Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Why school competition isn't optimal

History is filled with what we might call 'defining moments'. For New Zealand, I think we would have to count as one of those that moment when a reportedly drunk Prime Minister Robert Muldoon called the snap election in 1984.

That election brought to an end one era in New Zealand political and economic history and heralded in another, the age of neo liberalism, as it saw Muldoon's government defeated, and the Fourth Labour Government lead by David Lange come to power. Here is a definition of neoliberalism that I found randomly on the web, and it seems as good as any:
"Neoliberalism is a term for different social and economic ideas. ... Neoliberalism is characterized by free market trade, deregulation of financial markets, individualisation, and the shift away from state welfare provision."
The newly elected Labour Government (remember that these were 'first past the post' election days) began our journey down this path with what came to be dubbed 'Rogernomics' after the Minister of Finance Roger Douglas. It heralded in decades of competition like we had perhaps never seen before, and in areas of life in which we had never seen the likes before. And so began the cult of the individual.

The jury was out on its impact for quite some time, but as the data, the evidence, accumulated we came to see amongst other things a significant increase in inequality. The data on the increase in inequality is indisputable. This HAS happened. It is my speculation that the former is the cause of the latter, although I have no proof that this is so. It is interesting however that the increase in inequality begins in that period of the mid 80s when these policies were introduced. I just can't prove cause and effect. This data on the Gini coefficient graphs the change nicely.

Source: https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/88455171/the-truth-about-inequality-in-new-zealand

So we entered this period of competition, Friedmanites we all, (well most of us), believing that this was the best pathway, the best medicine, for what many might have described as a moribund economy. However we allowed competition to enter those other walks of life too, in particular education.

What we didn't know at the time was that this free market ideology and the corresponding increase in inequality would actually harm us all, and in a way that we hadn't predicted. It actually reduced economic growth. That is, our material wealth increased at a slower rate when inequality increased. We had thought that the opposite would be true. This comes from an OECD report (pretty reliable stuff I'd have said):

"To explore the question further, our study estimated a relationship for GDP per capita in which a change in income inequality was added to standard growth drivers such as physical and human capital. The idea was to test whether the change in income inequality over time has had a significant impact on GDP per capita on average across OECD countries, and if this influence differs according to whether inequality is measured in the lower or upper part of the distribution. The results show that the impact is invariably negative and statistically significant: a 1% increase in inequality lowers GDP by 0.6% to 1.1%. So, in OECD countries at least, higher levels of inequality can reduce GDP per capita. Moreover, the magnitude of the effect is similar, regardless of whether the rise in inequality takes place mainly in the upper or lower half of the distribution."
Source: http://www.oecd.org/economy/growth-and-inequality-close-relationship.htm

We have had competitive schools since 1989 and 'Tomorrow's Schools'. The school choice model had its strong advocates, some going as far as suggesting a 'voucher system' that allowed complete freedom of choice. We have retained a modicum of control, despite the offical policy of the ACT party and David Seymour, both of whom support the school choice model.

How have we gone? Well it's been good for some. It has created winner and loser schools, but I would suggest not for the reasons we might have thought. One of the foundations of free markets, the idea of full and complete information and rational decision making, simply does not hold true in education, nor in any market for that matter. We do not have complete information, and we do not make rational logical choices. We make emotional choices based on incomplete information. So those schools 'perceived ' as being better were the winner schools, while those 'perceived' as being worse, were the losers.

This all misses a fundamental truth. Education is most effective when it is a collaborative activity. It is most effective when students collaborate, and when teachers collaborate, and when schools collaborate. You see, education is NOT a zero sum game. We don't educate one person or group at the expense of another. What's more society couldn't afford that even if it were true. To write off one section of society so that another can benefit has to be the biggest waste of human capital ever. We don't want winners and losers in education. We want winners and winners.

Over this past term I've seen two truly outstanding examples of the benefits of collaboration in education.

The first was within our own Uru Mānuka cluster. All teachers are expected to undertake 'inquiry'. This is intended to support teachers to use an evidence base to improve their practice and therefore the learning of students. This year we have run a number of Professional Learning Groups not only within Hornby High school, but across the cluster. Teachers from multiple schools have joined together to inquire into their practice, looking for better ways to cause learning.

Several weeks ago we had a celebration of that work, with teachers making presentations to staff from across the cluster in which they presented the 'gold nuggets', those pearls of wisdom that they had gleaned about how we can imporve learning.

Some photos of the 70+ staff from across our cluster celebrating their own learning:

One of the things that was patently clear in all of this is that teachers often don't need professional learning 'done to them'. They most often have the solutions to improving learning 'in the room', that is amongst their peers, their colleagues, often within the same school, and most definitely in our case within our cluster.

Then earlier this week I was able to join educators from most secondary schools in Christchurch at a hui organised by Grow Waitaha. Its purpose was to develop a secondary school community of practice designed to share experience in the work that individual schools have been doing to improve learning, whether it be with curriculum innovation, the use of spaces, or pedagogy.

