Otago principals agree IES initiative flawed

Stephanie Madden.
Stephanie Madden.
Otago principals have backed a New Zealand Principals' Federation (NZPF) survey which shows schools across the country are vehemently opposed to the Government's $359 million Investing in Educational Success (IES) policy.

The policy aims to bolster collaborative practice within and between New Zealand schools and invest in lifting children's achievement, by introducing four new roles within schools - executive principal, expert teacher, lead teacher and change principal.

Although the NZPF supports the notion of the initiative, it says the IES policy is the wrong model to achieve the Government's objectives.

NZPF president Philip Harding this week released a survey of more than 1000 principals across the country, which clearly showed they had no confidence IES could achieve ''a strong collaborative culture for schools, nor lift the achievement of especially our priority learners''.

''The survey showed overwhelming opposition and concern ...

''They say that the model is too complex and inflexible in its present form to deliver on its goals, and principals would rather see this money moved closer to classrooms and children, than have it spent on topping up salaries for a few.''

Otago Primary Principals' Association chairwoman Stephanie Madden said the survey reflected the sentiments of local principals.

''The bulk of the money in the current proposal is going towards additional salaries for a few principals and teachers.

''We believe this money could be far better spent on things that we know will make a difference - teacher aide support for children with learning needs, support for children with behavioural needs, access to quality professional development for schools, to name a few.''

Mrs Madden said Otago schools already collaborated and worked together for a variety of reasons and they were keen to continue to do so.

''But there needs to be a common goal or purpose for this collaboration to work.

''If this model is forced on to schools, we do not believe it will achieve the goal of raising achievement.

''Each school's context is so different, and a one-size-fits-all approach will not work.''

The Otago Secondary Principals' Association secretary, Gordon Wilson, agreed.

He said the association believed the design of IES was too restrictive and there needed to be more flexibility.

The idea of support and working together as a group of schools was something Dunedin secondary schools were already doing, he said.

''The Dunedin Secondary Schools' Partnership is an example of a collaborative model where the schools work together over a number of things - including student achievement.''

Instead of a school having an executive principal from a neighbouring school to help improve the school's operations and pupil achievement, the DSSP provides a group of principals and teachers with vast experience to help Dunedin secondary schools with any issues they might have, he said.

''You could have a collective working together to improve student achievement within a cluster of schools. It doesn't need one person to run it.

''The other issue is, if you're going to have schools collaborating, you've got to allow schools to establish their own clusters.

''For the Ministry of Education to arbitrarily say these are the clusters, that the ministry will decide what the clusters are, that doesn't necessarily work either.

''If there's flexibility, we're all for it,'' he said.

john.lewis@odt.co.nz

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