Education Changes: Preemptive PR and Preempted Strike

February 17, 2013

“The face and makeup of greater Christchurch has, and will continue to, dramatically change due to the earthquakes and our education system must respond to those changes”. Hekia Parata, Minister of Education. Press ad 16 February

A tad clumsy, with Revlon-like references rather than revelations, the Minister’s makeover message to parents and caregivers, (no mention of principals, teachers and students), is a bit of PR pro-activity before tomorrow’s “interim decisions” on the fate of 31 of the 38 Greater Christchurch schools affected by the bungled proposals announced late last year.*

Feedback-Simple as ABC?
Quick Quiz: What is the shortest word in the English language that contains the letters: abcdef? Answer: feedback.

The Minister was at pains to point out that “…I have listened to your feedback and made some changes to our proposals.” But feedback is not as simple as ABC, let alone DEF.  Feedback is only useful if it is fed into the process or system generating it. As Edward de Bono has it: “The essence of feedback is that the effect of an action is fed back to alter that action”.

Feedback is also no substitute for feedforward, which involves early local engagement, input and ownership of change.  Real consultation involves much more than the retrospective endorsement or rejection of bureaucratic plans.

Strike struck out

Others were obviously also listening to feedback. The same day’s paper had a small paragraph announcing that a proposed strike on February 19  “against Christchurch school closures and mergers” had been called off by the New Zealand Educational Institute.  The strike vote, belatedly orchestrated by the  primary teachers’ “union”,  had come reduntantly several weeks after an outpouring of criticism about the way the proposed changes had been handled, including mine*.

The call for a strike, which would have been held a little more than a fortnight after the long school vacation, was unnecessary and counterproductive. Perhaps the “strike off” announcement by National President Judith Nowotarski will mark a permanent sheathing of the archaic strike weapon in favour of more articulate ways to influence people without antagonising friends. The public and professional discourse about re-evaluating, re-defining and revaluing education in the second decade of the 21st century would be of higher quality without the trappings and claptrap of imported 19th century clothcapism.

Unsung heroes?

Apart from the stupidity of closing schools temporarily to make a protest about permanent closures and inconveniencing parents and their employers when the new school year had hardly started, the proposed stoppage date was almost two years to the day since PPTA members in Canterbury were assembling at the Town Hall as the lethal 22 February quake hit at 12.51pm. Among the 185 dead was a secondary student who was able to leave school early and head to the city centre because of the paid stop work meeting about secondary teacher pay rates.

University of Canterbury Education lecturer Veronica O’Toole has been looking at the emotional impact of the Christchurch earthquakes and seeing whether, as in New York after 9/11, “teachers were the unsung heroes.”* In many cases no doubt they were, but I’m afraid the accolade didn’t apply on quake day to the secondary teacher absentees at the PPTA meeting, though their (mainly non PPTA) colleagues who stayed behind did a great job looking after those students still at school. As I observed when leaving the CBD that day, many of those who left school early were walking the streets of Christchurch when the quake hit.  Off-site meetings of teacher unions–I’d prefer the term professional associations-should be conducted outside the normal school teaching day.

In the disruptive aftermath of the February quake teachers and students did very well, demonstrating resilience and innovation. The results of NCEA exams posted by Canterbury students in the last two years have been remarkable overall.

Network  not working
“As Education Minister, I have also had to look at how each school fits into the whole education network…” Hekia Parata

The term “education network”  has been part of Ministry-speak for some time. In terms of cyberspace a network is a collection of computers and other hardware devices interconnected by communication channels that allow sharing of resources and information. The network will not work unless there is free knowledge and information sharing.

In the wake of Ministry head Lesley Longstone’s resignation Hekia Parata spent a lot of time meeting with the schools affected on their turf. This was brave lion’s den stuff, although some might say it was merely picking of schools one by one, rather than having cluster involvement from the outset. A free exchange of information and ideas would have got a better level of engagement and productive discussion  in terms of the need for post earthquake change.

What if the proposed post quakes education changes had been framed as questions for Knowledge Café discussions by a cross-section from each cluster, with an overarching question?  If the Ministry of Education could allocate $1 billion in Greater Christchurch to post earthquake recovery and renewal-say 80% repairs and capital works 20% staffing and new programmes, what collaborative projects and cost sharing arrangements would your cluster suggest, given the demographic and safe building contraints that exist?

Goal oriented knowledge sharing and creative thinking would have really engaged each cluster as part of the Greater Christchurch learning ecology. The approach actually used  was atomistic and devoid of collaboration, unlike the local  initiatives many Christchurch school communities took in the wake of the quakes.

After individual school notifications tomorrow morning the “interim decisions” will be posted at the Ministry’s  Shaping Education web-page.* School communities will be hoping that Shafting Education is not a more appropriate  title*.