The outcomes of all of this work are better learning outcomes for our tamariki. Empowered teachers, teachers who are happy to try new things, to take risks, means that our tamariki are better off.
Why do we need this innovation? We have a tail of underachievement in New Zealand. That tail is significantly longer and larger than in most equivalent OECD countries. This tells us that our system is not working for a significant number of our rangatahi. We need to change, otherwise that human potential, that human happiness, is lost to us as a society.

These things don't happen when you are in competition. Competition disincentives sharing and collaboration.

These examples are schools and educators saying we will NOT compete, we will collaborate. This is educators saying "media, your b***y league tables are a nonsense', they are counter-productive, they are reducing chances for too many of our children. This has to stop."

I titled this blog post 'Why school competition isn't optima''. Perhaps I might have been stronger and said 'Why school competition fails far too many of our children, especially Māori and Pasifika children'.

We've had enough. We are making the changes. We are innovating. Get out of our way if you oppose this, because we are coming through. The moral imperative is strong in us all, that's why we do what we do.

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Senior Prize Giving 2019

Mā te huruhuru, ka rere te manu
‘Feathers enable the bird to fly’

Board Chair, Mrs Kaye Banks, fellow Board of Trustees members, Te Taumutu runanga, honoured guests, colleagues, parents and friends, ladies and gentlemen, students of Hornby High School  - welcome to this 45th senior prize giving of Hornby High School.

During the year Kaye Banks, Penny Devine, Donna Sullivan, and  Rochelle Jackson, were re-elected to the Board, and Simon Evans joined them on election. Crystal Edminstin was re-elected as our student representative on the Board. Thankyou to you all for your time, your work, your wisdom and your support.

The year has seen a small number of staff changes.
Mr Jack Goodlfellow joined us as our newest Deputy Principal replacing Mr Jon Rogers and quickly showed his worth to our kura. Mr Alan Tenberth continued his work relieving for Mr Jonathan Handley-Packham who has subsequently announced his retirement. Mr Russell Cairns joined us in a part time position teaching English for the year, and Ms Gina Cuttance joined the counselling team part time for the year. Ms Cuttance’ position was funded entirely by the Board and reflects their focus on supporting improved wellbeing for students by increasing the availability of counselling support for students across the school.  Mr Corey Kamariera left us to join the team at Te Whānau Tahi, and subsequently Mr Connor Matthews joined us teaching Te Reo Māori. We welcomed Ms Melissa Oliver part time to the staff team working lart time in our Learning Commons Re Pae Rewa. Teacher Aides Emma Grennell and Sarah Nothcote left us to take up full time employment elsewhere.

We are grateful for the contributions that they have all made to our wonderful kura.

The year 2019 marked the completion of the whole school rebuild, with only landscaping and ‘make good’ work to be completed. Our contractors Leighs Construction expect to be clear of our site by March 2020. The company and its team have been exemplary citizens sharing the campus with us as they have undertaken their construction work. We moved into the last of our new buildings, we have called them kahui, late in term 3. Unsurprisingly we immediately saw students focussing on their learning in these new spaces. We were careful in our planning and design to allow for a variety of learning needs amongst students, with a combination of larger collaborative spaces and smaller break out and traditional class spaces. I have already observed increased staff collaboration, and the exchange of ideas and thinking, exactly the sort of start we would have hoped for in these spaces. Our preparation for the occupation of these new spaces has included a great deal of thinking and trialling of different ways of planning our curriculum, we have called it ‘playing in the sandpit’, and we believe that we continue to see improved engagement and achievement amongst students. The new buildings were also explicitly designed to allow a shift to a vertical pastoral system, a whānau grouping in which students from all year levels will be grouped in those whānau groups. Each of our kahui is a pastoral grouping. This change will be phased in over the next few years.

Of particular note has been what we believe is a significant improvement in internal NCEA results at the Merit and Excellence levels (and in fact overall pass rates). One year level has nearly doubled the proportion of internal standards credits achieved at the Excellence level before the inclusion of external results in January, and we have seen a record number of students gaining their NCEA endorsed with Excellence before they even enter the examination room. This reflects deeper learning and higher levels of engagement and aspiration amongst students. This broader aspiration is vital to our student success. Every student needs to aspire to be their best.

To every adult in the room, I beg you, I implore you, to support our rangatahi in raising their aspirations. Perhaps my biggest frustration in my professional life is the amount of almost unbounded human potential I see going unrealised. Talented students settling for nothing near their best means they miss out on fuller richer lives, and it also means that as a society we miss out on those talents.  We are the poorer economically, culturally, and socially. Settle for nothing less than their best.

To our wonderful staff, thank you. You are amazing colleagues, you show yourselves to be the risk takers that our rangatahi need in education. We know that risk taking is essential for creativity to thrive, and I want to make some comment at this point about the media in regards to education and its future, and the notion of risk taking.

