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Will Erica Stanford Make Any Education Differences?

Via Alwyn Poole on Kiwiblog 

When Chris Hipkins became Minister of Education in 2017 his first three steps were:
  • Snuggle up to the Ministry. This has ultimately led to the number of Ministry employees going from 2700 to 4200.
  • Cancel things. In his case Partnership Schools and National Standards.
  • Appoint a committee. In his case led by Bali Haque who had a solid reputation in NZ schooling.

When Erica Stanford became Minister of Education in 2023 her first three steps were:

  • Appoint an Education Ministry Deputy Secretary (Ellen MacGregor-Reid) to her office on the basis of a recommendation of the Secretary for Education Iona Holsted (the $600k Woman). This effectively eliminated the ability for Stanford to go to the Public Services Commissioner and declare a lack of confidence in the Ministry leadership – something they deeply deserve. In the most paternalistic communication I have ever received Michael Johnston of the NZ Initiative contacted me after my critique of the MacGregor-Reid decision and told me that Erica Stanford was “devastated” by what I had written. Stanford could not stand up for herself? She needed a knight in shining armour? Clearly a conflict of interest here as Johnston was about to appointed as the chair of the newly formed Ministry Advisory Group (see next point) and had been significantly critical of Jan Tinetti without ever caring if she was “devastated”.
  • Cancel things. In this case cell-phones. While this appears to be a brilliant BUMPER STICKER tactic there was so much more to think through. Do you ban “smart watches too”? Do you ban apple products in each class-room that all have texting options? Are they banned completely from bringing to and from school or just the classroom? What about the dyslexic and spectrum kids who use their phones to take photos of notes that they can review later with more time? Who will collect and re-issue the phones each day? Are you allowed to confiscate them? If they have to remain in bags how much expense goes on ensuring theft is not occurring? What if a kid is beaten up on public transport or lost without being able to contact a parent? How many micro-aggressions will be created around schools by teachers confronting kids on their phones in their breaks? How many arguments will happen at home and how many more kids will simply stay away from school as they lose one more privilege? I don’t think Luxon has any idea on education.
  • Appoint a committee. In this case a Ministry advisory group, which – to the delight of the unions and political left – is effectively headed by the Right-Wing think-tank the NZ Initiative (through Michael Johnston – someone with much less sector experience than Bali Haque). Along with the Ellen Macgregor-Reid appointment – this shows a complete lack of situational awareness of the education sector. Has Michael Johnston resigned from his NZ Initiative role to accept this one and avoid accurate accusations of political bias?

There are so many more things that could and should have been done.

1. We are four weeks aways from a new school year … apart from kids drifting back to school … what is being done to get full-attendance rates above 50%?

2. Our outcomes for school leavers are appalling. Where are the goals for our high-schools in 2024? 

3. Where are our strategies for teacher quality? What are we doing to re-engage parents and help
them understand the morass of the qualifications system?

These are the solutions I believe are imperative and urgent:

I would add immediately giving the new St Stephen’s school Designated Character status.

It is easy to label Hipkins (as Stanford did on the AM Show) as the worst Minister of Education ever. However, if you start just the same way he did, you are on 0/3 so far. When National was last elected and had nine years in office their supporters failed to hold them to account for anything but incrementalism. Tolley and Parata achieved nothing of lasting significance as Ministers of Education. They were barely better than Hipkins/Tinetti. Supporters of National must demand so much more from the new regime and allow them no complacency. 

Astute commentators such as Cameron Bagrie and Matthew Hooten have designated the Education portfolio as the most significant for the future of NZ.

As for the Associate Minister of Education, David Seymour, the initial method from National is a HUGE opportunity for him to go big and bring about the radical changes our NZ students and families so desperately need.

NOTE from – as previously posted, NZ needs an inter-generational change to make the kids of NZ into the productive long term contributors we need. That will take something radical. If we don’t, then its more dole bludgers and lazy pricks bludging off the state. 

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