TOMORROW’S SKILLS, YESTERDAY’S BUREAUCRACY

February 27, 2019

 Lyall Lukey, Convener of Education Leaders Forum 2019 Digital Divides, Dividends & Dangers, argues that while there are undoubtedly big system and funding issues to address in the vocational education and training sector, the centralisation concept announced on 13 February is not the most effective way forward.

 

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Photo credit: Andrew Lukey   Post Quakes1

Guns not Roses

Echoes of Chicago 90 years ago: just in time for St Valentine’s Day, Industry Training Providers and Industry Training Organisations were lined up side-by-side, with large targets affixed, blinking in the media spotlight.

Triggers were not yet pulled but fingers were twitching as Minister of Education Chris Hipkins announced the vision of an over-arching New Zealand Institute of Skills & Technology.

NZIST-not to be confused with Winston’s mob- would replace the 16 autonomous institutes of technology and polytechnics, (ITPs) and 11 industry training organisations (ITOs ) with a single entity to establish a “unified, coordinated, national system of vocational education and training” for around 200,000 New Zealand students by the end of 2020.

But does this display 20/20 vision?

Polytechnics employed 8,150, and ITOs 1,300, full-time-equivalent staff in 2017. In a double bureaucratic whammy the current roles of ITOs would apparently be split between the new national organisation and the Tertiary Education Commission.

The role of the TEC in ensuring the integrity of funding via trough protection and snout muzzling has already expanded after it swallowed Careers New Zealand in 2017 to become a hybrid funder/provider.

Absolutely Negatively…

Try this thought experiment, with last week’s eighth anniversary of the lethal February Christchurch quake in mind.
Can you imagine happening, under a centralised governance model, the same kind of prompt response as actually occurred through collaboration between Christchurch Polytechnic (now Ara)  and local ITOs  to address the skills needs of devastated Christchurch businesses?

If you can, Christchurch people with experience of especially created central government bodies like Cera and  Ōtākaro,  with a focus just on Christchurch’s  recovery not the whole country, will quickly disabuse you. These entities often sidelined local knowledge and input.  Even local civic governance bodies have been left incommunicado. Que Cera Sera.

Roger Smyth’s recent EC article tells how it took a seismic crisis for key parts of the vocational education system to work really effectively together, despite funding constraints, on the skills needs of the Canterbury rebuild.

There are lessons to be learnt. Those immersed in the local knowledge ecology, with an understanding of local business needs, trump absent planners with whiteboards and spreadsheets every time.

The Empire Striking Back?

The Minister acknowledged that the proposed changes are significant. “However, the risks of not making changes are also significant,” he said. “Disruption now will strengthen the vocational education system for the long term.”

Sceptics may point to the infamous quote in Peter Arnett’s 1968 AP Vietnam dispatch: “It became necessary to destroy the town to save it.”

The aim is to create a new, more streamlined and sustainable funding system and a more co-ordinated sector that can better respond to technology-driven workplaces. Both are long overdue and are changes the sector itself has long proposed.

The aims are forward looking, but the organisational solution proposed is a bureaucrat’s retrospective damp dream. In 2018 the Minister himself said that a highly centralised system faced issues relating to a lack of flexibility

Innovation

In a digitised world the nature of learning, work and everyday life is changing rapidly, with huge implications for education and training.

There is a direct link between a nation’s future prosperity and its ability to develop the knowledge and skills that deliver innovation. The ability to identify and prepare for present and future skills requirements is increasingly critical for education and training organisations, businesses and individuals.

Specific hard skills and soft skills sets are in increasingly high demand. There is a growing emphasis on critical thinking and problem solving, communications and collaboration, digital literacy and career and life skills, with an emphasis on flexibility and adaptability, initiative and cross-cultural interaction.

In the words of the Minister “Instead of our institutes of technology retrenching, cutting programmes, and closing campuses, we need them to expand their course delivery in more locations around the country.”

Some are doing exactly this now and are performing well, having succeeded in spite of, not because of, the present funding model.

Ara Institute of Canterbury has reported surpluses since its 2015 amalgamation and name change. Chief executive Tony Gray has expressed concern about how effective the proposed regional leadership groups would be.

A Balanced Alternative

Another well performing ITP is Otago Polytechnic. Here are some excerpts of what CE Phil Ker said in a post-announcement interview on Radio New Zealand: 

Q: Are the proposed changes good for the sector?

A: Yes and no.

“Yes . . . Polytechnics are haemorrhaging because of a grossly inadequate funding system that’s not fit for purpose.”

Yes . . . we applaud it being fixed. Ironically, if the funding model had been fixed 2-3 years ago, we wouldn’t have had this haemorrhaging.”

Yes . . . we applaud the intention to move towards more seamless learning via institutions and work-based solutions….”

No . . . the proposed model of one institution – head office and branches – completely removes the autonomy of the current institutions. We thought there might have been a move to a model that combined the best elements of a centralised system approach with a semi-autonomous institution approach….”

“Under a combined model, certain central functions could have been mandated – buildings, back-of-house systems, staff training are a few examples. But the combined model meant we could also have the autonomy to offer programmes of learning that made sense to local regions. That autonomy would also mean we could respond not only locally but nationally – to areas where there’s a need but perhaps a relatively low volume…”

Q: Do you think such centralisation and rationalisation threatens the local characteristics of polytechnics?

A: “… It’s a model-of-delivery issue. I’m arguing for the retention of autonomy – to enable institutions to respond to industry demand. I think the proposed model will, in fact, drive out responsiveness and innovation…” 

His subsequent ODT comments had this postscript “…I am not opposed to rationalising and a degree of centralisation of our polytechnic system. I am opposed to the particular model proposed by the Minister – it will throw out a lot of babies with the bath water. There is an alternative model which will still see a unified system, but which also preserves the autonomy of the individual institutions… We can have the best of both worlds.”

Civic Support

In support of Otago Polytechnic Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said ”The proposed merger risks undoing a lot of good work and would see Otago Polytechnic potentially being subservient to an organisational structure that may not understand or care about our local needs…We need Otago to remain autonomous, and flexible and responsive to local needs.”

The promoters of the current government’s Provincial Growth Fund talk about getting “buy in from local communities”. But vocational education demands more than that from regional stakeholders: it needs active collaboration, participation and partnership.

Dunedin’s digital ecosystem provides great examples of the cross-fertilisation between the education and business sectors.  Innovator of the Year Ian Taylor,  Animation Research has worked in this space for a quarter of a century.

He first came to public attention in the 1990s by making America’s Cup racing watchable via digital graphics and animation. He is currently working in Dunedin on a Virtual Reality prison literacy programme, in collaboration with the Methodist Mission South.

Alignment of Education and Training 

The Review of Vocational Education inevitably spawned the acronym ROVE. Perhaps the more appropriate acronym is RIVET for Review of and Intentions for Vocational Education and Training.

But just how riveting is the announced vision?

While the words “education” and “training are often used as synonyms it’s useful to  distinguish between them. The difference is evident when comparing “sex(uality) education” with “sex training”. (Now there’s an industry which missed the opportunity to set up its own ITO.).

Oversimplified, but the distinction does help clarify aspects of the respective roles of ITPs and ITOs, the first institution-based and the second located in the workplace.

The two vocational sub-sectors have often been like two trains travelling on parallel tracks to the same destination but with often poor communication between the respective drivers, to the detriment of passengers.

Integration of learning with work

The ROVE document says that the system needs to increase the amount of vocational learning that takes place in the workplace. Phil Ker agrees with better aligning trades training with polytechnic study, ”… integration of learning with work is critical. But that has to be designed for; staff have to be trained to do it.”

The most effective learning comes from a parallel process of knowing and doing, not through an analogue approach of accumulating lumps of knowledge first and then focusing on thinking skills and problem-solving.

But progress in integration does not require a single governance body. Joining the dots is not the same as erasing them. 

Qualifications and Employability 

According to the OECD, “Skills are the new world currency”. There is a growing demand for just-in-time learning to meet changing skill needs.

How do you improve knowledge and skill acquisition and make it easier for learners to demonstrate what they know and can do? 

National rationalisation of the tangled mess of qualifications is long overdue and now underway A big benefit in having a more integrated vocational education system is that it will make overhauled vocational qualifications more relevant and attractive-and more manageable time-wise.

Micro-credentials are an increasingly valuable part of the new skills currency. They enable people to show what they know and can do through digital certification, validating new learning as well as skills and knowledge already acquired.

Learning institutions handle quality control. For example, Otago Polytechnic’s micro-credential service EduBits works closely with the business sector and helps employers focus on their particular requirements.

Micro-credentials make visible employees, present and potential, who have got key skills or knowledge not indicated by conventional qualifications.

