especially when new to the role, and lack support. Some Boards do not have the capacity or capability to be appointing and appraising principals and do not always make good appointments. For the experienced and capable principals, there is no career pathway beyond the role of principal.

The following recommendations are intended to address some of these issues:
• Establish a dedicated Leadership Centre within the Teaching Council to champion a coherent, research based approach to developing leadership capabilities and establish guidelines for eligibility to apply for a principal position
• Leadership Advisory (LA) in Hubs
• LAs would identify leadership potential and create talent pools
• Appoint principals
• Ensure difficult schools get experienced leaders
• Provide ongoing mentoring of new principals
• Provide PLD for principals
Questions that have arisen include:
• Who will pay for the Leadership Centre activities if it sits in the Teaching Council which teachers pay for now?
• Will there be a sufficient number of LAs to cover all the expectations outlined for them?
• Will there be extensive coverage of LA support and mentoring when so many of our schools are isolated or in rural areas?
• What level of qualifications will be required of LAs if they are to be competent mentors and talent spotters?
• Who will be training and developing the potential leaders?
These are all good questions to think about as you read the report through. You will also generate more questions. Be sure to jot them down and include them in your discussions with your school and parent communities. Also as you form your opinions, both supportive and not supportive, record those too. There are more than 70 recommendations in the report. Not all will make it across the line in the final analysis. Make sure you contribute your views through attending your regional hui and through the submission process.

I will be writing to you one more time early next week, before you all set off for a well earned break.

Ngā manaakitanga
Whetu Cormick
President

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