The changes teachers DO want


Oh you teachers, you just want everything to stay the same – what’s wrong with choice?  Bloody teachers.  Typical that you don’t want testing – trying to hide that you’re all useless. What about our poor kids?  Gnash gnash rant rant...”

That’s what I hear, in various forms, over and over again in the debate about charter schools, and it’s an ill-informed, simplistic and sometimes downright outrageous accusation against the profession.  The huge majority of teachers care deeply for the education and well-being of their students – indeed all students.

Also, teachers are busy people.  They can’t be bothered arguing about things that don’t matter, and they certainly haven’t the time or energy to fight good policy.  So when they do stand up and start asking questions, there’s a good reason for it.

Let me just be clear about how most teachers feel:

We do not fear change – we embrace it.

TDB Recommends

We do not object to choice – we love it.

We do not fear professional development – we enjoy learning.

And we do not oppose testing – we test regularly and value the role that testing plays.

What teachers do object to, though, is change that will not benefit students and is ill-thought-out.

Let’s look at some of the claims.

Teachers Think That Testing Is the Work of the Devil

Nothing standard about National StandardsNope, not even close. Testing can be fabulous.  We can learn a lot about where our students are from tests, and we analyse the results alongside all that we know of the student to plan where the student needs to go next.  National Standards, however, are not so hot.   Don’t confuse the two.

National Standards benchmarks are ropey (and John Key used that word about the standards first, not teachers).

The data is out of date before parents see it.  The standards don’t tell parents or anyone about how children are progressing.  They do no more than previous methods of informing parents did, and are no more reliable.

What would be of more benefit than National Standards?

  • More time and resources to do classroom testing and plan from it so it is immediate and current and is used for each child to move forward right now.  Timely feedback is very important.
  • More training on testing methods so all teachers understand what good testing and quality analysis look like.

Testing needs to be effective and useful, and help children progress, otherwise it’s pointless to anyone other than politicians.

Teachers Are Useless and Don’t Want To Improve

If you believe this, you don’t know many teachers.   Some are brilliant, some are great, some are good, and a few could do with improving.  Like any other profession, in fact.

Rather than beating up on an entire profession, would it not be better to add to the opportunities for professional development, fund more Masters courses, and support more mentoring programmes like ACET?

It would also help to make sure that all teacher training courses are of a very high standard and are teaching trainees about different methods of pedagogy, know in detail about how children learn and the stages they generally pass through, and know in detail about dyslexia, ADD, autism, Asperger’s, behavioural problems, TESOL, and dealing with distressed children.

Teachers are very keen to learn more and do ever better.  It’d be a good plan to support them fully in that.

Teachers Don’t Want Choice – Same Schools For Everyone

Actually, no.  We all know there is room for choice and that it’s a good thing.  We know that no one system fits all.   Which is why, in New Zealand, we already have Special Character schools, Steiner Schools, home schooling, private schools, bilingual schools, correspondence school, Te Kura Kaupapa Maori, State integrated schools, special schools, Health Units, teen parent units, single sex schools, day schools, and boarding schools. [1]

The concerns about charter schools are not about choice but about the fact that worldwide they have been shown to cause more problems than they solve, increase segregation, lead to many fraud and mismanagement cases, and rarely improve students’ educations.

What charter schools have proven to be excellent at is moving money out of the state sector and into private hands, and therein lies the the reason they are promoted.

None of that is to say the people running New Zealand charter schools are not doing the best they can.  The issue is not with individual schools, it is with the charter school system, which, once allowed, brings more problems than it solves.  It’s the kind of situation we really don’t need in our education system.

…And They Don’t Even Want Experts, Just Because They Don’t Have a Teaching Qualification!

Yes, we do.  We already have them!  We already allow for experts or teachers without formal teaching qualifications to work in our schools under the Limited Authority to Teach (LAT).  That system has been in place for years, allowing many people without teaching qualifications to successfully work in schools.

So no, it’s not the case that we don’t want anyone at all without a teaching degree.  It’s more that we don’t want people with no teaching degree and no experience and no expertise, which is what can happen.  Once the changes are put into law in the Education Act, there will be no guarantee that the untrained staff will be experts in anything.

You have to ask yourself why that would be a good move?