Trading Up 

One aim of the vocational shake-up is to correct the tertiary/ trades imbalance. According to the Minister of Education “Our thinking needs to shift from the idea that the ultimate goal of senior secondary schooling is to prepare young people for university,” 

Shorter workplace-integrated programmes will distinguish more clearly the offerings of polytechnics from those of universities.

Important v Urgent

Just as Wintec’s dirty washing was being re-aired publicly may have seemed to be a good time to play a reverse trump card and make a wall demolition announcement.

Minister Hipkins said that the vocational education sector is currently unsustainable and financially unviable “and the Government is moving to find a solution quickly”.

But the 6 weeks allowed for feedback is derisory, especially when contrasted with the timeline and process for the Tomorrow’s Schools Review.

Reform of the fragmented and competitive vocational sector may be well overdue but the important shouldn’t be dressed up as the urgent. It is not a National Emergency; rather it is a national opportunity to come up with an appropriate confederate balance of regional and national arrangements.

A large degree of governance autonomy, separate identities and distributed leadership models are the keys to credible local engagement in a networked digital age.

At the same time, curriculum and qualifications  reform,  professional development, digital  learning resource sharing and physical infrastructure, HR, health and safety all lend themselves to more national “back office” co-ordination and cost saving, so long as the “front office” identity and professional and business relationships are maintained where they are demonstrated to be working.

If not, some further amalgamations may be required such as those which over the last 4 years have led to the formation of Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology and Ara Institute of Technology.

Leading not Imposing Change

“People will support what they help to create.” Marvin Weisbord
Finding appropriate solutions to real issues is not just about why change should happen. It is about what change happens, how it happens and when. A  Roger Douglas big bang approach may force things through, but with unacceptable collateral damage.

The fallout after a policy announcement bombshell needs time to clear for the way forward to crystallise. More time needs to be spent on the vision and strategy, working with all the key players, before the focus turns to implementation.

The effective way to bring about change that lasts is to really engage with key players in order to do more of what is working well now. This is the Appreciative Inquiry approach to organisational change. It focuses on strengths rather than on weaknesses, deficits and problems.

As Industry Training Federation chief executive Josh Williams points out, the reforms should aim to strengthen industry-led training organisations rather than dismantling them.

Warwick Quinn, Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation chief executive says that while he understood the need for change, “We must be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater…”. The changes needed to protect what was working well, and retain the positive aspects of on-the-job training and apprenticeships, especially in high-needs areas, such as building and construction.

Removing system blockages is a valid activity for political plumbers. But while it is important to repair, rejig and replace some parts of the present vocational reticulation system, it is just as  important  to reinforce those parts which are working well and so avoid  disrupting the flow of skills acquisition.

What is not required is a KiwiBuild-type approach, giant in concept but pygmy on delivery, for instilling the skills of the very people required to build houses and the nation.

Mobilising knowledge and expertise

At Education Leaders Forum 2018, UK speaker Prof.Toby Greany  explored the    intersections between policy, practice and evidence and the ways in which knowledge, expertise and capacity moves around within and between organisations.
His models for knowledge mobilisation, the development and impact of networks and collaboration, along with his approach to education leadership and professional development are highly relevant for building momentum for positive step changes in regards to vocational education and training.

The cold logic of ideology and the selective use of financial data from a chronically underfunded sector should not drive out the knowledge and experience of key players.

** https://conversation.education.govt.nz/conversations/reform-of-vocational-education/have-your-say **         (You’ve only got until 27 March!)

Lyall Lukey Convener of Education Leaders Forum 2019 Digital Divides, Dividends & Dangers Dunedin 17&18 July.

 

 

 


Teachers’ Strike: Premature Exhortation?

September 6, 2018

Lyall Lukey, Convener of the recent Education Leaders Forum “Valuing Educators-Revaluing Education” argues that precipitate strike action is counterproductive to lifting the status and salaries of present teachers and recruiting the next generation. This article was first published in Education Central and Education Review on 4/9/18.
https://educationcentral.co.nz/teachers-strike-premature-exhortation/

Even in pursuit of goals that many support, and in a favourable political environment, albeit with fiscal constraints, it is still easy to deliver a lesson on how to lose friends and not influence people, as primary teachers may be discovering.

Industrial Action?

Around 400,000 students and their families were affected nationwide by the one day primary teachers strike on 15 August, as were many employers.

“Industrial action”? In the learning coalmines and the dark satanic mills of pedagogy?  In the post-industrial 21st Century?   By tertiary educated people perfectly able to articulate a compelling case via old and new media and work through multiple political and community channels in ways that don’t inconvenience their natural allies and alienate others?

Rather than thinking outside the soapbox, the NZEI, the primary teachers’ union, appears to have simply dusted off anachronistic teacher salary campaigns and pushed go.  The front page headline in The Press on 16 August was “Industrial action could escalate, teachers warn”.  It was alongside a recycling story.

On 29 August, far from the front page, NZEI president Lynda Stuart was quoted  as saying that primary school teachers were disappointed not to have a new pay offer two weeks after striking.  From inside a rapidly shrinking non-painted corner Stuart said they had expected a new offer by now. After all, the nurses’ negotiations earlier this year produced a new pay offer roughly every two to three weeks.

Two further days of talks were planned.


Not The Art of the Deal

Not playing a trump card, Stuart said the union would not consider opening a vote on further strikes until it had a new offer from the Ministry of Education.

The Ministry had confirmed the day before that it hadn’t changed its offer of pay rises over three years ranging from 6.1 per cent to 14.7 per cent, making the entry salary $55,030 for university educated teachers and bringing the maximum classroom salary to $80,600.

NZEI is going for a 16 per cent pay rise over two years, among other claims to improve staffing and workloads it says have contributed to a national teacher shortage.

While the median wage has outpaced teachers’ salaries over time, as the NZEI has demonstrated, the Ministry of Education points out that the latter has outpaced the Labour Cost Index (LCI) which it prefers to use for comparisons.

Perhaps there needs to be a new measure, linked to an agreed percentage of an MP’s salary?

All Black role models?

Meanwhile primary teachers nationwide donned black to express “frustration” about the lack of a new offer after a whole fortnight had elapsed. For their learners this may not be the best example of exercising patience and self-control on the grounds that good things take time, especially with a newish government still shaking down.

Hopefully there are not also too many all-white exemplars like the mob of bullying sheep in  Oat the Goat, the interactive bi-lingual anti-bullying tool which is proving a big hit in schools.

Goodbye Mr Chips

Placards were mainly well punctuated but hardly emphatic: “A school is not a McDonald’s. Stop upsizing our classes and workload.” “The 80s called they want their pay back.” “We are not walking out on our kids. We are walking for them.”

At least they didn’t trot out the old corporal punishment canard, “This is going to hurt me more than you”, though it may be true.

At one placard stop a passionate parent spoke in the third person about the great work of teachers, comments most of us would support in most cases.  The accolade rang a little hollow when it turned out that she, herself, was also a teacher.

Addressing the converted rather than the big issues is great therapy but not very effective. Rather than  ritual triennial salary war dances why not a more effective on-going strategy to develop cross-party consensus by engaging the wider public in an informed conversation about enhancing the vital status of teaching?

If there have to be painted up public appearances how about doing them on a Saturday morning? Not the best time to get TV traction, with or without a tractor mounting the stairs of Parliament, but a great time to interact with the community in a positive way while using social media to disseminate video and other messages.

 Strike Me!

Speaking pre-strike the Minister of Education Chris Hipkins said that the Government’s current offer was already double, on average, what the primary school sector received by way of increases under the National Government.

The Minister said he’d prefer the strike was cancelled in favour of further bargaining and discussion on the issues. He would, of course, after a pretty good opening offer. But he had a point about premature direct action. Well before negotiations even started in the current primary teachers round there were rumblings of trouble at rumour mill.

Timeline

A fortnight before the surprise announcement on 19 October 2017 of the formation of the new Coaltion Government by Winston Peters,  teacher unions were  warning of likely strikes to seek pay rises costing “hundreds of millions of dollars”, including an extra allowance for teaching in areas of expensive housing such as Auckland.

Targets were obviously being prepared pre-election for the next pay round with a National-led government likely to be in the crosshairs. The winner turned out to be a hybrid horse of different colours.

A Labour-led Government is usually a time for advances in education, if it is in power long enough. There could be unintended political repercussions for Labour (think 1960 and 1975) in teachers going for a bigger initial hit than is wise in the circumstances and helping to scare some other horses, rather than going for significant progress now but playing a longer-term game.

With the Government facing the most aggressive push for public sector rate wage hikes in recent times and private sector employers sitting watching nervously on the sidelines, teachers took a big risk sending themselves off early.

Losing the War?

There are undoubtedly endemic quantity and quality issues in teacher and support staff supply, even if the Ministry has played them down in the current negotiations.

South Auckland Middle School principal Alwyn Poole argues the case on Stuff that “striking teachers have already lost the war, even if they win a small pay battle”.

