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/
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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