Kia ora koutou.
I was a little bit surprised by the education policy announcements over the weekend. I was definitely expecting something a little gruntier and more cohesive. It all seemed just a little bit casual to me. There are so many needs in education and the raft of policies did not seem to address the greatest issues adequately. Perhaps the most important issue that needs to be addressed or considered is teacher workload. How much longer can education rely on the goodwill and sacrifice of its employees? The “back end” of teaching (the planning, preparation, administration etc.) is much bigger than it was and certainly much bigger than the “front end” (time spent teaching) and that certainly hasn't reduced. The issue of an aging teacher workforce, and millennials with some quite different expectations of work is a very real one. What is required of teachers currently will be untenable in the future. Potentially, the teacher shortage will just get worse.
Secondly, I am in complete agreement that we, in the sector, should be accountable for the progress and achievement of all our students. Measuring progress is not a new idea. Many of us are already doing this and have developed good systems for doing it. When our older students read the National Standards Plus policy yesterday as a part of their reading programme, they kept saying, “That’s ALF!” “That’s ALF.” At the end, one student asked, “Will they make us change? We should write and tell them that we want ALF!” However, the second issue is that the government must not lose sight of the fact that the most important purpose for measuring progress is not for accountability purposes but to ensure teachers have the data to enable them to provide the learning programmes that meet the needs of every single student – as ALF has the potential to do. This must be the priority. Education does need to change, but the view that accountability measures alone will create the needed change in education seems shortsighted and all the evidence suggests it might fail as a strategy.
I feel that what is needed in education is a rich response to the challenges of the future - a reimagining of schools - not a superficial response such as simply including more languages, though this is important. This education policy seems surprisingly lacking in depth of thought, given the extensive global discussion of future-focused learning that has been going on for quite some time now. One thing for sure is that we are in educationally interesting times!