teacher training

This tag is associated with 13 posts

The true costs of teacher training

This UK report looks at the true cost of teacher training, taking into account the costs to government and the retention rate of the teacher trainees to work out the true cost per teacher who is still teaching after 5 years.

Key findings:

  • There is a need for local demand for teachers to be taken into account in teacher trainee allocations.
  • Retention is affected by the relative pay of teachers and other local workers, so national pay restraint for teachers has the potential to reduce retention.
  • Teach First recruits work out very costly compared to other routes into teaching.
  • Teach First teachers have a far higher drop out rate than teachers trained by other routes, with 60% not teaching after 5 years compared with 40% of those trained by other routes.
  • There is little evidence that paying bursaries to teachers in shortage subjects helps attract and retain them.

Since New Zealand also has issues with teacher recruitment and retention, with shortages on some areas and a glut of teachers in others, and since we too have Teach First as a route into teaching, it would be interesting to know how this compares to New Zealand.

~ Dianne

Image courtesy of sattva at



Teacher Refresher Course Confusing & Exasperating

EC 2

Alerted to concerns, I met with a teachers as they completed the Education Council’s Teacher Refresher Course to get a sense of what they thought of the course and the need to undertake it. What I heard was unexpected and alarming.

The Cost

$4,000. Four Thousand Dollars. That’s how much the 12-week refresher course costs. And that’s just for the course. I expected people to raise concerns about that – I’d already had a few on social media – but there were issues I’d not yet considered.

Yes the course is expensive, they said – but why?  Compare it with the cost for the full one year graduate teaching programme – it doesn’t stack up, they said. So I did some research:

All of which begs the question, why it is $4,000 for a 12-week course?

It surprised me, too, to hear that attendees could not apply for student loans to pay for the course.  Teachers spoke of putting the cost on credit cards or using bank loans, and of overdraft bills being racked up as costs mounted.

They also pointed out that in addition to the course cost, they’d lost a term’s wages, often had to pay for accommodation, had travel costs (many people were from out of town) and had had to pay for childcare (especially those from out of town). Suddenly the actual costs were far in excess of $4k… For a twelve week course.

All of which, many noted, might be just about bearable if you felt the course was necessary…

Itinerant Teachers

One teacher explained that he is an itinerant music teacher. He does no classroom teaching at all, working only one-to-one or one-to-two teaching musical instruments in a number of schools across a large geographical area. The schools he goes to, he says, are very happy with his work – indeed he’s been doing this for well over a decade and everyone was just dandy with the set up – the teacher himself, the schools, the students and the Teachers Council. Then came the Education Council (EC).

Suddenly, this teacher was told he must do the Teacher Refresher Course if he wanted to continue working in schools.  “Why?” he asked. He explained to EC that he knows of many itinerant music teachers who are not even qualified teachers, and they were allowed to carry on teaching – so why couldn’t he?  He was informed that because he had at one time been a fully qualified teacher, he couldn’t do as the other itinerant teachers and work under a Limited Authority to Teach (LAT), but had to regain his fully registered teacher status. Which means, in a nutshell, he is being punished for having once trained as a teacher!

It makes no sense. If other itinerant music teachers can be unqualified teachers and work under an LAT as specialists, then why can’t he?

This teacher doesn’t want to be a full time teacher or a classroom teacher of any sort. He doesn’t want to take relieving work. He has no wish to do any teaching other than the one-to-one or one-to-two itinerant music teaching he has done for well over a decade. Like his itinerant music teacher colleagues do.

So he has undertaken the Teacher Refresher Course to allow him to carry on earning his living – a course that was focused around classroom teaching, National Standards, paperwork requirements and so on – none of which applies at all to the job he does.

How does the Education Council justify that?

Relief Teachers

Still reeling from the mind-boggling bureaucratic nightmare of the music teacher’s story, I was approached by a teacher who wanted to speak about their situations as a reliever.

This teacher said she has no wish to be employed as a full- or part-time classroom teacher on a contract, content with working as a relief teacher. She explained she is much in demand, has regular schools that she’d worked with for years, and is up to date with changes in the sector such as National Standards. She’d been teaching for decades.

Prior to the change from Teachers Council to Education Council, she had been able to continue relieving year on year with no problems, but with the Education Council, everything changed. Now, she was told, if she wanted to carry on relieving, she must do the Teacher Refresher Course. No ifs or buts.

So she, like the music teacher, had done the course only to find it focused on things that really had little to no bearing on her work as a reliever. “It’s not as if I’ve learned anything I need,” she said, frustrated that she’d been made to jump through hoops only because of what seems to be a lack of flexibility in the Education Council’s rules.

Inconsistent Information

What interested me with the above scenario was how the information she’d been given compared to the information I’d been given not weeks before by two representatives from the Education Council…

I was informed face-to-face in a room full of senior teachers and principals that I wouldn’t have to do the Refresher Course if I was going to continue “only relieving”. The EC staff were very clear that the Refresher Course was necessary only if I wanted to go back to an actual classroom teaching contract. I could carry on with my Subject To Confirmation status and still be a reliever. Yet this teacher had been told something entirely different and was now thousands of dollars in debt…  So which information is right?

