Red tape strangles

Cutting red tape for school administrators could help pupils achieve better results, an education specialist says.

Twenty-five years since the Education Act was last reviewed, schools were spending too much time managing properties, health and safety, and education outside the classroom, Darrell Latham said.

Education Minister Hekia Parata recently set up a task force on regulations affecting school performance to investigate regulations that may distract or hinder schools from focusing on raising achievement for young people.

Mr Latham, an educational leadership and administration senior lecturer at the University of Otago College of Education, said a review of the Act was timely.

''Certainly, since 1989 the operating environment for schools has changed considerably so there may be some regulations that are now redundant and best removed from the Act.

''Currently, schools spend a lot of time and administration around property management, health and safety and education outside the classroom, so a review of many of these areas, without compromising the safety of children, is opportune.

''The Act is an in-depth document outlining such things as school enrolment schemes, powers of the boards of trustees and the regulations relating to the control and management of schools.

''The potential for changes to the Act could be wide-reaching, but at the end of the day, the devil will be in the detail.''

Otago Secondary Principals' Association chairman Mason Stretch said two of the main frustrations he had heard among school principals was about property developments and accessing government funding.

Mr Stretch said he and his administration staff at Cromwell College had had ''some fun'' working through the processes and regulations for getting school development projects approved.

''There's a number of criteria a school has to meet before a project can go ahead.

''Even though it might be the best thing for your school, it can be turned down if it doesn't meet the criteria.

''Meeting the requirements for modern learning environments can be quite frustrating.

''If you don't tick all the boxes ... it can cause major delays.''

Mr Stretch commended the ministry for establishing the task force.

''It shows that the Ministry of Education is serious about listening to concerns and looking for ways to address them.''

Ms Parata said the task force was part of the Government's confidence and supply arrangement between the National and Act parties, who were working to identify significant improvements in school performance.

''By establishing the task force we are taking action to ensure boards and school leaders can continue to focus on raising educational achievement for all students and not be stifled by low-level compliance and regulations.''

Ms Parata said a final report was expected by May 31, identifying possible changes to rules and regulations to achieve better education.

The task force would also identify areas of possible change that would benefit from further investigation, she said.

john.lewis@odt.co.nz

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