Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Moving from frustration to disgust

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  • Tom Semmens, in reply to Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    We’re currently in the London commuter belt, and the angst over schooling is insane.

    Yet it is almost certainly all in vain. Ninety percent of children in the UK attend publicly funded state secondary schools. But just five private schools send more pupils to Oxford and Cambridge than the next 2000 schools combined, and nowadays almost the entire British
    political elite is narrowly drawn from those who matriculated at the Oxbridge universities.

    For a century British educationalists and intellectuals were pointing to this self-selecting, excessively narrow class as responsible for presiding over Britain’s precipitous decline as a world power, yet here we are well into the 21st century and (if the Royal wedding/Jubilee is any guide) the remorseless self-sustaining class privilege it creates and preserves is if anything stronger than ever.

    Despite all that, all the international reviews and reports that ridicule and highlight the poor performance of the British system I would bet my last dollar (given the number of class riddled British “experts” our acutely class conscious National government likes to employ) that National wants to re-create the British system here and consign Clarence Beeby’s philosophy of “every person regardless of background or ability had a right to an education of a type for which they were best suited” to history. On the one hand, the public education system has been under continual attack, with more and more ideologically imposed process driven learning coupled with constant budget cutbacks and attacks on independent centres of educational thought like the teachers unions. On the other hand, a well funded parallel education system is created to perpetuate and reinforce the privilege of a narrow elite.

    This is the context in which it is worth bearing mind that John Key sends his kids to Kings College – days fees $22,536 per kid per annum, boarding $13,000 extra – which is more money in day fees alone for one child than the household income a quarter of a million New Zealand children have to live on per year.

    That, ladies and gentlemen, is class war.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1774 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to tim kong,

    We devalue what we do when we value one learner’s ability, or one educator’s knowledge over another. We destroy the very value we claim when we attach a cash amount to it.

    Surely something wrong here!
    No room for well remunerated CEOs?
    </irony>

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 4660 posts Report Reply

  • Dave Patrick, in reply to Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    I think Christchurch's long obsession with "which school did you go to" suggests that it is a culture New Zealand could easily adopt if the conditions were right, and league tables would certainly fertilise the ground.

    On that note, The Press thinks league tables are a great idea. Much of the opposition is, apparently, true but beside the point. Oh, good-oh then /sarcasm

    Rangiora, Te Wai Pounamu • Since Nov 2006 • 232 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    ut just five private schools send more pupils to Oxford and Cambridge than the next 2000 schools combined, and nowadays almost the entire British
    political elite is narrowly drawn from those who matriculated at the Oxbridge universities.

    Looking at that article, this isn't an entirely accurate summary - the 2000 schools were schools who sent 0 or 1 children to Oxbridge, i.e. the 2000 worst-performing rather than the "next 2000 combined", and those five schools make up only 1 in 20 - 5% - of total Oxbridge admissions. I am entirely willing to believe that a pretty narrow range of society makes up a majority of admissions to Oxbridge, or is at least over-represented there, but the situation isn't quite as restricted as you're implying.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2093 posts Report Reply

  • chris, in reply to Tom Semmens,

    nowadays almost the entire British political elite is narrowly drawn from those who matriculated at the Oxbridge universities.

    As has always been the case.

    中国 • Since Jan 2010 • 896 posts Report Reply

  • Carol Stewart, in reply to Sacha,

    a natural location to trial charter schools.. :)

    It's like Downton bloody Abbey.

    An exchange of letters in the Press over the last few days:
    1) Visiting Wellingtonian is startled to hear racist abuse bandied about at a Christs College/CBHS rugby game - "Your Mum's our cleaner", the little shits said to a non-European kid.
    2) Shocked responses from a few Chch residents
    3) A defence from Christs College principal - I don't have it handy, but the gist was that the two schools have a long and noble tradition of bandying puerile chants about and he really couldn't see what all the fuss was about.
    4) A letter today from a professional housekeeper for various families at the school, understandably pissed off at visible manifestations of class system.

    And today, a really aggravating editorial suggesting that the main motivation of teachers, principals and unions in opposing league tables is because they want the information to be concealed from parents and 'withheld from public scrutiny'. Grrrr!

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2008 • 651 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    If you look at the actual report, there are only 3167 schools in the whole sample, so 2000 schools represents a majority of schools, where one star pupil might get to Oxbridge some years. 1300 schools (over a third) haven't sent anyone there in three years. (My very well resourced and privileged state sixth form sent maybe two students the year I was there).

    Which might matter less if Oxbridge graduates entered upon a quasi-monastic career of academic study, but they don't, they have a monopoly of the kind of career roles that control and influence society.

