I move, That the Education (Board of Trustee Freedom) Amendment Bill be now read a first time. The purpose of this bill is to give boards of trustees much greater freedom in the way they manage school affairs. Currently, schools are free to decide how they spend operational grants, as the Ministry of Education acknowledges that they know the best uses for the money. But when it comes to teachers’ salaries, schools have little say, in that they cannot trade off between salaries and other forms of spending. This bill would implement a system similar to the one National introduced in the 1990s, the fully funded option, alternatively known as bulk funding. I will talk briefly about that experience.
The Ministry of Education in the late 1990s undertook to determine how the schools that had opted for full funding had fared. The ministry found an overwhelming positive: 94 percent of respondent schools felt that they had been mostly advantaged by bulk funding, and 80 percent confirmed that their school would prefer to continue with bulk funding. The ministry found also that the common claim that was then made—that bulk funding helped the wealthy schools but not the poor schools—was totally incorrect. After all, the previous model of bulk funding was optional and 36 percent of bulk-funded schools came from the ones in low-decile areas, in deciles 1 to 3.
I ask why so many low-decile schools would opt in if the scheme, in fact, harmed them. What did the schools use the money for? Over 80 percent of bulk-funded schools used the money to hire extra teaching staff. This shows that schools used the increased flexibility in order to increase teacher quantity and quality. Why should schools be prohibited from doing that?
As soon as this bill was drawn, numerous attacks were made on it. Probably the worst came from the Labour Party. Trevor Mallard stated that the bill was unnecessary because schools could already increase salaries by moving around their management units. Well, first, if the Labour Party likes flexibility, I ask what the problem is in extending it. Secondly, management units are a terrible way of rewarding good teachers for performance. It is absurd that the only way to pay good teachers more is to put them into a managerial role and have them spend more time out of the classroom in order to receive higher wages. I ask why Labour would support a policy that sees the best teachers not teaching.
How would this bill place us internationally? Well, the Australian Labor Government has just announced a policy to give schools much greater control over their budgets. Prime Minister Julia Gillard has argued that it is unfair to create league tables of schools, while tying their hands over improving their relative position by preventing them from managing their own staff. In other words, this National Government is to the left of the Australian Labor Government.
How would a principled National Party vote? Those members say that they support freedom of choice; that is what they say. I ask why schools should not have the choice to pay teachers more, to reward good teachers, and to hire more staff rather than build a new gym, if that is their choice. Of course, schools should have that choice. National members say that they support having rewards for achievement. Well, I ask why quality teachers should not be paid more than sub-par teachers. Why should we not try to attract some of the best and brightest into the teaching profession?
Of course, there is no chance that National members will vote for this bill. After all, National members have spent the past 2 years in Government desperately trying to prove that they stand for nothing and that they just want to be popular; they just want to be popular. They will happily sacrifice good policy at the altar of the Prime Minister’s popularity. They will happily vote down a bill that was once their policy. They will happily pretend that they do not believe in this bill, because they want to govern for governing’s sake. They simply do not care about the quality of the policies. They do not care about the children. They care only about the possibility that they might lose a vote or two. Children do not vote; teachers do.
Yes, it is, I say to my friend. It is like that. Children spend around 15,000 hours of their lives in the classroom. What they get out of it matters for the rest of their lives, and it impacts on how well New Zealand fares. Good teachers are the most important factor in whether children benefit from school. Teachers determine whether children get a quality education, not the curriculum, not the class size, not funding, and not computers or the Internet. Those are all secondary to having quality teachers. This bill is all about allowing schools to employ and retain quality teachers. During the work of the working party on school choice, one thing became clear, and that was the desire of head teachers to have more control over staffing issues. This included training. From decile 1 to decile 10, head teachers wanted to be able to train their own teachers. They wanted more pay flexibility. This bill would allow that to happen.
The centralisation of policy that has occurred in education over the last 40 or 50 years was aimed in part at driving out poor teachers through Government fiat. It has failed miserably. Decisions on how and what to teach and on the deployment of resources were taken away from head teachers in schools and are now made in Wellington, with disastrous results. The fact is that 30 percent of children leave school with inadequate outcomes in mathematics, reading, and writing skills. Any other business in New Zealand that failed 30 percent of its clients just simply would not survive. The fact is that the rules and regulation that are basic to centralisation disempower teachers. The result is that they drive out good teachers and they protect poor ones.
