Broad support for education reforms

Education Minister Chris Hipkins. Photo: Getty Images
Education Minister Chris Hipkins. Photo: Getty Images
Southern principals have given a pass mark to a range of education reforms announced by the Government yesterday, including a major overhaul of the Ministry of Education, zoning decisions being taken away from schools, and ''leadership advisers'' being appointed to offer support for boards of trustees and principals.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins yesterday released the Government's response to the task-force review it commissioned on the Tomorrow's Schools system.

Mr Hipkins said that review, released in July, said there was a ''clear case for change'' and the Government agreed: ''The proposed approach will make progress on the underlying intent of nearly all of the task-force proposals.''

However, the Government pulled back from some of the task force's more wide-ranging proposals for restructuring the function of education agencies and changing the roles and responsibilities of boards of trustees and principals.

''We believe that the scale of structural change proposed by the task force would be too disruptive and a distraction from dealing with the issues facing our learners, teachers and school leaders,'' Mr Hipkins said.

''Instead, we think that the intent of the task force's recommendations can be achieved through changes to our existing structures, including the establishment of an Education Service Agency within the Ministry of Education.''

The proposed agency's role would be to provide responsive, accessible and integrated support to teachers, families and communities, the report said.

The ministry would retain responsibility for national issues and the agency would work on a regional and local basis, including management of school enrolment schemes.

Fiordland College principal Lynlee Smith said, overall, she was happy to see the move towards the ministry having more of a support role in schools.

''Moving zoning decisions from individual schools will improve fairness, transparency and shared responsibility for school networks. In particular, moving property to the new Education Support Agency will let boards focus on governance.''

Mrs Smith, the PPTA principals' council Otago-Southland representative, also welcomed plans for a nationally based curriculum centre and initiatives to strengthen leadership.

''It is good to have the final review decisions: the quality of the implementation and teachers' voice in this will be crucial.''

The report called for minimum criteria to be established for someone to become a principal.

Criteria would be set by the Government, although individual boards would be able to set school-specific criteria.

Current principals who did not meet the criteria would be given time to upskill to meet them.

Gary Shirley, principal of Papakaio School in North Otago, said he was pleased school trustees had retained the right to appoint staff, especially principals.

''Boards will always want to have control over that because it is the most vital decision that they make.

''It is a two-way street, because not only does the principal want to succeed, but the board which appointed them also has a vested interest in wanting them to succeed.''

Abbotsford School principal Stephanie Madden said the minister needed to work with the profession to develop principal eligibility criteria.

''The principal's role is incredibly complex.''

Mrs Madden, who is the Otago representative on the NZEI principal's council, said having the ministry take responsibility for zoning at a regional level made sense.

''However, for zoning to make a real difference, the ministry will need to ensure that policy and guidelines are adhered to consistently across all schools and settings.''

The Government rejected a task-force recommendation to give the Education Review Office scope to look at system-wide issues rather than report on individual schools, saying its current role provided valuable information for schools, families and communities.


Not too long ago there was concern about GERM (Global Education Reform Movement). Hopefully this is not part of it.

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