IES vote may weaken defense of public education



PPTA announced today that secondary teachers have voted to include the IES (Investing in Education Success) as a variation to their collective employment agreement with the government.

At one level it’s an understandable decision by PPTA members because through engaging in a consultation process the union succeeded in negotiating changes which turn the funding from an unworkable performance pay system proposed by the government to one which focuses on specific roles to encourage, develop and fund collaboration between schools.

Funding for collaboration between schools is a welcome turnaround from the competitive model set up by Labour in 1989 under Tomorrow’s Schools where schools were told they needed to compete for students in an education marketplace. The result was as disastrous as it was predictable with schools in high-income areas growing rapidly at the expense of schools in low-income areas. Student achievement did not improve but educational disparity increased alongside social and ethnic segregation which predominates in schools today.

So a National government putting in a significant chunk of money to fund collaboration is welcome and could have a very positive impact on schools through a whole community approach to schooling rather than the fractured, incoherent model which Tomorrow’s Schools has delivered. If it were just secondary schools involved there would be much less of a problem but the proposed clusters of schools in which collaboration will take place would involve primary, intermediate and secondary schools with the primary teacher’s union the NZEI strongly opposed to the proposal.

Secondary school teachers will find themselves “collaborating” with the more conservative of their primary colleagues including a disproportionate number from the small minority of teachers who are hostile to unions. And because of primary teacher opposition to IES those primary teachers involved will be forced onto individual employment contracts to take part.

These will be the least “collaboratively-minded” of primary teachers.

So the “collaboration” will take place with only a minority of teachers involved – each cluster will have many more primary teachers than secondary – and will therefore be largely ineffective in meeting the important goals set for the $359 million the government has committed.

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NZEI members have their own valid reasons for concern about government policy particularly after their experience with the deeply destructive national standards having been forced on schools and teachers. The likely result of the PPTA member vote will be to divide primary and secondary teachers further in an environment where the government, with
its destructive agenda for public education, will be the only winner.

For this reason its disappointing PPTA brought this proposal forward rather than leave it on ice till the issues with NZEI and this policy had been resolved.
(John Minto is a member of PPTA)


  1. Considering how much primary teachers and principals talk about the value of collaboration and sharing ideas and expertise, it’s perhaps understandable that some people are wondering why we are so strongly against the government’s “collaborative” IES model.
    The difference is in what “collaboration” means at a grassroots level, compared to a very corporate top-down model that teachers fear will end up being restrictive and prescriptive.
    Primary teachers and principals all over the country already work in collaborative clusters within schools and between schools. They share knowledge, resources and innovations – after all, a love of sharing and gaining knowledge is what inspired us to become teachers in the first place.
    What we don’t need is executive principals and expert teachers (yes, we know they’ve had a name change, but they don’t exactly roll off the tongue) paid huge bonuses to run these Communities of Schools and be out of their schools and classrooms two days every week.
    Funding for collaboration is a great idea, but genuine collaboration needs to be driven from the ground up. Not just new roles but direct resourcing is needed if any model is to meet the goals of greater collaboration and improving student success.
    For example, the Learning and Change Networks programme receives $7m, compared with the IES’s $359 million. Primary teachers and principals would rather see some of that huge sum go directly towards services and resources for students, whether that be better teacher-student ratios or more teacher aides or special education support.
    If you want to know what real collaboration already looks like, see this new video about a cluster of Auckland schools:

  2. A competitive, market driven approach has, as John Minto suggests, been a serious problem in secondary education for a number of years. It has resulted in ever-growing ‘star’ schools while some areas have been stripped of their higher achieving students and left desperately under-resourced. The IES, with its emphasis on collaboration, may ameliorate some of this, though it should be noted that the policy seeks to create ‘communities of schools’ that are across-sectors rather than build groupings of secondary schools. Besides, the international evidence, in Hong Kong, Singapore and Britain, from whence the policy appears to have been borrowed doesn’t give much cause for hope.
    Of course there is some competition in the primary sector, but nowhere near the same degree as in the secondary area, and as Judith Nowatarski points out in her comment, collaboration exists already throughout much of the country, sometimes with a local secondary school involved.
    NZEI membership spent months considering the policy and finally rejected it. There are a number of reasons for their opposing IES. Here are just a few:
    1- The international evidence is that where the model has been introduced it has been a mechanism for greater control by Government. This has been particularly true in Britain where ‘federations’ have been a vehicle to drive further unwanted reform.
    2- There is a concern that in these Ministry-approved ‘communities of schools’, larger schools will dominate. Ask around, and you’ll find that there’s a perception in both secondary and primary, that it will be secondary principals and teachers who will be appointed to the majority of the leadership roles. Primary people worry that these new leaders will bring with them the culture of their large operations that will not sit well with the more ‘child-centred’ approach of primary education.
    3- There is a fear that the ‘communities of schools’ will be focused on ‘data,’ which has the potential to narrow the rich curriculum our children enjoy. This data-focus was certainly in the thinking of Minister Parata in the early days of IES and though her message has softened, primary teachers are deeply suspicious that once the mechanism is in place she will return to type. (Note that post-election Minister has returned to vague discussion of school funding based on performance.)
    4- NZEI members do not believe that the greater part of this largest new investment in education in some time, should go into the pockets of a relatively small number of individuals. They know the money would have a much greater effect if it was put into smaller class sizes, special needs education, or any number of other ‘on the ground’ initiatives.
    5- The policy is seen as a trojan horse for performance pay. Primary sector teachers know that the public doesn’t get their opposition to performance pay, but they also know that its introduction would destroy primary education in the same way it is wrecking schooling in the USA.
    6- NZEI members see that, as in Britain, the creation of Ministry-approved ‘communities’ will increase the contracting out of services (including professional development) as well as drive a more business approach that will not benefit children. (The Minister has already suggested school communities should look at projects involving shared libraries, halls and pools and hinted at ppps as a vehicle for this.)
    7- Primary school teachers and parents know that the absence of principals and teachers from their schools for around .4 of the time will be hugely disruptive for younger children.
    That’s a start …
    In answer to Don, teachers in the primary sector outnumber secondary teachers by a considerable number. 90% of them voted no-confidence in IES.