“The current collective agreement round for teachers takes us back to the 1970s, and teachers and their unions (with the approval of their members) are screwing this up very, very badly. They have already lost even if they ‘win’…How on earth does all this moaning and complaining inspire the next generation into this amazing career? It doesn’t. The unions are making it embarrassing to want to be a teacher.”

He argues that it is well past time for another bargaining agent under the Employment Contracts Act – “something like a Professional Association of Academic Teachers (PAAT) – that has a high bar in terms of qualifications and stated ethics. This will elevate the profession and give the better teachers an opportunity to seek their best pay and conditions, as is possible in all other professions”.

Members of a Profession?

“… the committee considers that teaching is a profession and that teachers are, and should be encouraged to regard themselves as, members of a profession.”
1978 Marshall Report

For many teaching is a vocation. But to what extent do teachers-and more importantly others-see teaching as a profession?

Auckland Point School principal Sonya Hockley said on strike day that the most important issue faced by teachers was “raising the profile of the profession so that it was viewed as a valuable career option for graduates.”  But as Alwyn Poole said, having other colleagues throughout the country trashing the job doesn’t help.

What might help lift professional self-esteem and recruitment is an emphasis on the real value of teaching and the mix of tangible and intangible rewards. While underlining the attributes and skills necessary for teachers to succeed it is fair to touch on some of the benefits of the challenging job. These include reasonable job security for most established teachers and family friendly “at school” hours and weeks.

This doesn’t mean glossing over the amount of homework necessary to prepare an ongoing diet of food for thought for hungry young minds, nor playing down the undoubted challenges of the classroom, ancient or modern.

For balance, what about a bit of emphasis on the satisfaction of seeing young eyes and minds open and brains develop?  Think of Ernest Rutherford’s headmaster at Fox Hill School, who first sparked Rutherford’s  interest in science, watching his protegee’s later progress at Canterbury College and Cambridge University.

The intangibles have to be complemented by appropriate salary levels, adequate support staff and opportunities for professional development in a positive learning environment. But salary is not necessarily a big factor at point of entry, though it may be in terms of retention. NZEI ranked salaries fourth on its 2017 10 point plan to solve Auckland’s teacher shortage.

Many ex-teachers in all walks of life demonstrate that teaching is an excellent springboard for other things because of the skills and experience gained.

Organisational Survival

Reg Revans in “The Learning Organisarion” says: “For an organisation to survive its rate of learning must be equal to, or greater than, the rate of change in its external environment.” 

Collective pay negotiations are the raison d’etre of the NZEI and PPTA and their permanent employees.  The NZEI got off on the wrong foot in the current negotiating dance.  Shooting itself again in the same appendage won’t help its survival prospects.

Perhaps it is time for the NZEI to do some self-reflection and reinvention to enable it to play an enhanced leadership role by building cross-party consensus about the value of education.

Spreading change by positive diffusion, like two gases meeting and mingling, takes time. But being the opposite of confrontation  it works effectively at the molecular level.

Valuing Educators

In their role as knowledge navigators, teachers are more important than ever in showing learners how to navigate the ocean of information while avoiding the icebergs of misinformation.

Research shows that countries with a greater proportion of the population tertiary educated generally have higher levels of innovation and productivity. Opportunities to learn and to apply that learning result in both public and private good. Education provision in New Zealand is already undergoing some rebalancing to reflect that duality.

The foundations for lifelong learning and adaptability need to be laid down early.

Revaluing Education

From 1990 Finland brought about a revaluation of the Finnish public’s estimation of the teaching profession through tougher entry standards and a cross-sector consensus of the key role of education and training in a fast evolving society.

This forward-looking approach to adapting to the rapidly changing world and learning to innovate was demonstrated pre-iPhone by the way Nokia shifted its focus from pulp and paper to cellphone technology.

In this country there are calls to lift the entry bar for teacher recruitment: “Given the future capability teachers require…there is a strong case for lifting entry requirements for academic capability generally, literacy and numeracy, and content knowledge that supports teachers’ ability to work with the relevant curriculum…..having high entry standards may help to reposition teaching more generally as a high status profession and one that it is a privilege to enter.”

Given the increasing importance of education for the future of this country and all its citizens, it would be a pity if the current negotiating imbroglio deflected the focus away from much needed attitude, value and system changes.

Lyall Lukey Convener of annual Education Leaders Forums since 2007.

Source: Education Review

 


May the Taskforce be with you!

May 23, 2018

Beyond the Education Summits

 “The primary purpose of the review of Tomorrow’s Schools will be to consider if the governance, management and administration of the schooling system is fit for purpose to ensure that every learner achieves educational success.” Tomorrow’s Schools Review

In the wake of Education Minister Chris Hipkins appointing a high-level taskforce of five educators to lead the review of the school governance structure that has been in place since the 1980s, Katie Fitzpatrick offered some food for thought in an Education Central piece on 2 May headlined Tomorrow’s Schools being reviewed by yesterday’s experts.

She concedes that each of the appointees is respected within the education community and, as a group, they appear to be reasonably diverse. “However, a closer look reveals that they are all representatives of educational institutions, most of which are partially or entirely funded by the Ministry of Education or the Government in some way… they largely represent existing sectoral interests…”

Taskforce Members

The Taskforce chairman is Bali Haque, an independent consultant who has worked for NZQA, NZ Principals’ Association and PPTA.  Members are Dr Cathy Wylie, NZ Council for Educational Research; Professor Mere Berryman, Waikato University and Te Kotahitanga; Professor John O’Neill, Massey University and NZ Association for Research in Education; and Barbara Ala’alatoa, chair of the Education Council.

Katie Fitzpatrick goes onto say that “The review is about repurposing schools for the 21st century and it requires, by definition, new and innovative thinking. As a person ‘inside the tent’ … I think it is imperative to have outside input into a systemic review such as this. Representation is also needed from other sectors with youth interests at heart.”

I couldn’t agree more. The challenge is to get a dynamic balance between those inside the tent and those outside– and between the mature experience of those who lived through and learnt from earlier system changes and the fresh ideas of those who didn’t.

But while there certainly needs to be a good mix of ages, experience and ideas in people contributing to and advising the Taskforce, not to have educators with mana and experience leading it would be to show a lack of trust in a sector which needs to be highly trusted not tightly trussed.

Advisory Panel Members

At the first Education Summit on 5-6 May the Minister of Education announced that he had also appointed “a diverse group of knowledgeable and passionate New Zealanders” on a cross-sector Advisory Panel to help the Taskforce and the Government guide the reform of the education system.

The Advisory Panel, led by Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft, will ease some concerns about the range of input. It includes former National education minister Sir Lockwood Smith, former Labour minister Marian Hobbs, Victoria University professor Rawinia Higgins, Pacific health consultant Debbie Ryan, Auckland University of Technology professor Welby Ings, playwright Etta Bollinger, and the chief executive of the Centre for Gifted Education, Deborah Walker.

Trial by fire

No shrinking violets, the members of the Advisory Panel will provide cross-sector perspectives in advising the Taskforce on the strengths and challenges of the current system, the changes required to ensure equity and excellence for all children and young people, how they would work in practice and with what impact.

It is also prepared to get fired up if necessary. Panel Chair Judge Becroft says the challenge of providing a world-leading education system is an issue for the whole community and will need the perspectives of all of us, including the voices of children and young people.

“As an advisory group, we are tasked with ensuring all of these voices and perspectives are heard and acted upon, across the full spectrum of the work that government is doing in education….In that sense, the group is both guardian of these voices, and a watchdog in the best sense. We intend to hold their feet to the fire to ensure that the future of education in New Zealand reflects what people are sharing.”

During 2018 this group will provide a high level overview and help connect strands coming out of the education conversation and summits with the development and delivery of the Government’s strategic education work plan, which includes the reviews of Tomorrow’s Schools and NCEA.

The latter has a separate group of innovative advisers to help review the NCEA process; Jeremy Baker- Chair, Barbara Cavanagh, Pauline Waiti, Michelle Dickinson (“Nanogirl”), Jonathan Gee, Arizona Leger, Charles Darr, plus an NCEA youth advisory group of students . Again there is a good balance of experience and youth and different perspectives.

Given these counterweights, having well regarded representatives of public education institutions at the top Taskforce table might avoid some of the uneasy compromises which led to the changes three decades ago which are now under the spotlight.

Picot Task Force

It is instructive to look at the genesis of many of the changes now under review. The Picot task force was set up by the Lange Labour Government in July 1987 to review the school system and draw some new lines in the sand.

Chaired by businessman Brian Picot its members were Peter Ramsay, an associate professor of education at the University of Waikato, Margaret Rosemergy, a senior lecturer at the Wellington College of Education, Whetumarama Wereta, a social researcher at the Department of Maori Affairs and Colin Wise, another businessman.

They were assisted by staff from the Treasury and the State Services Commission, with the Department of Education sidelined advice-wise but squarely in the cross hairs of the reforming sights of the then Treasury’s Billy the Kid sharpshooters.

