SPANZ Day 3 - Let's get loud! It's time to speak up about what's coming.


Day Three at SPANZ and one thing is becoming patently clear - it's time to get loud (or in my case, louder 😂) because, at the risk of sounding like a certain questionable church leader, enough is enough. As a country we are staring down the barrel of a whole litany of education initiatives that have the very real potential to do more damage than good. Particularly in the secondary space. 

Issue #1 - An unnecessary NCEA Change Package

We have an NCEA Change package that has the potential to streamline and homogenise senior programmes by providing so little choice in each learning area by reducing each subject to four, seemingly sequential, standards that if delivered as they are currently designed will see students completing a raft of portfolios and assessments in Term Three and Four. My issue is that the current system isn't actually broken, in fact we are seeing many schools already addressing over assessment by stepping away from Level One or moving to semesters to manage the flow of assessment and provide more choice throughout the year. Several years ago we had aspirations for NCEA becoming more flexible and creative. We discussed the idea of 'anywhere, anytime' assessment and schools were getting excited about exploring integrated learning that moved beyond siloed subjects. 

I wrote about my concerns way back in 2019, and the three years that have passed have done little to change my mind. 

NCEA Change Package - it's not just the primary principals who should be concerned!

NCEA Change Package 2.0 - dreaming of a different outcome

Solution: Shelve the change plan, bar the focus on Mana ōrite mō te mātauranga Māori. Let's do that one thing really really well. 

Issue #2 - Potentially damaging Literacy and Numeracy co-requisites

Within the NCEA Change Package we also have new literacy and numeracy co-requisites that students will need to achieve if they are to unlock NCEA as a certificate at any level. 

From the MoE NCEA website:

The standards are set to become mandatory from 2023. This means that from 2023, a learner must achieve the co-requisite standards in order to be formally awarded their NCEA qualification at any level. A learner will still be able to continue their NCEA learning while they work towards achieving the literacy and numeracy standards but they will not receive a formal award of an NCEA without passing the Literacy and Numeracy | Te reo Matatini me te Pāngarau co-requisite.

Literacy Matrix

Numeracy Matrix

Whilst the matrices may not seem problematic, what is problematic is the way they are to be assessed -via online common assessments tasks (CATs), think PATs of old, which will undoubtedly shift focus to test preparation, potentially year after year and rather than provide a scaffold and support into senior years could lead instead to barriers and a sense of failure for learners before they even enter their senior years at high school. 

Solution: Shelve the co-requisites as assessments. Focus on resourcing and supporting the actual teaching of numeracy and literacy, and let's combine it with a national digital strategy and ensure every secondary student has a device and every leader and teacher knows how to use it effectively. You could even design and/or provide a litany of well designed online numeracy and literacy teaching and learning platforms and materials, and you could do it quickly. Let's face they exist already. Let's leverage them. 

Issue #3 - A horse after the cart NZC review

And then there's the bloody NZC review that is coming AFTER the NCEA Change Package. For years we have worked to decrease the sense of the tail wagging the dog and NCEA being treated as a proxy for the curriculum in the senior years. And recently I feel like we have been seeing a shift in the right direction. And then, low and behold, the assessment is literally informing the curriculum. We even had a paper that explained how the History NCEA changes were to inform the structure of the NZC in the senior years. Gone is the focus on Key Competencies and Effective Pedagogy, gone is the flexible and powerfully sparse curriculum that actually enables us to design authentic localised curriculum and creative courses. To be fair it's hard to be too critical beyond the process as we actually have little, if any, clue as to where it is heading. What we do know is that assessment 'cart' has been designed before we even know what horse is expected to lead it. That's just bloody daft. 

Solution: Shelve the review as it is now. Let's just do Mana ōrite mō te mātauranga Māori really really well.

Issue #4 A restructured MoE - Te Mahau 

Really my frustration with this is that the restructure could have been a genuine shake up of the Ministry of Education and how it worked as an eco-system. Instead what we have feels more like a very expensive shuffling of the deck chairs and from the outside looking in appears to be about creating more layers not less and becoming less agile in the process. 