    • Well said Jono! There is no doubt that this is a trojan horse for all sorts of ministry initiatives – performance pay included. The June report of the working party (used in PUM presentations) states that the IES is most closely aligned to the reform of teacher’s council (and hence EDUCANZ – with its performance pay acolyte CEO) and to the Quality Teacher Agenda (including PACT – the progress and consistency tool). This is the start of excessive data collection, evaluation, and consequent appraisal and . . .

  3. As a secondary teacher it would have been nice to have the chance to vote on accepting the actual IES proposal, but we didn’t. We only got to vote on whether to include it in the collective contract. The executive basically said that IES would go ahead whether we liked it or not. The PUM I attended on the matter was the most heated I have ever been to, and I suspect that if the vote was on whether to accept IES or not, it would have been rejected, but that is not the case.

  4. Can someone please organise a march against the undermining of our Public Education system? While we have the chance to voice? It would be an opportunistic moment to gather all those with knowledge in this field to talk to the masses. Maybe a couple of weeks before the start of the school year next year? Please.

  5. It’s good to see that John recognises the professional responsibility teachers have to address the negative impact of the competitive Tomorrow’s Schools model on New Zealand schools, teachers and students. In other respects, however, I don’t think he has the complete picture.

    There is no such thing as putting an employer offer “on ice”. This is called “surface bargaining” and is a breach of the good faith provisions. Moreover, PPTA Executive saw no need to engage in such duplicity because it was keen to complete the variation in 2014 prior to commencing substantive bargaining next year. If there had been no successful variation, the ministry would simply have offered the original IES proposal as the employer-offer in negotiations. Members have been very clear that they don’t want this; they want the 2015 collective agreement bargaining to be about their pay and conditions not leftover employer business.

    I’m not sure that the characterising of those who support IES as conservative and/or non-union members is accurate either. It looks more like a generational shift. It is younger teachers who find their careers are currently blocked who are showing most interest in the new options. Many of the teachers who oppose IES themselves hold permanent positions, with permanent units along with middle and senior leadership allowances and (as is their right) do not intend to leave these jobs for a few years. It is not acceptable, in union terms, to tell young teachers that they should put their career hopes on ice or that they should take up positions without the protections of the collective.

    Equally unacceptable is the proposal being advanced by NZEI that communities of schools should be bulk funded (“direct resourcing”) and operate outside the collective agreement. PPTA did not spend 10 years fighting bulk funding in the 1990s only to have it return but this time apparently advocated by a union.

    Lastly, everyone supports those schools that are building collaboration brick-by-brick in the Learning and Change Networks (and those that have been doing the same in the VLN, the Virtual Learning Networks) why then would anyone oppose their receiving resources to assist them in their collaborative endeavours?

  6. Angela,
    NZEI has, throughout the ten month discussion of the IES, resolutely refrained from criticising its sister union the PPTA. It has disagreed with PPTA’s approach but has consistently defended its right to pursue it. In my own comments above you will note that while attacking the Government’s policy I did not so much as mention the PPTA.
    So it is with great disappointment that I read you above, not only attacking your sister union, but completely mis-presenting its views. Please Angela Roberts, take a deep breath, consider your role as a trade unionist and a leader of a profession that works in the interests of all children from 0 to 19.
    I’m sure you don’t need reminding of the dangers education faces everywhere. In such a climate, publicly attacking ones friends serves no good purpose. Indeed it can only lead to ill.

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