There were only two, not particularly high profile, educators in key review positions. This was not the case with the Education Development Conference working parties of the previous decade, in which Prof. Phillip Lawrence, University of Canterbury played a key role, nor is it the case with the make up of the current taskforce.

So those selected for the 2018 Tomorrow’s Schools Review Taskforce appear to have somewhat more collective and diverse knowledge of things educational than their Picot predecessors.

The governance philosophy of the 1980s was based on the tenet that management skills were interchangeable Lego-like between industries. When it came to dealing with groups like teachers and doctors  it was thought necessary to avoid “professional capture” and ignore engaging properly with professionally credible people. Change had to be engineered speedily to head off defensive reaction.

Administrative Focus

The 1987 mandate was to review management structures and cost-effectiveness, but it did not include curriculum, teaching or effectiveness. Over nine months the commission received input from over 700 people or organizations. The Picot Report Administering for Excellence: Effective Administration in Education was released in May 1988.

For slow learners administration was mentioned twice in five words in the title, which still sends a shiver up the spine of those who are wary about too much horse-scaring change management and administrative oversight at the expense of professional leadership which directly enhances teaching and learning.

The report was highly critical of the Department of Education, which it labelled as inefficient and unresponsive. How many education bureaucrats did it take to replace a light bulb in a school? From memory 18 or so, but that may have been a suburban myth.

The Picot report recommended a system where each school would be largely independent, governed by a board consisting mainly of parents, although subject to review and inspection by specialized government agencies. The Labour Government accepted many of the recommendations in their response Tomorrow’s Schools, finally drafted by two officials from the Treasury and the SSC but no educationalists. It became the basis for educational reform in New Zealand starting in 1989 though some key elements in the report were never implemented.

Blaming an inefficient centralised bureaucracy for slipping school standards, the government disestablished the Department of Education, replacing it with a slimmer Ministry of Education and moving the governance of state schools to their individual school communities.

The Department of Education was replaced with six new siloed bodies, the Ministry of Education, the Education Review Office (ERO), the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA), the Tertiary Education Commission, Careers NZ and the New Zealand Teachers’ Council.

Curriculum reform tinkering occurred in the 1990s, followed by more comprehensive and innovative reform a decade later to update what was being taught in schools in and for the 21st century.

The pendulum had swung radically as pendulums do when given a good shove. Schools scrambled to find property management, financial and HR expertise among their staff or board, particularly in lower decile catchments and struggled with professional development and learning culture change.

To balance their books many schools, particularly at the secondary level, became engaged in what some considered unseemly domestic and international competition for students.

2018 Terms of Reference

The 2018 Taskforce, like 30 years ago, is tasked with looking at “the changes needed to governance, management and administration to better support all learners throughout their schooling” .

Per its terms of reference  it is expected to consult widely with all stakeholders, including representatives of teachers, principals, boards of trustees, the LGBTQIA+ community, parents of children with learning support needs, employers and young people.

The term “Tomorrow’s Schools” still has some surprising currency three decades later, at a time when, according to the OECD, “Skills are the new world currency”. New Zealand’s state schools have hardly been “tomorrow’s schools” for a long time. There is a pent up need for a review of the administrative weight, formerly regionalised or centralised, placed on schools.

No one wants to go back to the constricting confines of the old Department of Education. Its occupation of the reputed biggest wooden building in the Southern Hemisphere made too emphatic a bureaucratic statement.

But while distributed leadership is crucial and empowering in domains such as professional development and curriculum application, when it comes to things like physical infrastructure, HR, health and safety, more regional collaboration and national co-ordination is long overdue and would take pressure off principals and boards.

In the face of a growing quantity and quality crisis a vital national priority like teacher recruitment is still largely devolved to autonomous tertiary teacher education providers.

Senior leadership teams in schools need to be able to focus more on professional development and support, the keys to a quality learning environment. There have been some  promising collaborative initiatives in recent years like the establishment of Communities of Learning involving local primary and secondary schools and sometimes early childhood centres.

Despite  scepticism in some quarters this is a welcome development to encourage knowledge and resource sharing, grow professionalism and develop education leadership. This is also a key strand of Education Leaders Forum 2018: Valuing Educators- Revaluing Education to be held in August.

CoLs give educators the opportunity to model the soft skills like collaboration, knowledge sharing, problem solving, creativity and innovation which are increasingly required in the modern earning environments to which their learners gravitate.

More input and feedback

“The essence of feedback is that the effect of an action is fed back to alter that action.” Edward de Bono

What is needed downstream of the two recent Education Summits, book-ended by The Education Conversation -Kōrero Mātauranga which closes on 31 May, are on-going live and online opportunities for continuing dialogue and feedback on pending reforms.

This could involve using distributed education facilities throughout the country plus interactive platforms like Zoom for focussed live and virtual meetings on key topics.

As well as wider involvement it would provide platforms for special interest groups and experts to pick up in depth on the threads that have evolved so far. It would build in a feedback loop that would go a long way to improving the productive outcome of the education conversation by helping to focus the minds of those on the Taskforce and the Advisory Panel.

To have only a “tick the box” online questionnaire and two invited Summit audiences involved for two days providing input and feedback would be a missed opportunity in terms of continuing real dialogue and feedback.

As always in education discussions there needs to be an adjustment for the Dunning-Kruger effect and its Socratic corollary: “The less you know about something, the more you think you know; the more you know about something, the less you think you know”.

Piloting the next stage of the ambitious millennial education reform juggernaut should not yet become a Han Solo effort. In order to escape the gravitational pull of old systems and outdated mindsets, the energy required to fuel lift-off needs to come from the continued involvement of those affected by or interested in the outcomes of the reform process.

The bandwidth of knowledge is trust. May the Task Force be with us all!

[ https://educationcentral.co.nz/what-do-you-think-about-tomorrows-schools/ 12/6/18-Have your say.]

Lyall Lukey   Convener, Education Leaders Forum 2018


Vision and Objectives for the Ōtākaro Avon River corridor

June 3, 2017

“…vision and strategy are as much about creating meaning for people as they are about establishing direction.”  Andrew Smith

Comments made by a Regenerate Christchurch spokesperson, in the Stuff article accompanying the call for feedback on the Vision and Objectives for the post-quakes  Ōtākaro Avon River corridor*, included mention of the organisation “working at different levels simultaneously” on the Regeneration Area.

This devalues the envisioning phase of the strategic planning process. Work should not begin on the objectives, strategic and operational planning until the vision is crystallised and accepted. The sequence is the secret, as Andrew Smith points out in relation to his Accelerated Planning Technique.*

Comments on the Draft:

“The draft vision for the Ōtākaro Avon River Regeneration Area has been shaped by thousands of ideas from Christchurch people about how the area can be transformed into an attractive and exciting legacy for our community.”

No-the thousands of ideas are the raw material, not the shapers. Don’t confuse the clay with the potter.

“The vision and objectives have been informed by public feedback, a community needs survey, 19 workshops with a diverse range of groups, a community profile and more than 5000 ideas from adults and children….”

A lot of input to produce a weak vision and clumsy objectives!

“Our shared Ōtākaro Avon River vision
The river is part of us and we are part of the river. It connects us with each other, our communities and nature…”

The second sentence is tautologous and clumsy, which is merely irritating. But the first sentence reads like a poetical or mystical vision, not the kind of vision at all appropriate to lead off a vision statement of this sort.

A properly crafted vision describes the endpoint and outcomes of the collective journey or collaborative enterprise. It should contain the ingredients of the criteria for evaluating whether or not the journey or enterprise has been satisfactory completed.

Evan Smith’s article in today’s Press “Cleaner Avon River offers more options” * is not structured as a vision/objectives/strategy but it has key elements that could be incorporated in “Our shared Ōtākaro Avon River vision”.

These include an excellent visual and “a concept around recreational renaturalisation of the river, with a particular focus on Kerr’s Reach that allows for flat water sports and a river floodplain too” and criteria like greatly improved water quality and sustainability and parallel benefits in terms of flood management.

The benefits help to sell the concept, though it is quite clear that more work has to be done on hydrological and other ingredients of the concept.

Formatted rather annoyingly, the “vision” meanders on, as murky as the Avon River itself:

“….It is a living part of our city.
A place of history and culture
where people gather, play, and celebrate together.
A place of learning and discovery
where traditional knowledge, science and technology meet.
A place for ideas and innovation
where we create new ways of living and connecting.
Our vision is for the river to connect us together
with each other, with nature and with new possibilities.
Nōku te awa. The river is mine.
We all share in the future of this river.
Ōtākaro Avon River, together we thrive.”

More repetition and tautology: “Our vision is for the river to connect us together with each other…”. Then a switch from the collective to the individual: “Nōku te awa. The river is mine’, but in the next breath “We all share in the future of this river.”