*Blinks
https://lukeytraining.wordpress.com/2012/10/01/the-education-cluster-bomb/
www.shapingeducation.govt.nz  http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/schools/8315185/
Canterbury-schools-resigned-to-poisoned-chalice

#Lyall Lukey 17 February 2013
http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nzhttps://bluggerme.wordpress.com  My other less serious blog


Education Novovirus spreads in Muddle-earth

February 3, 2013

 “Talent2 multiplies the power and productivity of people… to deliver end-to-end talent management solutions that put people first.”  Novopay provider’s puffery*

Noroviruses are the most common cause of viral  gastroenteritis in humans and affect people of all ages, causing nausea, forceful vomiting, watery diarrhea, abdominal pain, lethargy, headache, coughs and low-grade fever. The disease is usually self-limiting, and severe illness is rare.

Not so the dreaded Novovirus, generated by the new on-line pay system for teachers called Novopay, known in some quarters as Nopay, which is somewhat harder to stomach.

It will be interesting to watch as Dr Novopay, aka Steven Joyce, Minister of Most Things, seeks to enforce Aussie provider Talent2’s bond. To date the company appears so far to be neither shaken nor stirred by the well brewed brouhaha at the Ministry of Education, the epicentre of Muddle-earth. Only after departing Secretary of Education Lesley Longstone made a tough phone call did Talent2 unleash some more call centre talent prior to the big Xmas pay.

No PayPal
Despite that beefing up many teachers still have legitimate beefs and for them the new on-line system is no PayPal.  It was to be 90% online, 10% service centre. The Parata Principle* has probably seen these ratios reversed.

There is even talk of former provider Datacom, one of our largest and most successful technology companies, being placed on standby to pick up the pieces. (DataSouth won’t be on any new shortlist).

Fire Proof?
“My definition of an expert in any field is a person who knows enough about what’s really going on to be scared.” PL Plauger

Norovirus is rapidly inactivated by either sufficient heating or by chlorine-based disinfectants. The heat is now really on Talent2’s Novovirus but our trans Tasman neighbours can be fairly phlegmatic in the face of conflagration. Will Joyce fire them?

On the disinfecting front  he’s already called a Ministerial enquiry which should be reframed as an enquiry into the Labour Ministers involved in the initiation of the long-winded and bug bound development process and the three National Ministers who signed off on all systems go when they palpably weren’t. The planned pilot fell off the radar well before this so the resulting systems crash shouldn’t be a surprise to those in the know. They should be really scared.

NZ has Talent Too
Our education system and support systems like pay ought to be indigenous. There has been a post colonial binge of off-shore recruiting for many public sector posts, including in education. Top people shouldn’t be helicoptered from elsewhere and dropped in it, as were Janice Shiner, erstwhile TEC boss and Lesley Longstone -or Pippi Longstocking, as she was unkindly called by some.

 Dramatic change in education doesn’t require imports. The important thing is the synergy between  reforming ministers of education and the chief civil servant: think Dr Clarence Beeby, longserving Director of Education from 1940 and Education Ministers like Peter Fraser and Terence McCombs.

Systematic change should be organic and come from within rather than being grafted on. It’s fine to study other education systems like Finland’s, not for facile answers but for the purpose of asking questions about our own system and challenging its practitioners. Answers need to be refracted through the lens of our own culture to meet our own needs and goals and implementation needs to engage all those involved.

Digital Divide or Digital Dividend?

One question: if it had been a new  Kiwi on-line pay system, with local support and fewer bugs,  would there still have been at least in some schools, a culture gap and a training gap in moving to a largely on-line system? Would any such gaps  correlate to the digital divide between Yesterday’s Schools and Today’s Schools. What would the digital dividend have been overall?

The solution: Avon Yap
A home grown solution for the Minister is to immediately contract the newly set up HR PR company Avon Yap, operating under the corporate umbrella of the TalentToo brand.

As the name suggests, Avon Yap is an outspoken Christchurch-based consultancy which has learnt from recent seismic and the city episodes* and is not afraid to work with Wellington’s movers and shakers. Avon Yap also knows nothing about payroll systems but can offer a better class of PR to tarseal over the cracks and flossy up financial fissures with flair.

Its  corporate missionary position is: “TalentToo divides the power and productivity of people in order to create new jobs… to deliver start to start public relations solutions that put people out first so we can handle the fallout.”

The service centre is in Brisbane. Who are you going to call….?

*Blinks

http://www.talent2.com/home
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/8254079/Teachers-owed-12m-thanks-to-Novopay
https://lukeytraining.wordpress.com/2012/10/01/the-education-cluster-bomb/ The Parata Principle
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETxmCCsMoD0  Money Money Money Music video by Abba (C) 1976, possibly the year Novopay was first mooted.
Seismics and the City -When a City Rises  21 March-Be there!

 #Lyall Lukey 3 February 2013
http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz
https://bluggerme.wordpress.com  My other (even) less serious blog