Monday, June 15, 2009

Learning Matters

Before the last election I expressed some concerns about National Party education policy. My concerns were focused on the policy in relation to national testing of primary and intermediate students. My observations on my sabbatical last year convinced me this was a flawed policy which had not contributed to increased achievement any where that it had been tried.

My concerns right now are quite different and announcements since the recent budget have made me feel we are in a state of siege from this government. Three different pieces of correspondence that I have received over the last 2 weeks threaten schools in general and make it particularly difficult for Opotiki College.

The first concerns the Extending High Standards Across Schools contract we have with the Ministry of Education. This is a contract we have to support 9 of our contributing primary schools to adopt restorative practices so that students feel less alienated from schooling and are able to engage more effectively with their learning. We are in our second year of a four year contract and we have recently been able to gain some traction.

In the first year we trained all principals, senior teachers and some BOT members. This year we extended our training to more teaching staff and have begun to form implementation teams within all schools.

I have just been informed that the contract is going to be terminated at the end of this year and all funding withdrawn. This puts seriously at risk the progress that we have made in our community of schools.

The next piece of correspondence informed us that Adult and Community Education is going to be slashed by 80%. Schools will only be able to offer community classes in literacy and numeracy. Gone are all the skills and interest based courses that help build our community and provide life-long learning opportunities for anyone from our community regardless of their educational background.

This is going to have a huge impact on our community.

To make matters worse our local Council proposed to abandon their 30 year contribution of $7500 to provide reception and administrative support for our Community Activities Office. After making a submission it appears that they will continue to provide support if the governement continues to provide Adult and Community Education funding.

So our local Council is doubling the impact by saying they will qwithdraw support if government provided support is withdrawn. Surely this is the time when the community needs to rally and look for ways to increase rather than reduce support!

The third, and most probably not the last piece of correspondence, informs us that staffing will be reduced by 1.5% at the end of 2010. This will mean one less teacher at Opotiki College. This may not seem much but at the moment our BOT is funding 2 extra teachers to support our curriculum. This is a high cost and cannot be sustained. The BOT will certainly not be able to support a further position.

While making these cuts the government has said it will provide $35 million for the private school sector!

The public education sector is under attack from this government and we are starting to reel. Education and learning is the key to our contry's and the Opotiki community's future: learning matters.

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