A vision is supposed to lift our sights, focus our attention and fortify our aspirations. I am afraid that what we are offered instead is a confusing mishmash which does none of these things.

*Blinks
https://engage.regeneratechristchurch.nz/26899/documents/55615
http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/opinion/93221595/reimagining-the-avon-river-for-recreation-and-nature  Evan Smith  2/6/17
http://www.lukey.co.nz/services/strategicplanning.html

Lyall Lukey  3 June 2017
http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz
https://lukeytraining.wordpress.com/
https://bluggerme.wordpress.com/


Novopay: An Incis-ive Report from Muddle-earth?

June 16, 2013

“The problems with Novopay have affected public trust and confidence in the Ministry of Education and also the wider public sector.”                  Novopay Report

Apart from those numerically numinous teachers who like an activity-based approach to the study of statistics and probability, Novopay’s game of unders and overs has been very annoying, especially for many of their colleagues. But it’s time to come in spinner and get some perspective.

So far the Novopay system has cost $24 million more than expected, though the blowout was likely to increase even further. But on the political Richter scale it is a mere 3.4 compared to an INCIS 9.1

INCIS was the name of the Integrated National Crime Information System designed to provide information to the New Zealand Police in the 1990s, but which was abandoned in 1999. By then it wasn’t integrated, it wasn’t national and it certainly wasn’t a system providing much timely information, but it really raised the bar in being a criminal waste of taxpayers’ money. By some estimates NZD$110 million swirled down the INCIS gurgler in the 1990s. Though the project was abandoned, parts of its hardware and software infrastructure are still in use today.

Edge of Chaos

At least Novopay lumbered into flight, if somewhat prematurely. Post-Report it is no dead duck, despite the guns being pointed collectively skyward from early May with people waiting for a different kind of report. There was plenty of ducking for cover.  Not getting all the ducks in a row in the first place was the big problem, as the Novopay Report makes clear.

Not Novopay ducks

Not Novopay ducks

There is a web-footed welcome to the finished product: “Welcome to the Ministerial Inquiry into Novopay website. The Minister responsible for Novopay, the Hon. Steven Joyce established the inquiry to address the issues and concerns surrounding Novopay – the education payroll system.”

Joyce is, of course,  the Minister responsible for the Novopay mop-up, not the cock-up. The role of the Ministerial Inquiry was to conduct a fact-finding investigation into Novopay from the outset to the present day and was led by the Lead Inquirers, Mr Murray Jack and Sir Maarten Wevers, to the accompaniment of Goodnight, Irene.*

Educhaos

The inquiry found Talent2, the Australian contractor tasked with implementing the system, has been swamped with technical difficulties which built up a tsunami of compounding errors. This was not entirely news: “The impacts of the well-publicised Novopay failures have reverberated across New Zealand”  for months. Those at the whiteboard face have not been backward in forwarding their error ridden payslips to the media*.

It has all very annoying and very time-wasting, but it is not quite in the league of, say, formerly Solid-as coalminers being wrenched from the coalface by sudden redundancy.

Just after the report was released Anne Jackson Ministry of Education Deputy Secretary (tertiary, international and system performance)  chose walking over planking by responsibly tendering her resignation. She said the decision to resign was hers alone and that there was no pressure put on her to quit. “I remain deeply committed to education and the principles of public service. That is why I have taken this step today…” A colleague followed last Friday. In fact there have already been three major MoE resignations, counting Secretary of Education Lesley Lonsgtone, though that was not solely Novopay inspired, nor pressure free.

Other colleagues will be squirming. Even if they weren’t trying to string along their political masters and mistresses, it does seem that the advice proffered to ministers was, to coin a phrase, ropey. Some advisers obviously gave themselves more than enough rope.

Unsurprisingly, responsible ministers of all persuasions since the Novopay behemoth lurched out of the laboratory were not fingered; it was all down to dodgy advice, the biggest sin for any public servant.

A Class Action?

The class action by the Post Primary Teachers’ Association on behalf of 18,000 members against Ministry of Education acting secretary Peter Hughes is a further waste of time and resources which should never have been started. In the wake of the latest resignations, it should be abandoned forthwith.

The Association is fighting to have a statutory declaration from the court that Hughes, who has only been in the acting role a few months,  has breached his Education Act obligations to pay school staff.  The union said it wants the ministry to shoulder the blame for the fiasco. Vampire movies are inexplicably still popular, but how much blood is enough?

Perhaps it’s really a classic class warfare action ahead of next year’s general election.  On a National Radio  item on Novopay PPTA president Angela Roberts talked about “the workers” as if she’d forgotten who she was representing. “Education professionals” and “support staff” would have sounded better.

Perspective

It really is time for a bit of perspective. Frustrating though the Novopay saga has been it is not payola. There has been some accountability, with at least two out for the count, even if the lighthouse keeper’s role of the State Services Commission hasn’t really been  put under the spotlight.

It is a fact that one teacher’s bungled pay slip was just 1c.  But alongside people facing the challenge of school closures and mergers, or those suffering genuine hardship in Christchurch because of EQC and/or insurance battles, these indubitably annoying errors pale into insignificance, especially given that many schools made temporary arrangements for those whose pay was cocked up. They should be compensated for wasted administration time, but litigation is a different matter.

The Biggest Issue

The biggest issue is why in the first place the Ministry looked off-shore for a tweaked, out of the box system when clever Kiwi IT and payroll firms could have delivered the goods in a more timely and user-friendly fashion.

That’s not to say there would have been any teething problems, both system and training, which is par for the course in any large change like this which shifts a largely manual system onto an integrated digital platform. All IT systems would be absolutely fine if it weren’t for the users. But at least the support would have been at hand and the chosen IT partner better vetted.

When she resigned Anne Jackson’s role was the development of strategic direction for the education system, including links with economic policy, skills and innovation. It’s a pity that MoE didn’t activate those links closer to home. As I said in an earlier Novopay blogpost* we have talent too.

Give Kiwi skills and innovation a chance!

*Blinks

http://inquiry.novopay.govt.nz The Ministerial Inquiry
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/8782110/Novopay-claims-major-Education-Ministry-scalp
http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/politics/8782186/Education-Ministry-manager-quits-over-Novopay
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/8799149/Off-to-court-as-teachers-pay-rounded-to-1c
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLvk-qsKonQ    Vid  The Weavers Goodnight, Irenefrom their historic re-union concert in 2008.-about the time Novopay kicked off.
Education Novovirus spreads in Muddle-earth My earlier blogpost on this.

#Lyall Lukey  16 June 2013
http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz
https://bluggerme.wordpress.com  My other less serious blog


Ghost Writers in the Cloud-I

May 27, 2013

 “In China, and in many other countries, cheating and corruption is rampant – they have a philosophy that is completely different to us. Other countries don’t share our attitude. It’s more like if you can get away with it, then fine.” Associate Professor Martin Lally, Victoria University

According to Martin Lally, revelations of a commercial tertiary cheating service using ghost writers for Chinese-speaking students and others are probably just the tip of the iceberg. The low threshold for English competency in New Zealand universities, combined with different cultural attitudes to cheating, meant that the recent dial-a-grade revelation in the Sunday Star-Times “doesn’t come as the slightest surprise”.

Sui Generis

Time may tell how degrading this behaviour in New Zealand. One thing is certain: examination cheating in China has a long history because the Chinese Imperial Examination has a long history.

Established in 605 under the Sui Dynasty and flourishing under the Ming Dynasty, the Chinese imperial examination was designed to select the best potential candidates to serve as civil servants. *The system’s longevity should lift the sights of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. It continued, with some modifications, for 1300 years, until its 1905 abolition under the Qing Dynasty.

Tight quotas restricted the number of successful candidates. The examinations were designed as objective measures- the first standardized tests based on merit to evaluate the educational attainment and merit of the examinees. Higher level degrees tending to lead to higher ranking placements in the imperial government service.

The Chinese Imperial Examination had a huge influence on both society and culture in Imperial China and played a key role in the emergence of the scholar-officials, the Mandarins, who came to dominate Chinese society.

The system also contributed to  a narrowing of intellectual life and reinforced the autocratic power of the emperor, even if some of its recruits had doubts about the visibility of the garb of the current Emperor.

Evolving Curriculum

Pre Sui Dynasty tests to evaluate potential candidates consisted of various contests such as archery competitions, rather pointed way of sorting out the target market. The quiver brought a whole new dimension of exam nerves. Archery made cheating difficult but the contests were a bit hard to administer so the examinations evolved into a battery of tests administered at the district, provincial, and metropolitan levels. (After 1300 years they were still working on a properly moderated system of National Standards).

Candidates were initially tested on their proficiency in the “Six Arts”: Scholastic arts: music, arithmetic, writing, and knowledge of the rituals and ceremonies in both public and private life.