New Zealand has ended up with an education system that simply cannot work, and in an overall sense it fails between 25 percent and 40 percent of all students. The system is propped up by many good schools, which continue to exist despite the system rather than because of it. We have in New Zealand a centralised system of planning and direction, Soviet Union - style. It is a system that systematically shuts out the power of incentives and choice to raise standards. My bill helps but it does not solve the problem. The Ministry of Education, which created and runs this education monopoly, is also a monopoly provider of advice to Ministers on policy and on how the system might change. The result is that we have a closed system that locks in declining performance.
I rise to speak on the Education (Board of Trustee Freedom) Amendment Bill, and I say from the outset that National will oppose this bill. We heard from the previous speaker, Sir Roger Douglas, and I quote him, that “My bill helps but it does not solve the problem.”, and that, in fact, is exactly why National will not be supporting this bill.
The purpose of this bill is to allow boards of trustees to have control over the employment of the teachers at their schools. It would see schools paying teachers’ salaries out of operations grants and allow boards to negotiate employment contracts with teachers. Now is not the time for us to be considering this. The National Government has a plan for the education of the 20 percent—although Sir Roger said it was 25 percent—of students who are failing to make the grade when they need to enter the workforce, but the plan in this bill is not our plan. That is not what we want for education.
I can speak with some authority on bulk funding, having been the board chair of a large school that was bulk funded. I have been through the discussions with school principals and with boards of trustees and parents over bulk funding. It is quite a contentious issue. It is a battleground, actually, I say to Sir Roger; the member knows that it is. The bulk-funding battleground is not the battleground to be on at the moment. Having said that, though, boards of trustees could negotiate the employment of teachers on any terms and conditions of employment as they see fit. That clause would allow schools to offer different terms and conditions to different teachers, with the effect that teachers could be paid based on performance.
This bill is a return to bulk funding and it opens up performance pay for teachers. The National Government has said it will not support these measures, and therefore it will not support this bill. Prior to the 2008 election the National Party campaigned on education being one of the top five most important parts of National’s policy planks, but its plan for education was not this one, and the National Government is delivering right now on its priorities for education. However, National members will not be drawn into Sir Roger Douglas’ descriptions of us; we will say simply that we know in which direction we are heading and this is not it.
The Government has announced a major new approach in education to focus on lifting student achievement. It is innovative and exciting for education in New Zealand. At least 50 expert practitioners will now be appointed to work closely with schools to lift student achievement, and the response to that has been very, very positive. Professional development for teachers and principals will be focused on how to lift students’ educational performance. This National Government is investing $36 million to help children who need extra support in reading, writing, and maths. This follows the identification of students needing help, which was made through the national standards. The Government is continuing to help schools roll out national standards to make sure that parents receive clear, plain-language reports so they know how their child is progressing against the standards. Parents said they wanted better reporting, and that is exactly what national standards provides.
As I go around the schools in my electorate of Rangitata and talk with the principals I am really heartened by the progress they are making. It has not been an easy time for them; they have told me that. I have fed their views to the Minister of Education and I have also been able to, in effect, answer some of their questions. I have also been able to celebrate with principals the feedback they are receiving from parents about how they are enjoying these plain-language reports provided against the national standards. We encourage parents to get in touch with their schools to discuss their child’s report, so that they can see what it means for their child, and to give feedback to the schools, as this year is, of course, just an embedding year for national standards.
I just heard a plaintive little voice from across the other side of the House saying: “They do anyway.” Clearly, they do not. Most of the schools I know are doing a fantastic job but when 20 percent of the children going through our schools are not achieving by the time they get to National Certificate of Educational Achievement level 2, then clearly there is room to do better, and National aspires as a party, and as a Government, to do much better than we have been doing.
We want to give children the best possible start in life. We want to give them the skills and opportunities they need to succeed. That is not too much to ask. We recognise that quality teaching is the key to achieving better educational outcomes, and we are committed to supporting our schools and teachers. National has delivered more for education in Budget 2010 than ever before: $12 billion. It is a bitter pill for Labour to swallow—$12 billion for 2010-11 is the most ever. Therefore, I conclude my speech by saying that we have a plan for the education of our students. We are working on that plan, and this bill is not part of that plan.
I say that if national standards is the plan, if measuring is the plan, then it is pretty sad. There were some classic lines in that speech by Jo Goodhew, which we will share at some stage, but I, unlike that member, will focus on the bill that is before the House. The Education (Board of Trustee Freedom) Amendment Bill is a member’s bill.
