Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Dr Liz Gordon - a divided society: education and 25 years of the 'NewRight' in New Zealand

Yesterday I was lucky enough to attend the first of a series  of lectures on Education and Poverty in NZ-presented by Dr Liz Gordon, Director of http://www.pukekoresearch.com/ . Dr Gordon spent four years on the Massey University Council and is an active member of QPEC (Quality Public Education Coalition) She is a council member of the Royal Society of New Zealand. 

Her research work focusses on the education, justice and social science fields. 

She began by referencing an ealier paper that she wrote - 'Rich and Poor schools in Aotearoa' - 1998 - which askes the question - how can this go on - these unequal engine rooms? Ironically, this has gone on for 25 or more years.

The examination system pre Tomorrow's School was not a fair system - 50/50 pass/fail - a system of structural segmentation. Classist and racist - especially in Intermediate and secondary schools. The fact that there was a strong anti education discourse in the 80s was not therefore surprising !

Tomorrow's Schools - led to the increase of parent power - and the promotion of choice. The creation of the 'zoning wars' - Chch  Girls' High Reject Association (1994).  Who does the choosing? Schools of choice are the ones who do the choosing. Schools of choice inevitably end uo beubg the ones who choose. 

What have been the effects on this 'endless choice' schools?
- rich get richer poor get poorer - since the 1980s the number of 'poor' in NZ has doubled 
           - Decile 1 and 3 schools drop in population over 20 years - the choice has been 'up' - led to a    change in structure of schools and school size - impacts on what can be delivered  - reputations factors 
           - Decile 3 the biggest drop
           - higher % of students not ready to learn in lower Decile schools
           - higher % of Maori and Pasifika students 
- sad case of deciles - became a proxy for quality
- redrawing of zones - to maximise SES
- what choice is it?
           - does choice inevitable mean unequal access 

The picture for Maori is better than it was in terms of access to education - more Maori attending higher Decile schools. Pakeha numbers down in lower  Decile schools - Pakeha parents choose 'up'.

A problems of a segmented society and the dangers of polarisation 
- poorest areas are out of sight - therefore out of mind 
- are we scared of what we might find there ?
- less interest in compensating the 'have nots'
- more inclusive societies are likely to help each other - damaging social policy effects (ie what will happen if decile ratings disappear?)

Endless Choice 
- our current education policy is an enduring one - be worried 
- a self perpetuating policy that 'is profoundly damaging to our society' 

Does sending Johnny to an out of zone, higher decile school, make him a better person? A deeply important, unanswerable question.

- if dropping performance since 'endless choice' was introduced, then what is the subtext? 

Dr Gordon's seminar asked many questions of us - most of which have no easy answer!

I'd like to get to the next seminar - David Mitchell - Equalising Educational Opportunity with Particular Reference to Decile Funding. But this wil depend on what is on the agenda for school that week!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Authentic and Courageous

Both of these words are in my thoughts after reflecting on some of the schools I visited in Australia. However these two words are as, if not more, relevant, in two NZ schools that I have a keen interest in - Alfriston College and Hobsonville Point Secondary School.

Hobsonville Point is in its' second year of 'life' and the staff are planning for what the curriculum might look like for their students in 2016 - with their first Year 11 cohort. I follow both the blogs of Principal - Maurie Abraham and DP Learning Technologies - Claire Amos. Recent dicsussions have been around the value of the Level 1 NCEA qualification - and if and how it fits the school's and community's vision and its' aspirational learner profile. Courageous conversations are taking place - 

'Last week Claire and I hosted the 13 Year 11 students and their parents and laid out our plans on how they would be prepared to achieve NCEA L2, as a minimum qualification, without devoting their Year 11 Year to the pointless pursuit of dozens of credits which only serves to take their focus off deep learning and understanding.' Maurie

All Level six, seven and eight modules will be designed with opportunities for students to be assessed against Level One, Two or Three Achievement Standards which are clearly signalled alongside learning outcomes and rubrics. Where appropriate, modules will assess learners at Level One and Two or Level Two and Three so that learners can be assessed at the level appropriate for them. Modules offered will be a mixture of single or integrated learning (when integration will facilitate deeper more connected learning). Modules in the latter part of the year will be designed to ensure learners are being prepared for required external standards to provide opportunities for gaining Merit and Excellent endorsement.


I will follow the continuing journey with interest.

Alfriston College is at the opposite geographical extreme of the Auckland isthmus to HPPS. It is also 10 years older. AC's vision for 'independent learners' has always been embedded in the schools 10 'Independent Learning Qualities' (ILQs). But this year AP Karyn White and a team of 20 staff (T20) have taken a courageous leap into a fully authentic and integrated approach to their Yr 9 Foundation curriculum. 

Yr 9 students are combined in their whanau (house groups) where pastoral amd curriculum are closely linked. No streaming or 'banding'. 900 minutes of a 1500 minute week are in these groups. 4 teachers are timetabled for these sessions. That is the end of the formal plan in the timetable - the rest follows below -

  • Is an integrated curriculum delivering the core learning areas (English, Maths, Science, Social Studies, andHealth and PE) with emphasis on the development of a core set of learning dispositions and skills ultimately transferable to learning in the senior school and beyond.
  • Is based around a learner's place in and connection to their world view which will include their own whakapapa and heritage, Alfriston College, Manurewa, Auckland, New Zealand, Earth, the Universe and the future.
  • Is delivered by a small, consistent, connected team of learning leaders - the Authentic Learning Team.
  • Is a time and place where and individual's learning goals and learning pathways are co-constructed, recorded and used to track and review progress. These are available 24/7 and accessible to parents and whanau via the internet.
  • Is a programme of learning that builds on learners' capacities to be connected, confident, competent learners of good character with a zest for learning.  AC Website
Following the T20 2015 learning journey on Twitter will be inspring I'm sure. Hopefully I will get to take a group of teachers to see this Foundation Programme in action.

Kia kaha