The curriculum was then expanded under the Sui Dynasty to cover the “Five Studies”: military strategy, civil law, revenue and taxation, agriculture and geography and the Confucian classics.  No mere 3Rs here; this was a broad curriculum-and no getting ahead by specialising in an arcane academic topic to snare a Ph.D. and frame one’s name with alphabetic prefixes and suffixes .

Infernal Assessment

Candidates arrived at an examination compound and were allocated a tiny room with a makeshift bed, desk, and bench and a few amenities including a water pitcher, a chamber pot, bedding, food, an ink stone, ink, and brushes. No short answer tests here: candidates spent three days and two nights writing “eight-legged essays”, with an octet of distinct sections.

They were not allowed any communication. If someone died during an exam, officials wrapped the body in a straw mat and dropped it over the compound’s high walls. In the annals of this Imperial system of infernal assessment these late and unlamented candidates were no doubt recorded as Not Achieved.

Invigilation

With intense pressure to succeed cheating and corruption were endemic.
Guards would verify the identity of each students and search them for hidden printed materials, sometimes written on their underwear*.

To discourage favoritism, each exam was recopied by an official copyist before marking so examiners wouldn’t identify their own student’s calligraphy. Even slightly creative writing was out: exact quotes from the classics were required for success. A misplaced character was enough to blot their copybook and disqualify a candidate; hence the ideogrammatically correct underwear to avoid being caught unawares.

The whole system offered Imperial Britain a role model for recruiting office wallahs in India and closer to home for the foreign and civil service.

It may also be worth considering by our State Services Commission as a way of preventing fake or inflated qualifications being brandished by public sector high

*Blinks
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/8663770/University-cheats-in-the-minority  http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/8672646/Cheating-rampant-outside-NZ  http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/8686568/Across-the-great-cultural-divide
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imperial_examination  See photo of “Cribbing Garment” worn as underwear into the examination!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xsfw9CEQITA Vid Ghost Riders In The Sky Vaughn Monroe  1949
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZwAPa0qHmLo  Vid Ghost Riders In the Sky:Frankie Laine

#Lyall Lukey  27 May 2013
http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz
https://bluggerme.wordpress.com My other (even) less serious blog


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

 

 


The Education Cluster Bomb and the Parata Principle

October 1, 2012

 ”This will enable decisions about the schooling network to consider housing developments and surrounding infrastructure. It will also facilitate engagement with parents and learners to ensure they play a significant role in deciding the type of education provision that meets their community’s needs,”  Hekia Parata, Minister of Education

Engagement with parents and learners? What about principals and teachers?  More like enragement over the last fortnight because of the way the seismic shake up in education in greater Christchurch has been mismanaged.

There have been enough recent Big Brother announcements on the wider earthquake front without a Big Sister pronouncement to boot. Still feeling rather bruised and fragile, citizens have had to be passive recipients of recent proclamations on the 100 day Central City Recovery Plan, more residential red zoning and the off hand extension of the timeline within which democracy is going to be returned to regional government in Canterbury. The latest shock waves affect several schools, the hearts of their communities for young families and the not so young.

Missed the Cluetrain

As the tsunami of letters to The Press attests the natives are restless but not voiceless about “we know best” decisions, especially if information on which they are made is partly withheld rather than being fully shared. The Cluetrain Manifesto is now 17 years old but some organisations still haven’t got a clue.

Ministers like opening schools, not closing them-ask Trevor Mallard. But for obvious geological, geographic, and demographic reasons there has to be some major post quakes rationalization of education provision in the wider city, with 4400 unused desks.  Many families have left the region; others have moved west and teachers and resources have to follow.

It would be unreasonable to expect a continuation of the post quakes moratorium on staffing changes. Resources have to flow to where the people are now-and where they’ll be when the much vaunted rebuild gets into full gear, with more than 20,000  new workers in the city, many with families.

The sad thing is that the bungled announcement of the initiatives may have inoculated some school communities against some real education changes needed, earthquakes or no earthquakes.

The Pareto Principle

The Pareto principle, also known as the 80–20 rule and the law of the vital few, states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. The principle helps manage those things that really make a difference to results. Business management consultant Joseph Juran named the principle after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed in 1906 that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population.

The Parata Principle

The Parata Principle states that 20% of each Ministry of Education policy announcement will cause so much smoke and fury by the way it is arrived at and delivered that it will be difficult to see any virtues, let alone necessities, in the other 80%.

So it was with the withdrawn class size averaging proposal earlier in the year when the Minister was given a statistical hospital pass by her ministry. Parata initially said that about 90 per cent of schools would either gain or have a net loss of less than one full time equivalent teacher as a result of the combined effect of the changes, hardly justifying the-sky-is-falling-again response in some quarters, but omitted to point out the somewhat larger effects on the other 10%.

So it also was with Canterbury education shake up announcement on 13 September. 173 schools out of 215 were not affected by the announcement-exactly 80%.

Schools assembly
…Blue’s the colour of the sky In the mornin’ when we rise … Green’s the colour of the sparklin’ corn In the mornin’ when we rise…”
Colours  Donovan & Joan Baez 1965*

When they rose that morning, many principals had little idea of the scale of changes about to be detonated. As they arrived at the schools assembly to hear an announcement marred by confusion and mired in bureaucratic terminatorology, principals were given colour coded name tags according to whether their schools were in the proposed optional (or optional proposed) categories of purple “rejuvenate” ( eu-than-ase); orange “consolidate” and green “no change”. The use of colourful weasel words didn’t help schools given a Don’t Come 2013. The blues were soon on parade.

In a (very) mixed media combo consisting of a starter video, ministerial miniseries from Earthquake Minister Brownlee and Education Minister Hekia Parata, it was announced that 13 Christchurch schools would close and 18 could merge. Five Aranui schools would also combine into an education “cluster”. Since they are going to physically be on one site in Hampshire Street a “huddle” or “mob” would have been more appropriate.*

Then principals were then engaged in a DIY breakout activity Find out the Fate of Your School by flicking through the folder of bumf. Look there it is, right at the end!

Feedback and feedforward
”As we move from recovery to renewal, we have an opportunity to realign services with changing community needs and ensure our investment delivers better outcomes for learners and the wider community…’In line with community feedback, we are taking the time to get this right because the benefits to Christchurch and wider New Zealand are tremendous…”  Gerry Brownlee

Community feedback was just about to start, though a lot of people would have appreciated the opportunity for feedforward. Minister Parata said the region’s education sector and wider community had “signaled” support for new approaches to education and this included greater sharing of resources and capital. To achieve that, schools had been grouped into clusters based on their geographic location.

 The Thinking?
…Freedom is a word I rarely use without thinkin’.. Colours 

Just how much thought had gone into the proposals and where was the vision, the big picture? These had been the strengths of the rather draconian 100 Day Central City Plan V1 launched by Minister Brownlee only a few weeks earlier to reconfigure the city after the last of 1600 commercial buildings is demolished. While this was a totally top down process, it picked up on the earlier CCC run Share an Idea exercise in 2011 which allowed thousands of people to initiate ideas not merely respond to them. The 30 July CCDU launch had sold the big picture by articulating clear design principles without getting bogged down on the details, which included some tricky property time bombs.

Now the Earthquake Minister was telling the principals that the region’s education sector had experienced huge disruption since the earthquakes. This was not an entirely novel insight. It certainly had and the sector had shown great flexibility in coping, from site and resource sharing and running learning shifts to more use of mobile information technology.  Teachers and students at the electronic whiteboard and Blackboard face did very well: NCEA results for the region were outstanding despite the dislocation at home and at school.

The Education Minister followed by stating that a strong education system, from early childhood to tertiary, will be critical to the redevelopment of greater Christchurch and its economy in the wake of the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011:
“This is why the Ministry of Education has worked with the community and the sector to develop a Plan for renewal that will meet the educational needs of children and young people, and support social, cultural and economic recovery.
This will involve an investment of up to one billion dollars to develop greater Christchurch as a leading education community positioned to set new standards of excellence in teaching, learning and research.
It also offers a unique opportunity to take an innovative course of action that will improve the delivery of education, extend the options available for learners, and lift student achievement.
The plan for education renewal considers the needs of Learning Community Clusters …”

Post quakes education in Canterbury has been a fascinating laboratory of locally generated ingenuity and innovation. John Laurenson, the Head of Shirley Boys’ High School had posted some innovative post quake ideas for education in East Christchurch on YouTube in June .* Three months later, as top down met bottom up head on like two colliding tectonic plates,  he was blindsided and blindfolded like several of his fellow principals.

Media management: out to launch?
How to set the Cat among the Pigeons and Scare the Horses 101

The devil wasn’t just in the detail, it was also flagged right up front in capital letters in the inept way the announcement was planned and executed in both its professional and media dimensions.