The first question I ask is what happened to the leading education expert on the far side of the House, Allan Peachey. I have been sitting here waiting and listening for Allan Peachey’s speech. Allan Peachey, I think it is fair to say, is a person of incredible integrity, with a wonderful understanding of how bulk funding works, and he is probably the person who rorted it more than anyone else in the country. He got the biggest amount of bulk funding because he was the principal of the biggest school in the country. He made enough on it to purchase a corporate box at North Harbour Stadium for his school—he is someone who knows how it works. Instead, we had someone who gave a speech of which at least 80 percent was about standards, which are not part of this bill at all.
This bill is about bulk funding, something that the National Party believes in. It is about competition between schools, something that the National Party says it believes in. It is about performance pay, something that we know all of the National Party agrees with, as far as teachers are concerned. It is about giving power to boards of trustees that they do not currently have to negotiate salaries—something that the National Party believes in. With all these things that are part of the core raison d’être of the National Party, part of its core beliefs, why is it that not one of the National members is prepared to stand up for their principles? Why is it that not one National member is prepared to stand up and support the bill?
I will be interested in the speech from the co-leader of the Māori Party, because this bill fits very nicely with a number of things I have heard her say in the past. It fits well with Whānau Ora, for example. It would allow the money to follow the students in a way that she prefers and has supported for quite a long period of time, so I am interested in her point of view and the direction she will take on this bill.
In fact, I think I am just about prepared to suspend my judgment on our vote on this legislation until we have heard from the Māori Party. I ask my colleagues not to be too firm as to the way we vote, because it may be that there could be even more embarrassment for National members if they were the only members to vote against this bill. Maybe we could get it to the Education and Science Committee. Then we could have discussions about National’s principles and plans for months and months and months on the basis of the bill. We could have submissions from all around the country. We could have Mr Peachey chairing the select committee on bulk funding, and then we would have the view of National. So it is fair to say that it could well depend on the Māori Party. We look to see whether Ms Turia’s vote will follow her views as they have been expressed.
Of course Labour does not think this bill is a fair approach, we do not think it is a good approach, but I do not want to totally rule out yet the possibility of letting the community have this discussion. It could be a good discussion for the community to have: to go over the issues around bulk funding, and to look at some of the longer-term plans of National.
At the select committee we have a couple of bits of legislation in front of us now, but I think this would be a good debate to have so that we could get the clear views of the community. We could get an understanding around New Zealand about the issues of performance pay, bulk funding, and the role of boards of trustees. We could have that debate, as I say, which would be very well led by Allan Peachey.
It is good to be able to speak on any education bill in the House, but unfortunately, the Government will not be supporting the Education (Board of Trustee Freedom) Amendment Bill, which is the member’s bill of Sir Roger Douglas. I will address some of the previous comments. There have not been many times in my lifetime—actually it is a first today—when a member of the Green Party has referred to the National side of the House as being communist, which I took quite personally and found quite staggering. ACT, on the other hand, is saying that this National Government is to the left of the Australian Labor Party. Again, I found that to be a staggering comment. I will say that I enjoy my time on the Education and Science Committee with the Hon Sir Roger Douglas. I enjoy his debate and the things that he brings to the committee. On this particular one, though, National priorities are not the same as ACT priorities. Some parts of the bill could possibly have some merit at some point in time, but we want to focus on different priorities in education—ones that are clearly around lifting achievement.
The proposal of this bill is to allow boards of trustees to have the responsibility for teachers’ pay. In effect, that is really about the return to bulk funding. I ask whether there is a real problem. If I look to my own constituents, not one single person has raised bulk funding as an issue. If it was an issue, I am sure that it would have been raised on more than one occasion, because I quite proudly go around my electorate saying that education is my top priority. I am sorry to say to Sir Roger that not one person has said that bulk funding is top of their list in terms of making changes in education.
Let us talk about boards of trustees. I have met with many boards of trustees over the last 20 months, and I will tell the House what they talk about. They talk about achievement. Some of them talk about teacher training, and how to make good teachers great and great teachers excellent. They talk about infrastructure, the roll-out of ultra-fast broadband, the New Zealand curriculum, and well-rounded students. They do not talk about a return to bulk funding. So I take my steer from what my constituents tell me, and bulk funding is not one of them.
Obviously, National wants to give children the best start in life and give them the opportunities they need to survive.
The list member Ms Moroney talks about early childhood education. Clearly, this is a Government committed to making more early childhood education available to more young people through an increase in the Budget. This Government has committed $12 billion into education, which is more than ever before. We are supporting our schools and supporting our teachers. We want to say that bulk funding is not something that this Government is focused on. It is not a priority. I can understand that that member might like to bring it to this House, but we will not go there.
