Hutt Valley: College Review canned

Well thank God commonsense prevailed.

The Government has rejected a council plea for a radical shake-up of Lower Hutt secondary schools.

The council, appalled by poor NCEA results, officially requested a review so sweeping changes could be considered, including the creation of single-sex and junior and senior schools.

But in a letter to mayor David Ogden, obtained by The Dominion Post under the Official Information Act, Education Minister Anne Tolley said she would be reluctant to proceed without the schools’ support. “As you will appreciate, dialogue with schools is an essential part of any process,” she wrote

via Stuff

Credit to the Dominion for following up on this. My previous post about this issue last month roundly criticised the local council in how they have approached this issue. Equally how I felt that councillor Max Shierlaw was wrong in his summation of the issue and how little consideration was given to the colleges involved in presenting their case.

Mr Shierlaw took exception and responded to my post

Under the Local Government Act, Councils are charged with monitoring and evaluating the performance of Central Government in their communities. One of the community outcomes contained in our Annual Plan is the number of secondary students that leave school with a qualification.

State schools exist to serve the community and it is the community who should decide what structure is most suitable. This is where the Council has a role to play.

There is a level of dissatisfaction in the community about state secondary education options. The Council has very effective consultation systems and these could be utilised within a working group, under a Ministry of Education appointed facilitator, to gauge what alternative structures are favoured in the community.

Yes the Hutt Valley is segregated by social-economic boundaries, but we should never accept this as an excuse for poor academic results.

I didn’t respond at the time, no point in a flame war, but felt strongly that the community Mr Shierlaw talks about in his response equally involves those that teach our children. To go behind the backs of those involved in this process undervalues any review.

Colleges by their nature are large community groups and I would not hesitate to say that teachers and administration staff have probably a far greater connection to our communities than elected representatives. Whilst the issue of education standards does need addressing, to do so without consulting those in the trenches is the same as in any military blunder, generally resulting in consequences for those politicians involved that started the action.

No doubt in this case the council will be hoping the matter doesn’t irk to many of the populace and the way they handled it at their first approach . But no doubt the mayor sees it differently

Mr Ogden said he was not giving up and hoped he would be able to get the schools to change their mind and agree to a review. “I was surprised with the minister’s response, but I don’t think this issue will simmer down and just go away.

“I hope the schools will want to talk to us and listen to what we have to say.”

via Stuff

From my stand point I will be remembering and reminding many of the approach adopted by our council over this matter, involving No, high and might Yes.

Trust is an important attribute in any relationship, the Hutt Council forgot that.

Hutt Valley: College academic standards under scrutiny again

It would seem that the debate that councillor Max Shierlaw started in early July that academic standards improve at single-sex schools has had some legs albeit surrepitiously behind the backs of those directly involved. The debate had seemed to lose some steam but the council has taken the bat by the horn (mixed metaphors, Hutt educated you see) and directly approached government to do a review without consulting the schools involved.

Councillor Shierlaw went on record earlier that academic performance at single-sex schools was superior to mixed sex schools after reviewing NCEA results released in June

Tomorrows Schools was supposed to give parents a choice as to what sort of school their children went to but Cr Shierlaw says that choice doesn’t exist north of Boulcott, Lower Hutt.

“You are getting a choice between a school with a 30 percent (NCEA) pass rate and a school with a 40 percent pass rate. Something has to change that.”

The “sensible” option is to close Taita and Naenae Colleges and re-open them as single sex schools. Another option that he wants explored is the possibility of re-opening Petone Tech. A review should also take a look at St Oran’s College and why it is accepting students from Whitby, when some Hutt children can’t get in.

via Dominion Post July 7

I struggle with the role that a council plays in all of this as surely the mandate belongs to the Education Department. Equally at the time Councillor Shierlaw was questioned that the issue around gender was not the most significant issue more important was the soco-economic background of the pupils. At the time several principals expressed great concern that the issue was not being discussed with them. The principal of Naenae college Mr Russell took a lead role and expressed his feelings in the same Dominion article

He doubts Cr Shierlaw has any understanding of the problems the two northern colleges face.

”In terms of the issues facing Taita and Naenae, the least significant is gender.”

Many of the pupils coming to the school have ”poor learning skills” and are operating at a level well below the National Curriculium Level for Year Nine students.

Both colleges are working with their contributing schools to try and improve the performance of students entering Year 9. Naenae’s Year 9 roll is going up and he says there is evidence that community confidence in Naenae is rising.

Mr Russell says that the population of the Hutt Valley is changing and that could be used to justify a review. But he warns Cr Shierlaw that reviews do not always lead to the result the community wants. The government has the final say and the provision of education is highly political.

He goes further to say recently:

But principals are furious, saying the council has “lobbed a hand grenade over the back fence” by initiating action without asking for their opinion.

“It’s a blind, uninformed swipe and it’s a pretty sad thing for the council to do,” Naenae College principal John Russell said.

“This move illustrates that the council is totally out of touch with the community.”

via Dominion Post

Rightly so, several of the Principals of the involved schools feel miffed, I would to as surely the right for evaluation lies within the domain of their governing body, the Education Board, who by all accounts have several standards on which they judge a schools performance, not purely academic.

This July video from TVNZ programme Closeup illustrates the debate and the out of touch attitude that seems to have started this debate by Max Shierlaw.

With all due respect Mr Shierlaw  I appreciate your diligence at council spending and development, but feel you have overstepped your role, as has the council and me has a sneaky feeling that this issue was given legs by the council, so your fire is directed here, rather than at other council matters.

Pity the poor colleges now who will go through a ringer. A previous education review in Tararua District once released was throw out by an upset local community by the changes ask to be impementated, I see the same result occuring here, the Hutt Valley is segregated by social-economic boundaries, live with it.