Media management or lack of it was all straight from the manual of How to set the Cat among the Pigeons and Scare the Horses 101, with no obvious  subsequent credits having being earned for the companion programme How to Shelter from Fallout from Panicked Pigeons and Bolted Horses 201.

There was confusion between firm “proposals” and various “options”. The inclusion of the “option” of possibly merging SBHS and CBHS –leaked by NBR and picked up by Stuff before the optimistic embargo expiry time-was rated an emphatic “Not Achieved” in Geography, History and School Culture and brought into question the credibility of other options and proposals (or were they proposed options and optional proposals?)

There had been two rounds of post-quakes education shake up meetings held over the last year or so with hand-picked people, but there seems to have been no meaningful segue to the Renewing Education in Greater Christchurch launch.

Some schools down for closure or amalgamation as firm proposals had prior briefing (a whole one hour prior to the launch), but not CBHS and SBHS, whose geotechnical status had not yet been made available.  Media management on the day fell short. The Ministry didn’t make it easy for participants and media to access online information in real time. In an age of mobile social media and 24/7 news outlets placing an unrealistic 4pm publication embargo only encouraged some media outlets to also go off half cocked while denying principals and Board of Trustees Chairs with the information to pass onto their colleagues.

Not in my schoolyard
“It’s sad for those schools that are involved in closing and merging and we’ve got to sit down, we’ve got to talk about how we can positively work with those proposals and ensure we’ve got a good strong, efficient, effective network for learning in Christchurch.”  Trevor McIntyre, Headmaster of Christchurch Boys’ High *

On Newstalk ZB  and Radio New Zealand the day after the announcement Trevor McIntyre said that while the shake up of Canterbury’s education sector will be difficult for many, a reassessment was needed. Before the announcement, he said, Christchurch principals had been fully aware of the need for changes in the region. But specific proposals for individual schools, he said, are a lot different than generalised discussion about change and renewal across the region.

Banks Avenue School could either be relocated or close as part of the proposals. Principal Murray Edlin said while it will be hard for many, the reorganisation is needed: “Because we’ve had an earthquake, there needed to be a reassessment of what the education provision is for Christchurch. What is really pleasing to see is that this is [only] a proposal, so it certainly gives us an opportunity to have some reaction to it.”*

Some of the other initial comments were less printable. The repercussions of the percussion were suddenly far wider than envisaged. Schools in the west and elsewhere were now on Death Row, not just those in the more affected east.

That Certain Feeling? No Minister

“Christchurch has been very tired but I think suddenly there is a new energy and feel … “I expected people would get upset but we had to give certainty and that’s what we’ve done,” Education Mininster Hekia Parata.

Expectations are very important in education. The Minister ensured that hers were self-fulfilled by managing to simultaneously panic parents, alarm students and irritate principals- the whole trifecta- and provoke calls to the ramparts with banners and posters trivialising the issues but providing a useful steam releasing valve for people sick off fighting earthquake battles and wanting their children’s schools to be havens of normalcy in the new post quakes  abnormal .

In the following days she wouldn’t be drawn on whether schools targeted for closure or amalgamation could hold onto hope. “We’re going to go through a process,… The point of consultation is to explain why their schools are on the proposal . . . hear what people have to say, for them to hear the detail, and then to reach a decision.”

The overhaul was “definitely, emphatically, unequivocally not a cost-cutting measure”. But to fit new needs surely it’s very appropriate for it to be at least a cloth cutting exercise, though one which appreciates the role of schools, especially in rural areas since they are often the last vestige of community now the post offices, the general store and the local church have closed. The same hold true in some suburbs.

Follow Up to Launch
“We have relied on your feedback during consultation on the Education Renewal Recovery Programme ‘Directions for Education Renewal in greater Christchurch’ Lesley Longstone, Ministry of Education Secretary

The Secretary featured two days after the launch in a full page Press ad looking inordinately cheerful in what could have been an old colour holiday snap. At least it was  in red and black. Entitled “To the people of greater Christchurch” the ad started: “As you will have seen or heard, the Government is investing up to ONE BILLION dollars in the renewal of education across greater Christchurch”.

ONE BILLION. What a capital idea! The timeframe of 10 years wasn’t mentioned and it’s not clear how much of this is new money.

 The secret  in strategy formulation is the sequence. Rather than the stages of Preparation, Response, Recovery and Renewal in terms of handling a natural disaster there is the clumsy omnibus concept “Education Renewal Recovery Programme” which scrambled the scale of changes and timelines for implementation. It all seemed rather confused not focused. Opportunities for some broadbased professional and community prior input would have been good, not just feedback.

The next day I couldn’t find anything on the MinEdu site pointing to the announcements, though Saturday’s ad provided an obviously non-hyperlinked url.*  Parata’s  subsequent “stepping back” clarification was a belated exercise in barn door closure. Since Announcement Day a flurry of phone calls, meetings and revised consultative time-lines has brought much less certainty than the Minister averred.

Over a fortnight later a letter regarding the now revised consultation period was hand delivered to the principals of affected schools last Friday. The next day there was a new Press ad under the heading Greater Christchurch Education Renewal (no mention of recovery now): “More community consultation-the next step for schools proposed to be merged or closed.”

More?  I didn’t know we had had any yet.  At least there is now a more realistic timeline for the “consultation process”. Each affected school is left to run its own process “in the way that best suits their school and their school community.”  If they want assistance Minedu will pay for an independent facilitator. “This is your chance to influence what happens.”  Not much chance of that with an atomised process but better late than never I suppose.

Beyond the Status quo

People will support what they help to create.” Marvin Weisbord

With the shift in population westwards from the munted east, there had to be more than a degree of rationalization in the provision of education in the wider city. The issues in the west, especially in Selwyn County-where the launch meeting was held-are about handling population expansion already happening apace pre quakes and accelerating since. Scaling up not scaling down is the challenge there.

The Minister’s statement that there is the opportunity to make education in Christchurch better, not just restore the status quo is fair enough, even if it got lost on the day. While some people fear a New Orleans post Katrina privatisation of education in Christchurch, given the scale of the challenges, not to mention the run on Banks, the Charter or “Partnership” school concept is a horse of the stalking rather than the Trojan variety.

This is not the time to merely paper over the physical and metaphorical cracks in education in the region. This is the opportunity to build deep and strong new foundations for differently configured learning communities based on strengthening present and new communities as they respond to seismic and other shocks, including fully coming to terms with the mobile digital revolution and with the implications of a new understanding of the principles and practices of effective learning and teaching from the work of Christchurch educator the late Graham Nuthall  and others.

It is also an opportunity to and explore new methods of governance and the sharing of educational plant and overheads both within learning clusters and with other community organisations. Many schools would benefit from sharing overheads: keeping the professional autonomy bestowed by the original Charter Schools 23 years ago but working more collegially in clusters to share resources and ideas and looking at new forms of governance and overhead cost sharing by taking the burden of property maintenance and other administration off individual principals and boards of trustees so schools can focus on the 20% of the causal factors which leads to 80% of learning outcomes.

 Not Clusters Last Stand
“If you don’t like change you’ll like irrelevance even less”.

Earthquakes or not, all learning communities throughout the country should all be open to self-generated efforts to give 1950’s educational arrangements a shake up in a more mobile and connected age with quite different cultural dynamics.

There is a unique opportunity to pick up on some of the exciting experiments post quakes generated by school communities themselves and sometimes facilitated by regional Ministry of Education people, rather than foisted on them from Head Office.

The challenge is to make the shotgun clusters viable while still keeping community identities. Large school aggregations such as that proposed for Aranui will be like scaled up rural area schools in the city. But, whatever the savings through facility and resource sharing, for many small is beautiful. More than 150 in any community and the social dynamics change markedly.

Distributing the Future
”The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed”. William Gibson

The shame is that the furious furore resulting from the patronizing approach may inoculate some people against a measured and timely response to the demographic and geographic shifts caused by the four major Canterbury quakes and to the real changes needed in teaching and learning, education governance and leadership focused on diverse learning provision appropriate to the second decade of the third millennium not the 1950s..

Of course, some schools are already there and the key to their success is organic self-generated professional development attuned both to the local community and national imperatives. 

MinEdu Report Card: Not Achieved
“The ministry must improve the analysis; the poorest papers lacked a clear problem definition or a coherent framework and failed in identifying major risks,”… Review of the Ministry of Education by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research.

There are lingering question marks over the performance of the Ministry of Education. An independent review of the ministry’s policy advice about the time Hekia Parata took over suggests a third of its papers are “poor or borderline” and only one-tenth are “good”. The results were no better than an earlier review in 2007.  Papers from the Ministry needed to be “far shorter” and “less repetitive”. Policy advice in the Ministry was graded low. “The ministry should act as a trusted adviser, recommending the best option rather than – more often than not – asking the minister to pick from a long list of options.”*

English import Education Secretary Lesley Longstone was expected to shake things up when she started in 2011.   Parata, also new to the job of Education Minister, said then: “I’ve made my expectations really clear to the new secretary about what it is I want and the pace at which I want it,”… “I’m driving in a particular direction and I need the support and the information and the reliable data in order to be able to do that.” …. My role is to tell her what my expectations are, what success is going to look like, what that means in terms of accountabilities for her.” *

The Ministry of Education needs to accept responsibility at the top level for a poorly orchestrated launch and learn from it. When it comes to dealing with both professionals and the public  it seems that the EQC demonstrates more EQ than the Ministry of Education. More importantly there are also big question marks over the substance of the proposals in terms of their formation and their strategic articulation.