I will talk about one reason why the Government is not focused on bulk funding. Recently, I have been in discussions with a State Representative, Christine Scanlan of the Colorado House of Representatives, who has just put through Senate Bill 191, which has brought in performance pay for teachers. No, she was not a Republican; she was, and is, a Democrat. She introduced performance pay for teachers, and—goodness—what a battle she fought. That is not a battle we are focused on.
We are focused on lifting achievement, which is why we are focused on getting more participation in early childhood education, more students, and getting plain English reporting to parents. If I think about my own child’s recent school report and my interview with his teacher, I know that I have great information with which to partner my son and his teacher in improving his education. That is what parents want. Teachers want to do well in their schools, principals want to get on with school leadership, and not one board of trustees that I have talked to lately wants anything to do with bulk funding. Thank you.
Tēnā koe, Mr Assistant Speaker Barker. The origins of the Education (Board of Trustee Freedom) Amendment Bill arise from the revolution that took place in Aotearoa in 1989 under Tomorrow’s Schools. When the Education Act 1989 swept into place, the responsibilities of governance and management of schools shifted from the Government to individual schools. Each school was to be governed by an elected board of trustees, which would be responsible not just for the management of the school but also for the legal compliance with national education guidelines. This responsibility brought with it the power to employ teachers, to hold the principal accountable for performance issues, and to manage finances, school property, and the implementation of the curriculum. This bill essentially extends those 1989 powers to the fullest degree, enabling boards of trustees to manage their own affairs by having full control over the employment of teachers at their schools.
Teacher salaries are currently paid out directly by the Crown. This bill will remove that obligation from the Crown and place it in the hands of boards of trustees via the grants process. It is a radical move. In a technical sense, it is the creation of a new section 91, which states that all teacher salaries must be paid out by the board of trustees from grants paid to it under section 79 of the Education Act.
More than that, it is about consolidating the autonomy and the self-determined direction of local schools. It is about establishing their total and absolute control. Associated with that, of course, is the potential for discrimination or questionable practice by the boards in hiring teachers, given their newly acquired authority under this bill. Although we are keen to learn how the unfettered power and authority of boards of trustees would be monitored and scrutinised, we cannot overlook the significant call from many kura for autonomy, for self-management, and for self-determining schools.
I think it is worthwhile to mention that the same legislation that brought in Tomorrow’s Schools in 1989 also brought in the provision for communities to begin new schools—the kura kaupapa Māori movement. Kura kaupapa, as we all know now, is a means by which te reo Māori is the principal language of instruction, and the history, values, beliefs, and practices of mana w’enua are honoured and protected. Kura kaupapa are in many ways the ultimate expression of mātuaranga Māori motuhake—the full autonomy and status for Māori knowledge and values. The distinguished Professor Graham Hingangaroa Smith spells it out in more detail, saying that the three key themes of kaupapa Māori are validity and legitimacy of Māori, the survival and revival of Māori language and culture, and Māori autonomy over their cultural well-being in their own lives.
It is this last principle that has really influenced us in considering this bill. It is about the relationship between autonomy and mana motuhake, self-determination and independence. We consider the questions as to how kura can demonstrate meaningful control over one’s own life and cultural well-being. When the Māori Party came across this bill, we saw in it the possibility to respond to the call from kura to support the ability of Māori to make their own decisions as an example of Māori educational independence. If there is one thing the Māori Party is really keen to support, it is providing a mechanism by which we can attract w’ānau, hapū, and iwi to engage with Parliament in creating a vision for Māori educational independence, prosperity, and success.
In line with our usual practice at first reading, and in the hope that Māori will be able to contribute at the select committee, we will support this bill at the first reading. This bill will allow the kōrero to be had. Kia ora.
It is a pleasure to rise and speak to the Education (Board of Trustee Freedom) Amendment Bill put forward in the name of the Hon Sir Roger Douglas. I congratulate Sir Roger. I think I want to take him with me to the races sometime soon, because he seems to have very good luck in getting his bills drawn out of the ballot. I may wish to borrow that luck not only for going to the races but also for the ballot draw myself. I have a bill in the ballot that I would rather like to see pulled out, so I look forward to learning the secret to his success.