For The Love Of All Things Holy, Please Don’t Let Things Change

… said no teacher ever.

There are lots of things teachers would love to change.  Off the top of my head:

  • What about employing more admin staff and assistants so that teachers can spend more time on the educational stuff and less time printing, putting displays up, putting books back, and so on?
  • A far better support system for special needs students would be a great change that would help all students.
  • What about more teacher aides, and a good system for them to get qualifications and training?
  • We would love to change that fact that so many children come to school hungry.
  • We would love there to be an honest recognition that socioeconomic factors impact students in many serious ways, and then for there to be support for children in those situations.
  • We would love to have more art, music, te reo and sport specialists in school teaching kids or teaching us to teach kids.
  • We would love it if change to education policy was based on sound research rather than ideology.
  • We would like to have school nurses visiting regularly.
  • We would love to have sound gifted and talented programmes in all schools.
  • We would want to change and reverse the decline in our libraries and loss of librarians.
  • We would love it if there were no school donations.

Yes, there’s plenty we’d be more than happy to change.  And not just for change’s sake.

The only way to progress our system is for all of us – teachers, whanau, the whole community – to research, query and learn, and for us to share ideas and listen to each other.

All the data in the world is meaningless if there’s not enough training and support for the people trying to make a difference. So read up, ask questions, look into what is already available in New Zealand, find out what is working elsewhere, talk to kids, ask questions of teachers and politicians, and help identify changes that really will help progress our children further and faster.

Isn’t that what we all want?


References and further reading:








    • “What charter schools have proven to be excellent at is moving money out of the state sector and into private hands, and therein lies the the reason they are promoted.”

      And that’s it in a nutshell!

  1. So on the matter of NS is the following from Stuff correct or not? If so there appears to be division in the teaching ranks.

    Secondary Principals’ Association president Tom Parsons said parents had been asking for detailed information about their child’s learning for a long time.

    “Primary schools will get there with national standards but they’re doing it begrudgingly.

    “There’s a political agenda here and it’s doing the youth of New Zealand a disservice. They need to get real.”

    • Ben, the problem is, secondary schools operate entirely differently to primary (and intermediate) schools, and this is reflected in both the stance of Tom Parsons to National Standards and the PPTA to the IES scheme. Secondary schools always have been judged on exam passes. This is not the case for primary schools, and with good reason. It’s a shame that secondary schools leaders don’t seem to have a greater understanding of teaching and learning at primary level. All too often, they speak from what they perceive is a position of superiority about something they lack a good understanding of, and that does nothing to bring the two sectors together to work collaboratively.

  2. This more than any other issue should be the end of the National government. People have short memories, NZ schools were not broken. How dare Parata take reading achievement backwards. Come on people, this is the dumbing down of future generations.

  3. As an ex-teacher, of sorts, I Love your post.

    John Key is an ex-money trader (of sorts). I don’t suppose he loves your post.

  4. Is there a school for children with Downes Syndrome, or did the Education Board cut the funding?

  5. We don’t really need teachers in the same way we used to need teachers in a classroom.

    I reckon all maths and english, and commerce, and social studies, and all the really boring and mundane subjects can be done online.

    We should save the ‘face time’ we have with teachers for the fun subjects like music, arts, carpentry, sports, community gardening, social and lifeskills etc…

    Children nowadays do not need maths class because there’s online maths tuition – and its free. Spell checks, and grammar checks are all online too.

    The shakeup really needs to ‘come’ to the minds of our entire education system, from the Ministry to the teachers. Then we will have a fantastic education system!

    I realise many teachers won’t be able to comprehend this, as their minds have been institutionalised on their way to becoming teachers.

    This is the year 2014 – that makes it 14 years beyond the millennium. Seriously, it’s time to wake up now.

    Opinion and belief.

    • Online tutorials have a place, and we do indeed need to consider different ways of doing things. However, believing that online tutorials can replace teachers entirely shows a lack of understanding of both teaching and learning. I am currently working as a volunteer with students who find maths difficult, and I can assure you that not all children could learn maths by sitting in front of a tutorial day in, day out. A tutorial cannot see what the student does and doesn’t get, can’t adjust the teaching to teach things in another way, cannot use materials to help build an understanding of a concept, and so on. Students are not robots to be programmed – they learn in many different ways.