    The best answer in my view would be to give private schools a quota of HE and Oxbridge places in proportion to their intake, make privately educated students pay full unsubsidized fees (as for international students) and convert Oxford and Cambridge into postgraduate-only institutions.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4418 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Semmens,

    This report is a fascinating insight into the effects of privilege in the British Parliament, and by extension what National's class based education policies will produce here. To summarise:

    -35% of UK MPs elected in the 2010 General Election attended private schools, which educate just 7% of the school population.
    -Less than half (43%) of MPs were educated in comprehensive state schools, with the remainder having attended state grammar schools (22%).
    -54% of Conservative MPs attended fee paying schools, compared with 40% of Liberal Democrat MPs, and 15% of Labour MPs.
    -There are 20 Etonians in the 2010 UK Parliament - 5 more than those who served in the 2005 Parliament. Overall 13 schools (12 of which are fee-charging) produce a tenth of all MPs in the new Parliament.
    - 35% of newly elected MPs for the 2010 Parliament attended independent schools, the same proportion as MPs who were re-elected.
    - 90% of MPs in 2010 attended university Parliament to date. This includes just under 30% who were educated at either Oxford or Cambridge universities. Oxford has produced 102 MPs serving in the 2010 Parliament.
    - 38% of Conservative MPs were educated at Oxford or Cambridge compared with 20% of Labour MPs and 28% of Liberal Democrat MPs.
    - Newly elected MPs were even more likely to be graduates – with 94% attending a university, including 69% who had attended a leading research university, and 28% who had attended Oxbridge.


    An unrepresentative parliament made up overwhelmingly of middle class, university educated MPs with a massive over-representation of the favoured schools and universities of the elite establishment. When you read that, National's education policy starts to make sense.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1774 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Carol Stewart,

    And today, a really aggravating editorial suggesting that the main motivation of teachers, principals and unions in opposing league tables is because they want the information to be concealed from parents and ‘withheld from public scrutiny’. Grrrr!

    Yet another newspaper opinionist bloviating on the basis of what he thinks he knows. There are so many basic errors in that editorial.

    This kind of tosh makes me ashamed for journalism.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18693 posts Report Reply

  • Carol Stewart,

    Well said sir.
    I can feel a letter to the editor coming on.
    Perhaps referring to the example of Island Bay School in Wellington, which received a brilliant, glowing ERO report in 2009 and has been staunchly opposed to national standards and league tables.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2008 • 651 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Withers, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    Thanks, Ian. I have the Shock Doctrine.....and keep getting PTSD every time I crack it open. The dull, leaden weight of the broad public ignorance that allows these things to happen is too much for any minority to overturn. Who would have thought all the fascists ever really needed to do to win was invent television, combine it with sports and vacuous comedy and let the public mind rot for a generation? So simple. So very effective. A whole society of hedgehogs on the highway of life.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 280 posts Report Reply

  • tim kong,

    I find the perspective in that Press report interesting. Purely because it represents a strain of the public conversation that's based around a stereotype.

    The stereotype being - all teachers are unionised socialists, who work 9-3 and enjoy 12 weeks of paid holiday.

    When did that become the dominant part of the discussion?

    Historically - when did it become the norm? Or if not the norm, at very least an accepted point of view.

    I'm happy to hold the teaching profession to account for their role in the breakdown of the conversation as well. I think teachers should be held to account. For example, I think the opposition to the National Standards introduction was a poorly handled conversation.

    I think the discussion around class sizes and the ongoing one around league tables is more about the process/purpose of education. And a more useful and meaningful one. Which is great.

    But it's also why I find the position the Press takes in that editorial - a really lazy one. And apart from lazy journalism - I wonder why the position is even explainable or accepted.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 146 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to tim kong,

    But it’s also why I find the position the Press takes in that editorial – a really lazy one. And apart from lazy journalism – I wonder why the position is even explainable or accepted.

    And that's the problem. It's a bunch of lazy truisms strung together with a few accusations.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18693 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed, in reply to Russell Brown,

    And that’s the problem. It’s a bunch of lazy truisms strung together with a few accusations.

    Not a Neil Birss piece, by any chance? A Press editorial reputedly written by him supporting the 2nd Gulf War and calling the UN 'irrelevant', raised questions several years back about Murdoch's influence, which were later proven unfounded.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4154 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to DeepRed,

    Not a Neil Birss piece, by any chance? A Press editorial reputedly written by him supporting the 2nd Gulf War and calling the UN ‘irrelevant’, raised questions several years back about Murdoch’s influence, which were later proven unfounded.

    We actually looked at Roy Greenslade's allegation that Murdoch had directed the (then) INL papers' editorial line on the war when I was fronting Mediawatch. It was relatively easy to determine that there was no such line dictated to NZ papers. Any buttheadedness was solely homegrown.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18693 posts Report Reply

  • DexterX,

    The Key approach Pure Genius or Pure Bullshit or just spite.

    To teach well requires a commitment to your vocation which many people do not understand and that includes politicians.

    The latest OECD report ranked NZ Fourth out of 32 countries surveyed for educational outcomes in Literacy, Science and Maths and as regards resource provided for education NZ was ranked approx 23rd out of 32 countries.

    So for the dollars spent/resources applied NZ is getting an excellent result.

    It is interesting that the countries ranking above NZ had achieved better results by lifting the educational performance of the tail enders through concentrating resources in the teaching of technologies.