We know that in New Zealand we have what has been dubbed a ‘tail of underachievement’. We know that our Māori and Pasifika children are overly represented in that group. This tells us that much about our traditional systems of education has not worked for those children, that this is the fault of our systems and structures, not the fault of those tamariki. We must change and adapt to better meet the needs of these children who are our future. However, most often when a school tries new ways of meeting the needs of these children, it is pilloried, it is attacked, by our media. The result of this is that schools become risk averse. Change is disincentivized. Frankly this is little more than institutional racism, it is the protection of the privilege of the few for whom the system does work, as the media is slowing the change that we need in New Zealand to better meet the educational needs of our tamariki. To steal and adapt the famous quote from the epic movie ‘Gone with the Wind’, “Frankly, we don’t give a damn about those media attitudes”. My colleagues are embracing change.They show great courage in our endeavours. We have not lost our moral compass. We are driven by the moral imperative to do right by every child, not simply the privileged few.

I’d like to once again make mention of The Manaiakalani Programme. In my entire career I have never seen anything as transformational in education. The Manaiakalani Programme is a pedagogy (a way of causing learning summarised with the three words Learn Create Share) that is consistent across our cluster, and increasingly throughout our kura, and it is magnified with the use of digital technology, specifically Chromebooks. With these tools, we are accelerating student progress in writing by twice national averages. That is, our students are improving in their writing twice as quickly as students of their age generally across the country. In reading and mathematics it is currently less spectacular. The rate of progress is only one and a half times that of students generally across the country. But we still have our junior students improving faster than students nationally. Can I say definitively that these improvements are solely the result of Manaiakalani? No. However, consider this. These same improvements are happening for the thousands of students across the country in the nearly 100 Manaiakalani schools. Those same improvements are not happening consistently anywhere else. It would be a funny old coincidence if it weren’t Learn Create Share and the affordances of the digital technology that were creating these transformational improvements. The Ministry of Education has finally accepted the worth of what is going on, and work is afoot to have funding for the scaling of Manaiakalani across the country built into budget 2020/21

We are doing our bit, as staff learn how to best employ the pedagogy to accelerate the learning of your children. Please help us. Please make what we know for many is a significant investment: provide your child with a Chromebook. It is possibly the best money investment you can make in your child.

In this regard I’d like to make special mention of and offer our warmest thanks to the members of the Uru Mānuka Education Trust who have done amazing work to support our work across the cluster, and to the Wayne Francis Charitable Trust who have made the investment into our cluster Uruy Mānuka. They have secured five years worth of funding to support our education leader Ms Kelsey Morgan who works with teachers to continue their upskilling in how to cause learning with our driving pedagogy, and therefore how better to help students to make informed use of the digital technology. This teacher development is essential, because we know that simply putting devices into the hands of learners and doing nothing else will fail completely. The devices impact learning for your children when we also change the way teachers teach. Thank you.

Of note too over this past year is that we have engaged with the other schools across our cluster (Uru Mānuka) to formalise our Kāhui Ako, our community of learning. This releases additional resources that will be put to use to support and benefit our learners, your children, not just at Hornby High School but across the whole community. Thank you to my colleagues and fellow Principals, and to the wonderful staff who make these kura such wonderful places tro be. We are doing amazing things for our community.

I have to say thank you to a growing number of supporters of our kura. This growing list is a symbol of the support, the love and kindness, the faith, that our community has in you our students, our whānau, our staff.

CERT Trust
Mainland Foundation
Westpac  - Hornby Branch
GCSN - the Greater Christchurch Schools Network
Orica Chemicals
Hornby Residents Association
OCS   ( $200)
Wycola Medical Centre
Westpac Hornby Branch
Craig Frampton
David Browne Contractors
Kitchen Surplus 
Hornby Working Men's Club
Hornby Rotary 
Gators Basketball -   ran fundraiser for senior basketball to attend tournament

Finally, to our prize winners, well done. Tonight we acknowledge and celebrate your attitude, your persistence, and your achievement. The prizes we award acknowledge only one part of the wonderful achievement represented here tonight, and throughout the school, but that achievement represents much about our purpose as a kura..

To our 2019 Prefects, thank you for your leadership and your commitment to the school. You have modelled the very kindness that I think is essential to healthy caring inclusive communities. Your daily actions are an example and an inspiration to us all, you are all a wonderful example of the values based leadership that the world desperately needs. Kia tau te mauri.

To all of our leavers - please know that you take with you our best wishes, and the knowledge that at Hornby High School you have your turangawaewae, your place to stand. You are an outstanding group of young men and women. Thank you for everything you have contributed to our kura. Well done on all that you have achieved. Thank you for the people that you have become.

Kia mau ki te tūmanako, te whakapono me te aroha

Hold fast to hope, faith, and love.

Noreira tena koutou tena koutou tena koutou katoa