      • @Dianne Khan:
        “Students are not robots to be programmed – they learn in many different ways.”

        These children who have difficulty learning maths, will always have difficulty learning maths. Who said they have to learn maths and why?

        Their time would be better served learning something they are really good at, and so would the time of the teacher.

        That mentality in your post above there Dianne, is what needs to change. It needs to keep up with the times, and think for itself, rather than for the box your teaching degree gave you – you know – programmed like the robot.


        • And you base all of that on what, exactly? Your experience of teaching is what? Your experience of diverse students is what? To say that someone who finds maths difficult will never learn it is a disgrace – you should be ashamed. I’ve had plenty of students who find maths tricky rise to that challenge and do well. It my job to help them find a way that works for them, and theirs to keep trying. But to suggest they give in and I give up on them is thoroughly shameful.

          • @Dianne: You seriously misquote me.

            I understand that teachers have been trained within the box of institutionalisation – the NZ education ‘system’. And I understand that it is very difficult for a mathematician to think with the freedom that dwells in the other side of their brain.

            The current teaching regime places so much pressure on our children to ‘perform within the measured guidelines’ of our antiquated bureaucracy driven education system, that it at all times fails any student who is not interested in the subject matter being taught.

            Your response clearly affirms that what I’m saying is correct.

            To answer your question above without misquoting you: My experience in teaching is from outside of the box that your mind was brainwashed into, when you were institutionalised by the NZ education system.

            Give your mind an opportunity to expand itself by doing something that uses the other side of your brain; so that you (and all teachers) can help to grow our children into what they are best at, and what they love doing – rather than thinking it’s ok to reign in their brains so they fit into the tiny wee brainbox that you and the NZ education system live in.

            Opinion and belief.

              • God bless you too Dianne – with His very best.
                I tried to break the barrier – open the box – but alas!


                  • @DWNATS:

                    Mmm. I did go to school.
                    My Children all went to school.
                    My grandchildren all go to school.

                    Thats an ‘awful’ lot of experience in the education system of institutionalising NZers.

                    I am so sorry that you are in the box – but it is never too late to break free.


    • I used to think that education would move more to online teaching. In fact, I used to hassle my former primary school principal brother-in-law on that very point.

      Then I started a degree course at Massey, extramural, mainly delivered online these days (Mature student, second academic qualification, started 1996 – I know, life happens!).

      As I approach the finish line I now have the opportunity to enrol in some papers internally at Albany and I can tell you it is a huge boost to be able to eyeball a lecturer and test one’s own thinking.

      Our nearly six year old daughter spends enough time in front of a screen, thank you, and we are so happy to see her enjoying school so much.

      Then we have to digest National’s standards. What people need to understand about NS is that children learn at different periods in their lives and NS are a square peg looking for a round hole.

      And actually, Mistery, we already have a fantastic education system. What we don’t have is a fantastic society in which all kids, whatever their background, have the opportunity to fulfill their potential.

    • You’ve seriously got to be kidding?!?!

      English, commerce and social studies boring???

      Not if you have a passionate teacher!

      Social studies, the study of people, places, society, intensely interesting!

      My son is currently learning about electoral systems and democracy. I spoke recently to his social studies teacher who is almost elderly. She insists that this topic is boring. If that’s what she thinks, then that’s exactly how it will be. But it does NOT mean that is how it must be.

      Its actually the most interactive topic possible in that field. You can have kids doing in the first lesson, completely engaged and interested. It just needs passion (and thoughtful planning).

      The problem is not the subject. The problem is passion. Only people with passion should be in front of classes of teenagers. End of.

      But how would that go down with the union and principals? Not well methinks.

  6. The first thing David Cunliffe said in his speech yesterday with regard to education. Under Labour, National Standards …. Gone!

  7. The biggest change I see in National Standards is that now we get school reports that a basically a load of meaningless rubbish. This “achieved”, “not achieved” etc. tells you very little about how these standards were judged or what the class median was, information that gives some context to the results. Call me old-fashioned but I prefer the old marks out of 100 and/or grades. That is what the kids will get when they go to University, not this “achieved” rubbish.

Comments are closed.