    As regards the resourcing of education – I note my father a teacher from the 1950s through to the mid 1990s and to adequately resource his classes had to collect his own materials as regards paper, cardboard and other art stuffs and aids – he used to visit printers and get misprints of packaging and use the undersides and also go through the Jumbo bins in light industrial areas collecting useful material for school. This was necessary regardless of whichever party was in government.

    Teaching is one of the only professions where those working in it have to reach into their own pocket and/or organise fund raising to get the things they need.

    The present thrust of National’s education policy can’t help but be seen as spiteful – in that the Nats view education in a partisan way – and all of “this” is perhaps their method of dealing to what they may perhaps regard as a “pool’ of Labour voters.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1185 posts Report Reply

  • Yamis,

    Follow up to my daughters report which was a list of 'national standardy' type stuff.

    We just had parent teacher interviews a couple of hours ago and her teacher said that they had to have those reports written and to the principal 5 weeks earlier and she had actually started writing them in the previous holidays (9+ weeks ago), so the stuff in there that my daughter "couldn't do yet" was all out of date.

    If teachers have to spend that much time testing and then preparing these reports that they are out of date and subsequently have less space to mention all other aspects of her school life then what's the ruddy point?

    The 20 min meetings with parents that is now common at schools each year is bloody useful though. Came away knowing that smarty pants is doing well (mad art skills and teacher recommends we get her into some holiday art programs) and knowing that her teacher is ON TO IT.

    Since Nov 2006 • 866 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark, in reply to tim kong,

    9-3? 12 weeks holidays? Oh how we laughed, didn’t we? My hours are 8-5 (our lunch hour is not paid) professional development is all held outside work hours, and the holidays get eaten away with compulsory professional development, and the MOE has decided, anyway, that kindergarten teachers don’t need that extra week that everyone else has at Xmas because……just because. And I don’t even have to write reports and do class plans. It’s bloody bollocks, is what it is. One of the things people don’t seem to understand about teaching is this: you use all of your physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual energy, every day. It’s bloody exhausting. And that’s just the bit of teaching that’s the most obvious. It doesn’t take into account the planning, the assessment, the need to be able to have good relationships with the children, their families, and most difficult of all sometimes, your colleagues. You have to have great relationships with outside agencies, and the community. You have to be able to put into practice, and articulate, all the latest teaching theories. You have to be able to write policies and procedures (of which there are many, because, you know, what happens if….). You have to be a mentor to teaching students, and beginning teachers. Teachers are, when it comes down to brass tacks, child advocates. Everything we do is for the children, about the children, and you have to be able to advocate effectively. Sometimes that means fighting for a kid to have the chance to be heard, at other times it might be fighting with CYFS. Either way, you fight every day, all day, for kids to be the safest they can be. League tables don't take into account any of that.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace, in reply to Jackie Clark,

    Well said, Jackie.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 2026 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    Well said, Jackie.

    Tautoko mai na e Jackie-

    "gimme a kid 'til ''e's 7"

    gottit, right, eh?

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark, in reply to Islander,

    Yup. Kia ora, e hoa.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Any buttheadedness was solely homegrown.

    Thank you for this sentence Russell. Not many smiles in this thread but that's one. :-)

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3415 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed, in reply to Yamis,

    If teachers have to spend that much time testing and then preparing these reports that they are out of date and subsequently have less space to mention all other aspects of her school life then what's the ruddy point?

    Shifting the goalposts, methinks?

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4154 posts Report Reply

  • Yamis, in reply to Jackie Clark,

    What you said. I arrive at school at about 8am and leave at about 5pm EVERY RUDDY DAY. Well except for the days when my sports team that I manage has an away game in which case it's an hour or 2 later after dropping them all off home after dark.

    I'm now going back to marking at 8pm :( Have approximately 100 papers to mark and 140 report comments to make in the next week. Which I can't physically do so guess what I'll be doing in the 'holidays'. My co-curricular sports team takes up approximately 80 hours of my time in term 2 and again in term 3. That's 4 full working weeks just on them :) No extra pay because the school gets given a paltry amount of money for TIC's. There might be 50 teachers who deserve them and about 15 actually get them.

    I'm not complaining, just stating how it is because y'know, it's my job and it's what I signed up for, but if anybody believes teachers go from 9 to 3 with 12 weeks off then they can shove it. Or else the teacher you do know who does that is neglecting a large chunk of their job and/or is bludging off the hard work of colleagues or fobbing off their responsibilities on others. And that does happen. I've been on the end of people playing dumb, staying quiet, and 'hiding in the shadows'.

    Since Nov 2006 • 866 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Barker, in reply to Richard Grevers,

    You are correct there Richard. In my decile 1 school we start to see rapid progress from the middle/end of year 2. Children who stay for all of their primary school years with us all operate well ahead of the levels expected of them (and I don't mean Nationals Standards). This is simply a fact of our current unequal society. NS and league tables will tell us nothing but this truth and lead to a destruction of our quality education system.

    New Zealand • Since Jun 2012 • 4 posts Report Reply

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