As for the purpose of this bill, the words “board of trustee freedom” have been used in the bill’s name—and have we not heard “freedom” used as code for a whole range of things—and in this instance it is code for bulk funding. The words “board of trustee freedom” are code for bulk funding, and we have been there before. Sometimes this place is like being in a bit of a time warp. Sir Roger Douglas is doing the time warp of bulk funding yet again. He is revisiting a failed experiment from the 1990s, and it was a failed experiment. [Interruption] Mr Ardern is noting that I have not said how Labour is voting on this bill, and he is quite right. I have not stated Labour’s position at all. I think everyone in the House must acknowledge that bulk funding was a failed experiment in the 1990s, although clearly the Māori Party has a different view. I am not sure where they were during the 1990s when we saw how that all unravelled. Certainly, it would create unhelpful competition between schools for teachers and would result in winner and loser schools. But that is not unusual in the current environment.
The approach that the current Government is taking to early childhood education creates winner and loser early childhood education facilities. This bill is not out of keeping with what currently happens. When Jo Goodhew spoke, I note she warned Sir Roger Douglas that this was not the time to discuss this bill. When talking about code for things, we know that “this is not the time for this bill” is code for “not in this term”. The Government is not brave enough to do it in this term, but if the public should give National a second term it will be into it, boots and all. That is what it is code for. “Not at this time,” said Jo Goodhew, while looking directly at Sir Roger Douglas—that is the signal, the little wink and nudge to the ACT Party—“just not right now, Sir Roger, because we have this stuff going on with national standards.” The whole school sector is up in arms. This is not the right time.
The Government is fighting on all fronts, in education. It has cut funding to early childhood education, and is that not striking a chord in the community! Jo Goodhew and Louise Upston can undo their own credibility as many times as they like by getting up and saying they want to give children the best start possible, as they did say in their speeches. But the fact remains that the Government has cut funding to early childhood education. Clearly, this Government does not wish children to have the best start possible, because it is taking qualified teachers out of the early childhood education sector. There is a lot of double-speak in this debate; a lot of double-speak. Certainly, much of the double-speak has been coming from the Government benches. Government members are running a mile from having the bulk-funding debate all over again. They are running so far from it that the chair of the Education and Science Committee, Allan Peachey, is not able to take a call in this debate. I think that is a great shame. Government members are running a mile from this debate, because they know how much it compromises them. It will be very interesting to see a select committee, chaired by Mr Peachey, taking submissions on this bill. At the end of tonight’s debate, that could very well be a reality. Thank you.
Kia ora koutou. Before beginning, I must acknowledge my colleague Catherine Delahunty, who might otherwise have delivered this speech and whose thoughts have gone into the preparation of it.
The purpose of the Education (Board of Trustee Freedom) Amendment Bill, clearly, is to enable boards of trustees to manage their own affairs by having full control over the employment of teachers in their schools. This is highly reminiscent of the 19th century. It would undo consistency and equity, and it would create chaos in our education system. It somewhat reflects, and causes some recollection of, a children’s series called Little House on the Prairie, where schools were totally controlled by the fathers on the school board, the pay and conditions were set by those boards, and all people lived happily ever after in their small communities. However, we know, of course, that that is not how it works.
The reason the education system has developed with the Crown negotiating with the profession and setting a standardised, equitable, and incremental wage structure based on qualifications and professional progress is that it is better for the communities, it is better for the children, and it is better for the teachers. A fair society is better for everyone, and we need to protect the values of equity in the face of such unthinking and blind commitment to the free-market model. It raises the question of why we are wasting time on this bill. It is probably because these old ideas have a deep emotional appeal to a narrow group of ideologues who believe that we are only individuals, rather than individuals within communities and individuals enriched by our strong social and cooperative instincts. This approach does not include an understanding of collective equity or empathy. The logic of the Crown negotiating consistent pay rates for all teachers appears somewhat sophisticated to the designers of this bill. Why is it difficult to grasp that each school board of trustees would be placed in a highly invidious position if it were obliged to set the pay rates for the teachers at its school?
One questions the genesis of this bill. A number of my colleagues stay in close touch with boards of trustees and teaching staff, and with parents and students at schools. Nowhere are we hearing a call for a measure of this sort to be undertaken. Boards of trustees have their hands full dealing with complex finances, not to mention being caught in the battle between the Minister of Education, the principals, and the teachers over national standards. The boards are not looking for the burden of setting pay rates, which would exacerbate the difficulties they already have in trying to divide up the limited funds to maintain buildings and evaluating that need against the need to fund special-needs support, or in balancing the purchase of classroom equipment with providing support staff in the classes. The very last thing the boards of trustees, which are made up of parents and volunteers, want or need is the additional stress of endeavouring to add teachers’ wages into the competition for tight resources. That would be a very poor recipe for good local school or community relationships.