Solution: I'm guessing the horse has bolted on this one. But I hope in time the MoE actually looks to be leaner and the resource saved there is redirected back in school resourcing instead. 

Introducing Te Mahau within Te Tāhuhu o te Mātauranga | Ministry of Education A3 summary

And what are these changes costing us? 

Issue #5 We are collectively exhausted. Aka The wellbeing costs

My main reason for wanting us to get loud about what's coming our way is the potential impact it will have on already exhausted school leaders and teachers. The above outlines an unattainable and unsustainable workload which comes ON TOP of two plus years of leading and teaching through a global pandemic. We are currently tackling hybrid learning, re-engaging learners and supporting increasingly struggling students and whānau. Even without that in the mix it would be unreasonable to expect so many initiatives to land at the same time. 

Solution: Let's do less better. Lets prioritise Mana Orite and let's close the digital divide. The other stuff can wait. Let us do one thing well and let's do it meaningfully and authentically. Let's re-divert resources into our schools and iwi partners. The Equity Index has potential to be a powerful leveller, let's resource the schools and communities that need it even more. 

Issue #6 The monetary costs

Aside from the very real cost in terms of the wellbeing of teachers over the coming years as we navigate an unwieldy range of seemingly unnecessary changes, the changes are estimated to sit at around $280 million dollar mark in the 2021-2022 budget year as outlined below. 

$185m for the reform of Tomorrow’s Schools

What will this reform deliver?

The reform is designed to increase support available to principals and teachers, providing new supports and services to schools and early learning through a new ‘education service agency’, as part of a redesigned te Tāhuhu o te Mātauranga – Ministry of Education.

The Education Service Agency will include the National Curriculum Centre to ensure teachers have the best curriculum supports available to them in a modern and accessible way. A Curriculum Centre within the ESA includes:

  • Developing new resources and supports for Aotearoa New Zealand Histories.
  • Refresh the New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa
  • New Online Curriculum Hub that will replace Te Kete Ipurangi and host Kauwhata Reo
  • Digital records of learning in schools and kura
  • Improving learning resources through the NCEA Change Programme.
  • Directly investing in teacher capability and resourcing for the incorporation of Te Reo Māori and Te Ao Māori.
  • Working with teachers to make NCEA more accessible through refocus on fewer, larger standards within coherent courses.
  • A simpler NCEA structure that is more accessible for teachers, and assistance for to schools to review local curriculum and integrate new standards.

$92.5m for the NCEA Change Programme

What changes are happening to NCEA?

The NCEA Change Programme is redeveloping the entire NCEA qualification, based on a year-long public engagement in 2019.

The changes include:

  • New literacy and numeracy standards
  • Mana ōrite mō te mātauranga Māori
  • Refreshed subject lists with revised assessments
  • Better support for vocational pathways
Solution: No surprise here. Let's redirect the money to where it matters. Resourcing the people - the staff and the students.

And finally we need to speak up, we need to shout, we need to speak up and speak out sooner rather than later. As Lorraine Pound put it, we need to do it BEFORE they start pouring the concrete, or at least before the concrete gets a chance to set. 

My suggestion. Get writing. Get speaking. Get emailing. Get blogging. Get tweeting. And please. Do it now. 

This is not actually about moaning, it's simply about speaking up about what we do want and what we do want to prioritise. I love our education system. I love NCEA as it is, I love the NZC, I am excited about Mana ōrite mō te mātauranga Māori. I want to lean in and change things up, but the change needs to be sustainable and achievable. We need to shout about the solutions we need and most importantly the education system our young people deserve.

In the inspirational words's of J.Lo - Let's get loud. 😜


Popular posts from this blog

SPANZ Day 1: More leadership needed in education - An Open Letter to the Minister of Education

The kids are alright... and they'll be even better if we actually start planning for a new normal.

Why need to close the digital divide in our schools - now!