Caution over PLD review

Education Minister Hekia Parata's announcement there will be a review of professional learning and development (PLD) funding in schools has set alarm bells ringing for many Otago principals.

The Government invests more than $70 million each year in PLD to improve the skills of teachers and education leaders.

However, Ms Parata believed the long-term level of underachievement in New Zealand's education system would not be shifted by ''doing what we have always done''.

So an advisory group would be created to establish a baseline of exemplary practice for professional learning and development; assess the level to which the current model of PLD supports exemplary practice; identify the strengths and weaknesses of the current PLD; identify how the impact of PLD on teaching quality and student achievement can be most effectively measured;

advise on improvements to the targeting of PLD to lift pupil achievement; and provide advice on how to achieve the maximum impact from expenditure on professional learning and development.

She said the advisory group would include representatives from the New Zealand School Trustees' Association, New Zealand Principals' Federation, New Zealand Educational Institute, Secondary Principals' Association New Zealand, Post Primary Teachers' Association, Te Runanganui o Nga Kura Kaupapa Maori, Te Runanganui o Nga Kura a Iwi, New Zealand Area Schools Association and the Association of Intermediate and Middle Schools.

Ms Parata said the review was an opportunity to ensure teachers got the right level of support for their development needs and were being challenged to raise the achievement of all pupils.

''We are determined to raise achievement for five out of five young New Zealanders, and to do that, we must ensure that the PLD resource is targeted to back our teachers.''

Otago Secondary Principals' Association president Rick Geerlofs was extremely cautious of the review.

He said principals welcomed it because the present approach was not ''hitting the mark'', but he believed principals were also very concerned about where the present funding would eventually be channelled.

''The minister's announcement, I am sure, will be met with mixed feelings by the sector.

''In order for this to actually have an impact, we need a vast majority of the funding to be at the chalk face, where it can make a real difference.''

Both Mr Geerlofs and Otago Primary Principals' Association president Stephanie Madden believed PLD funding needed to be less contestable, more accessible and have a wider focus.

''The ministry has had a very narrow criteria for acceptance into PLD programmes, usually driven by decile rating, National Standards data and the percentage of Maori and Pasifika students attending the school,'' Mrs Madden said.

''Many schools have simply missed out on ministry-funded professional learning and have had to fund it themselves.''

Mr Geerlofs said schools sometimes did not discover they had gained PLD funding until well into the school year, which made budgeting difficult.

He said schools were also encouraged to engage in PLD that they did not actually want or need.

Both believed PLD needed to be delivered in a timely fashion and not so dependent on an application process.

''It is heartening to see the advisory group is made up of professionals and stakeholders from across the educational sector,'' Mrs Madden said.

''They will need to use their collective wisdom to make best use of what is an ever-decreasing resource.''


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