The world is made, and not least of all in education, and maintained through respectful relationships—our sense of what is fair. It is maintained not by individuals scrapping against each other but through structures that create at least some kind of balance and equity. Schools exist as communities within the education system, and teachers and principals move between schools. It is not every school alone; it is a network of communities trying to cooperate, despite the best efforts of the free-market model. They do not particularly want or need to waste energy in justifying a consistent and collegial approach, so the Greens will simply refer to this bill as being retrogressive in the extreme.
Twenty years ago the Lange Labour Government introduced Tomorrow’s Schools. The marketing of Tomorrow’s Schools was based around parental involvement and control of schools. Having 7 or 8 years’ personal experience on a board of trustees, which spanned the time of the transition from Tomorrow’s Schools, I know that some schools did very well out of the increased flexibility. The Greens also know that the least well off, most vulnerable, and poorest communities struggled because they did not have lawyers, they did not have accountants, they did not have a stable school community, and therefore this new model did not meet their needs in the way that it ought to have done.
The passing of this bill will take us a considerable step away from progressive community engagement at schools. It will be a step towards complete bedlam and mayhem, and the Greens will have no part in it. Kia ora.
I was not intending to take a call on this bill, but I cannot resist after hearing that typically hysterical contribution, full of code words, from Mr Clendon. He began by calling our colleague Sir Roger Douglas, and ACT Party members by definition, narrow ideologues. That must also apply to the Māori Party; their members are not normally described as narrow ideologues by the Greens, but with the particular alignment of the planets today that seems to be it. We are very happy to be aligned with the Māori Party on this bill, and that is for one very simple reason: both the ACT Party and the Māori Party are interested in the best results for our kids, and the ability to send our kids to the schools that suit them best. It may be for somewhat different reasons, but we have the same end.
I am reminded of the complete lack of understanding of the supporters of that sorry lot over there. During the election campaign I attempted to explain the ACT Party’s education policy, but perhaps as a learner candidate I did not do too good a job. I tried to say that at my old office, which is situated on what used to be farmland but is now office space, there are I think four private schools, which have sprung up in the last 10 years. They have sprung up because there is a market there—because there are wealthy Asians who can send their kids to those schools. The minute I said that, the typical supporters of the Labour Party howled about wealthy Asians, saying: “We don’t want to be at schools like that.” They just did not get it. We were trying to say that everyone should be empowered to send their kids to schools where they think their education will be best served—Māori parents, ACT parents, and Green parents.
That is what this bill is all about. It is attempting to allow people to have the choice to go to schools where the education will be best for their kids. I am one of those members in the House—and I do not know how many other members there are who have young children at school—
—OK, there is another one—who is as happy as Larry with the performance of the local school.
In fact, my son started school just today. It would not make the slightest bit of difference whether or not we had a voucher system because, with his sister, he would be going to, and would stay at, Kaukapakapa School, because it is a great school. My daughter is top of her class in English, and at that school they are allowed to put up which students are doing better than others because they do not believe in everyone being the same. It works well, but if it were not working well, she would be down the road at Waitoki School. That is why we are supporting this bill.
It is no surprise that the Māori Party is supporting the bill. We are behind those members, and we agree with them. Even half of the Labour members do; I notice members opposite have gone very quiet. Mr Mallard had a very interesting and useful conversation with Sir Roger, but unfortunately he could not break through to “Planet Green” over there, so sadly the bill will go down. However, we are very happy to stand with our colleagues on this side of the House, and it will be very interesting to see when we are next described as narrow-minded ideologues who cannot see anything. Thank you very much.
If I thought the Education (Board of Trustee Freedom) Amendment Bill would raise achievement, then I would support it, but it will not, so I cannot. The bill amends the Education Act 1989. It gives wealthy boards of trustees control over the employment of teachers. It gives boards of trustees in Remuera, Howick, Epsom, and the other leafy suburbs flexibility and choice. It also gives them licence to pillage and plunder the best teachers for their own schools, while less fortunate schools struggle to recruit and retain excellent teachers, which will get a whole lot more difficult.
In this House we must be careful that when we advocate for the rights, choices, and freedoms for some, we do not restrict the rights, choices, and freedoms of others as a result. We have to ensure that advocating for the rights, choices, and freedoms of some is not really an excuse to concentrate the skill, talent, and expertise in just those schools that can afford to pay for it. We have to be careful that the concentration of that skill, talent, and expertise does not simply exacerbate the inequalities in our system and country, and entrench burdened and despondent communities across New Zealand.