Two successive glitches in the last 3 weeks with the new education payroll, which cost schools throughout the country lots of extra administration time, didn’t help the Ministry’s credibility. But what is needed more than efficiency is effectiveness. Perhaps its time to inject some more new people into the Ministry of Education. Some local Christchurch principals, who are demonstrating beyond their own patch leadership qualities in the present kerfuffle, commend themselves as likely candidates who could balance calls for top down change with an appreciation of the need for bottom up engagement.

Bottoms up to bottom up!

Did I just hear a (very faint) cry of Bring back Anne Tolley…?

*Blinks

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/7675704/Principals-in-tears-as-ministry-swings-axe
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0O87fFRizZY   Vid  Colours Donovan & Joan Baez Classic 1965 recording. Worth a play! 
http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/7678838/Cluster-schools-out-of-left-field
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/7669918/13-Canterbury-schools-to-close-18-to-merge
http://www.minedu.govt.nz/theMinistry.aspx   Find the MinEdu’s change paper
http://shapingeducation.minedu.govt.nz   Oh here it is.
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/7682703/Little-hope-of-Canterbury-school-plan-backdown
http://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/auckland/news/regch/792333415-earthquakes-forced-education-rethink—principals
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/6869627/Staff-being-lost-in-big-reforms-of-Education-Ministry
http://www.ssc.govt.nz/sites/all/files/pif-moe-review-june2011.PDF   Review of Ministry of Education
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rwtm2-S95xg  John Laurenson, SBHS Principal. Earlier innovative post quake ideas 11/6/12
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/7690199/Schools-lodge-Waitangi-Tribunal-complaints
http://www.stuff.co.nz/science/7712305/Cooperative-people-quicker-to-act 

#Lyall Lukey 1 October 2012
http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz
https: //bluggerme.wordpress.com  My other less serious blog

 


Ex Cathedral: The Bishop’s Opening (and Closing) Gambit

May 31, 2012

The various bodies that have made the decision for the diocese have determined that we will take a conservative approach, and we will look after safety as a priority.” Gavin Holley COO Christchurch Anglican Diocese*

Conservative? Not as people at the Cathedral demo demo last Saturday understand the term, including the protestor with a T-shirt emblazoned with “Destruction con”. They are calling for a tea break in the “deconstruction” of Christ Church Cathedral to consider alternatives before there are no options- and very little cathedral-left.

On YouTube there is a nostalgic 2009 time lapse video* of the large chess set in play in Christchurch’s Square, with the Cathedral reassuringly in the background.*

The graphic video* captured by a Japanese tourist Mr Shogo Asawa just a few months later, seconds after the Cathedral’s spire speared into the ground during the fierce earthquake of 22 February 2011, shows the chess men toppled like the statue of John Robert Godley as dust billowed and shocked bystanders tried to make sense of what they had just experienced.

15 months later, in the now denuded inner city, more than 770 commercial buildings having already been demolished, with a further 1800 plus on death row, including the centrepiece Anglican Cathedral. These numbers will probably rise if in-progress engineering evaluations deem buildings irreparable or insurers rule them uneconomic to repair.

In recent weeks the Anglican Church has been playing lightning chess with the deconstruction of the Cathedral after Bishop Victoria Matthews played her early gambit about “making the Cathedral safe”.

The aggressive Bishop’s Gambit is one of the oldest chess openings on record, showing up about the same time as Galileo was supposedly dropping two balls of different masses off the Tower of Pisa.

423 years later, in an affair with a different kind of gravity, Bishop Matthews who has been accused of dropping the ball now that the remainder of the Tower of Christ Church Cathedral has been dropped, with the rest of the historic building due to be taken down to a height of 2-3 metres pending further developments.

Rule number 1 of gambit chess is that you play for higher goals than just regaining or retaining material. Not much Cathedral building material has been retained so far: the machines used have been gobblers not nibblers. With the tower down it may be easier to deconstruct rather than destroy, but don’t hold your breath.

There have been some belated white knight moves in response to the Bishop’s opening gambit and rooks are waiting on the fringes ready to pounce, but the pawns have been sidelined. It is like a waiting move at chess-the one you have to make first to open up the end game play. But what is the big game plan and what are the lines of defence for Black?

Deconstructionism

In an advertisement in The Press last week, the Wizard of New Zealand, (channelled by Ian Brackenbury Channell), says Bishop Victoria Matthews “will be deconstructed” at a rally outside the Canterbury Museum last Sunday.

More bishopbludgeon than bishopric the Wizard announced that “I have examined the Bishop’s foundations and have discovered that they are built on sand. She is in a very dangerous state, being seriously cracked, and I can see no evidence that she can be made safe.”

He calls her “as dull and bland as her beloved Cardboard Cathedral”, but refers to himself modestly as having “attractive Gothic features”.

Some do indeed see in the irrepressible Wizard’s visage unmistakeable gargoyle like features; others more unkind mutter bats in the belfry but the Wizard from Oz is not to be taken lightly in debate even if his Janus-faced Volkswagen makes it difficult to know whether he’s coming or going.

Echoing her words regarding the Cathedral, he stresses that the Bishop’s deconstruction would be carefully done in order to rescue the real treasure within.

His derision is derived from Derrida. The term “deconstruction” was coined by French philosopher Jacques Derrida in his 1967 book Of Grammatology . Derrida opted for deconstruction over the literal translation of Martin Heidegger’s concept of Destruktion to suggest “precision” rather than “violence”, though when it comes to the Cathedral some may be quite happy with the original term.

Deconstructionism is a philosophical theory of literary and other artistic criticism. It has been described as “a tendency to subvert or pull apart and examine existing conventions having to do with meaning and individualism.”[1]

Christ Church Cathedral is certainly being pulled apart-and so is the good citizenry of Christchurch, with two more demo demos coming up. The issues are by no means black or white.

Anglican minister Philip Robinson has spoken in defence of Anglican Bishop Victoria Matthews, who he says has taken the brunt of “vicious accusations, anger and abuse”. There has certainly been a lot of playing the woman not the ball and a fair bit of No Minister in both the political and ecclesiastical settings.

It was revealed last week that what remained of the tower needed to be taken down quickly. The remainder will be deconstructed, with the blocks numbered, so that they are available for the possibility of a rebuild in the future. Until such time as the rebuild is possible, the site will be made into a place of reflection and prayer.

The decision to demolish the Cathedral, which has been made following a “make safe” request from CERA. However, the speed of the demolition process has caught many people, apparently including CERA’s Roger Sutton, by surprise.

The notion of carefully numbered stones, being reverently placed back in the jigsaw box for later rejoining is a little ludicrous. We’re not talking about chess pieces being returned to the chess box ready for the next game..

New City Councillor Peter Beck, the former Dean of the Cathedral, was one of 4 who voted against the recent Christchurch City Council motion passed to ask the Anglican Church to halt the demolition to provide time for reflection and reconsideration.* “The cathedral that was was an icon of the city that was”. He wants a new Cathedral that “will pay due homage and respect to the past that we value so much and build for the future, embracing and symbolizing the future city we dream of…”

The dialogue with the public about the future cathedral has really only started after the Anglican Synod got some belated parish priest and parish pump traction four weeks ago.

A favorite chess tactic is the often surprising and usually quite elegant Diversion. Just when everything seems to be as it should, one move exposes the truth which is that things aren’t exactly as they seem.

But it does seem that the end game is nigh. There will be few pieces left on the inner city chess board. The centre piece is about to bite the dust. But don’t dismiss the importance at this stage of the game of the humble pawns. Bishop and pawn versus knight and pawns endings can be interesting.

*Blinks
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=91VRWtgS99o Chess-time links photo 2009
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2SWleuCgn0 Second after the February 2010 Christchurch quake
http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/6802337/Church-promises-dialogue http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/6816651/Cathedral-files-released
http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/christchurch-earthquake-2011/6846722/Christ-Church-Cathedral-tower-nearly-gone
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/christchurch-earthquake/6940947/Councillors-ask-for-cathedral-demolition-halt
http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/6943458/Anderton-backs-cathedral-rally
www.savecanterburyheritage.org.nz/

#Lyall Lukey 31 May 2012
http://www.lukey.co.nz/ http://www.smartnet.co.nz
https://bluggerme.wordpress.com  My other less serious blog