As it is, many low-decile schools have to run deficit budgets to survive and provide for their students. I ask Sir Roger Douglas how he expects those schools to have the resources to compete with wealthy schools for the services of excellent teachers. The vision from the ACT Party should be for every child in every class in every school to have an excellent teacher, because excellent teachers raise achievement.
Bulk funding will not raise achievement. The vision should not be for excellent teachers simply to be concentrated in schools that are concentrated in wealthy communities. When every child in every class in every school has an excellent teacher in front of them, the Government’s responsibility is then to provide the conditions where those excellent teachers can weave their magic. Bulk funding is not a condition that will enable excellent teachers to weave their magic.
People who sing the praises of bulk funding in the 1990s always forget to mention the fact that those schools that opted into bulk funding received a hefty and attractive bonus for joining up, and, therefore, their allegiance to the scheme was guaranteed by a bribe. They received substantially more funding than was necessary to pay all their staff at the top of the scale. This bill is evidence that parties on the other side of the House do not have a plan for education or raising achievement.
Reporting achievement does not lift achievement; good teachers raise achievement. The parties opposite do not have a plan to reduce inequality and inequity in communities, and they do not care that their ideological beliefs for education mean that schools that struggle because of the geographic isolation or socio-economic status of their communities will struggle to compete with more fortunate schools for the services of the best teachers in New Zealand.
In the far north we struggled at times to get any applicants for some teaching positions. In order to attract the best teachers under bulk funding, we would have had to divert tens of thousands of dollars away from the curriculum, professional development, and resources for the students, in order to pay bonuses for teachers’ salaries.
In Kaitāia the allowance for hard-to-staff schools is simply not enough to attract excellent teachers. At Kaitāia Intermediate School we would have needed tens of thousands of dollars in bonuses to attract teachers to move them away from the big centres. In fact, I added it up and it would have come to over $200,000, which is more than two-thirds of our operational grant. When I hear of some wealthy schools being able to raise $100,000 in 1 day at a school gala, I can understand why this bill would be attractive to them. They can afford to pay those bonuses. For those of us in struggling schools, raising $2,000, $3,000, or $4,000 in a fund-raiser would pay for little more than one-third or one-quarter of the bonus we would need to attract an excellent teacher.
This bill will harm educational outcomes. It will reinforce educational and therefore social disparity. It will mean that struggling schools in struggling communities will be at a disadvantage compared with wealthy schools in wealthy communities. It will make it harder for every child in every class in every school to have an excellent teacher in front of them.
I agree with the previous speaker, Kelvin Davis, about some of the things he said. I think he is a smart man and a very good person. He understands education, and he has been a very good teacher. But I also think the Education (Board of Trustee Freedom) Amendment Bill represents an idea whose time has not yet come.
I will talk about a few things, and one thing in particular. It was my son’s parent-teacher interview at school today, and my partner managed to go along to see my son’s new teacher, who is a first-year teacher just out of college. Lo and behold, my son is doing quite well. He is exceeding the standards, and I think that is great. He is a 7-year-old who is performing at the level of an 8 or 9-year-old, but given his wonderful mother, that does not surprise me.
One of the issues is that we are dealing with many other things in terms of the education sector. I generally like voting for bills with the word “freedom” in the title. I believe freedom should reign. But this bill has some issues, which have been pointed out by prior speakers.
I will talk a bit about Colorado. Louise Upston and I, and a number of Labour members, were in Colorado about 3 weeks ago, and we met with a senator there. She was introducing a bill to put in place a performance-based pay system that is very unpopular in that state. She pointed out some of the extreme problems that exist with implementing that policy in Colorado. If this policy from Sir Roger Douglas was ever to be adopted, there is a lot we could learn from what those people are doing in America. I encourage Sir Roger Douglas to look at what is going on in Colorado and to learn about that.
With regards to this bill, I agree with Kelvin Davis. I grew up in an environment where I went to a low-decile school, and I agree that there would be some potential issues in low-decile areas with this bill as it is currently drafted. I think the intent of Sir Roger Douglas is admirable. He means well with this bill, but the reality is that there will be a lot of problems in some areas. We are not yet ready to take into account some of the measures that Sir Roger Douglas wants to adopt. That is not to say that I do not agree with some of the concepts behind what this bill could do. As I said, there is a lot of work to be done down the track. I point out the value of learning from international experience, particularly what Colorado is doing.
I will explain what is being done in Colorado. Effectively, the legislation will cut the bottom 5 percent of teachers and give their funding to the top 5 percent. The top 5 percent of teachers will be paid double the salary of an average-performing teacher. I am not saying that is the right way to go, but that is what one state in America is doing. It is putting a trial in place to see how that system operates, and it will be very interesting to see whether it works.
We should learn from examples of what works and does not work in terms of what Sir Roger Douglas is trying to achieve. I do not want New Zealand to be a test case for a policy like this bill, because there are some things that we are looking at. [Interruption] I will tell that member opposite about national standards. The school that my son goes to, and my daughter will start at in about a month’s time, performs very well.
The students are doing very well, and the parents love the reports they are getting. Boys’ performance is one of the problems in New Zealand education, because they are underperforming relative to girls. Boys at the lower level are not performing.
I agree with Kelvin Davis that national standards in themselves will not lift achievement, but they will identify those students who are not doing well and need some help. That is a very positive thing. In some cases we know who those students are; in other cases we do not. The implementation of national standards will allow us to identify not only the students who are doing well but also the teachers who are doing well. The systems currently in place reward teachers who are not doing well, which is not necessarily the best way in the long run. I admire Sir Roger Douglas’ attempt to put in place a system that he thinks will deal with that problem. I do not think the bill will do what he wants it to do; there may be better ways to do that. There are other things that we are looking at in the education sector. The time will come when a policy like this will be in place. We can learn from overseas experience how to reward good teachers. We can learn from the experience of Colorado schools and other places around the world, but this bill as it is drafted will not achieve what Sir Roger Douglas wants. It will not achieve what the Government wants, either. That is a reason why National will vote against it.
In time we will realise that schools not having the ability to choose the good or bad teachers in this current environment will put too many restrictions on a bill like this. I agree with Kelvin Davis. One of the issues is that some schools do not have the ability to choose good teachers over bad teachers. Until we get those things right, until we have the right people becoming teachers, this bill will not be effective.
I start by thanking the Māori Party for its support in relation to this bill. It is appreciated. The fact is that centralised management and funding of schools have put the Government in a wholly conflicted position, not only as provider but also as purchaser and regulator. It has resulted, whether or not we like it, in schools with poor teacher motivation, bored children, and falling standards while education spending has increased dramatically. I think everybody in this House agrees that good teachers are the most important factor in whether children benefit from school. Teachers determine whether children get quality education; much more than the curriculum, the class size, funding, computers, or the Internet. These are all secondary to having quality teachers.
One of the things that I learnt when I was doing the work as part of the working party on school choice was that it did not matter whether children went to a decile 1 school or a decile 10 school; the principals told us that more than anything else their desire was to train their own teachers. They wanted to train their own teachers because they felt that the quality of teachers who were coming out of the training school was not high enough, and they wanted to have pay flexibility so they could reward and retain the quality teachers.
There is evidence, whether or not we like it, of system failure in the education system. We have a system that is failing to teach the basics to children. We have a system that allows 20 percent of school-leavers to be functionally illiterate. We have a system that allows around 25 percent of school-leavers to be functionally innumerate. In South Auckland, this year, a decile 5 or 6 secondary school tested the maths of the 13-year-olds who were coming in. One of the sums was “subtract 27 from 36”, and 23 percent of them—one child in four—got it wrong.
If we claim that we have an education system that will set this country up for the future, we are very wrong. It also fails the disadvantaged children. We have a school system that discriminates against the least well-off, and particularly in the big cities. That does not need to be the case.
There is a well-documented case of a school in Australia, where 87 percent of the parents of the children attending the school were on a benefit. Those children were 20 percent behind the performance of the average Australian child. It was so bad that the Department of Education told the principal, John Fleming, to go and fix it. He could appoint whoever he wanted, and what have you. Seven years later that school had an average recording of 20 percent above the average in Australia. So do not tell me these kids cannot learn. They can learn if we give them the right environment. They can learn if we give them the right motivation. That principal of the school, where 87 percent of parents of the children attending were on a benefit, turned round the children’s performance from being 20 percent below the average to being 20 percent above. It can be done.
It is an absolute disgrace that we allow kids not to learn. I think the Māori Party and the leader of the Māori Party know that with some freedom, concentration, and motivation they can do it. I have seen it in Māori schools in New Zealand. A school out of Gisborne is doing a fantastic job, with the right teachers and motivation. But we want to have one system, and we will never have one system that fits all.
A party vote was called for on the question,
That the Education (Board of Trustee Freedom) Amendment Bill be now read a first time.
Motion not agreed to.