Teachers with Medical Issues

Just when I thought I’d heard it all – and I can tell you, my head was reeling by this point – I was approached by this lady…

She has been teaching for decades, too. She sustained a head injury towards the end of her teacher training and as a result has never been able to work full time. This means she never completed the two year induction for new teachers. As a result, the Education Council informed her she must undertake the Refresher Course and become a fully registered teacher to continue teaching in any capacity.

This woman has a brain injury. She can only ever work part time. She can only ever work at the most as a reliever.  She is, she explained, unable to sustain what is needed to work as a contracted classroom teacher responsible for planning, testing, report writing and so on. She knows this, her schools know this, and all is well; She is a good reliever, with a number of regular schools that she’s worked for for years.

The Teachers Council would, at re-registration time, receive a doctor’s note explaining her condition and information from the schools she works with, and they would accept that she is a fully competent teacher in the role as part-time reliever. Teachers Council would re-register her. No problem. The Education Council, however, insisted on her undertaking the Refresher Course.

The course had been an enormous strain on her. It is full time, with in-class placements overlapping with research, essays and presentations in what is a busy twelve weeks for even an entirely well person. For someone with a brain injury, it was incredibly hard work. And yet, she was faced with either soldiering on at a potential cost to her health or not doing the course and losing her means of income.

Telling me the whole sorry tale, she looked tired, sounded exasperated, and had an air of defeat. “I don’t understand the reasoning,” she said. No, nor do I.


Everyone I spoke to accepted that teachers who never completed their two years as provisionally registered teachers would need a refresher course, having not had time to put their knowledge into practice and grow as a teacher after first qualifying. The course attendees I spoke to that were in those circumstances said the course had been beneficial and their only concern was the financial cost.

But those teachers who had no intention of being classroom teachers ever again and who usually had years (often decades) of classroom teaching experience felt the Education Council needed to look again at both the criteria for doing the course and the course’s content.

If itinerant and relief teachers are being forced to do it, then the course needs to reflect their roles and their needs. If competency is the issue, then the course must address their competency in the roles they undertake. At the moment, in many cases, it doesn’t – making the whole affair a very expensive and extremely frustrating farce.

~ Dianne


Further Reading

Details of courses and requirements:

Itinerant music programme losing teachers due to Education Council requirements:

10,000 Teachers Sacked in Peru

Peru has seen an improvement in its education system over the past few years, and Peru’s Education Minister, Jaime Saavedra, credited this in part to the teacher training undertaken by previously untrained educators. Even today there was a press release to that effect. So it seems utterly bizarre that those very same teachers – the ones who have gone back to university and undertaken the training, have been hit with a mass sacking.

Teacher Solidarity reported that over 10,000 teachers have been sacked in Peru – some with over 30 years service. It reports that:

[t]he teachers were hired on temporary contracts, mostly to work in low-income areas, pending their completion of a teacher training qualification – they had all come straight from university. But with their salaries on average $350 a month, they were usually not in a position to fund the new qualification.

These teachers were hired in the 1990s when teachers did not need to be qualified. In order to become qualified, they would have to find the university courses themselves, but with wages a low USD$350 a month, many have found this an impossibility.

Telsur reports:

‘The Dean of the Teachers Association, Julio Mendoza, believes that the sudden change in government policy has economic and political motives. He argues that, “Basically, the goal is to reduce salaries and save money, but on the other hand it is also trying to encourage private, for profit education. With all these difficulties that are presented for public schools, the other sector keeps growing.”‘

Many, including Mendoza, fear that Peru is gearing up to privatise the school system:

“While the state requires an education degree for someone who works in public schools, it doesn’t for private ones. Any person can teach there. While public schools require exhaustive and strict exams for directors, in private schools the only requirement is to have a university title. It doesn’t matter if you are not a teacher. Therefore, they make it easy for public schools to create a business.”

friedman-poster-smallThis would be a bizarre move, given the Education Minister identifying teacher training as key to Peru’s improved educational success, as teachers in Peru’s private schools do not have to be qualified.

Yet the facts speak loudly – around half of Peru’s schools are already private schools, and banks and businesses are investing in them. It seems Peru is yet another country falling foul of neoliberal ideology, which hits teachers hard and at the same time fails to benefit students.

Worldwide, in all manner of ways, education is under attack from the money-makers.

Thanks, Milton Friedman, you must be so proud.

~ Dianne


Peru on right path in education, says Minister Saavedra

Peruvian Public Teachers Protest Over Ten Thousand Dismissals

Peru: 10,000 teachers sacked in privatisation drive

Reformers’ teacher training schemes – what’s the problem?

wanted teachersFor those of you that think how New Zealand structures teacher training in future isn’t an issue to be concerned about, take time to read this and see how, in the UK, outstanding university courses in Teacher training have been shut down since their equivalent scheme, School Direct, started.

The Department for Education boasts that take up for the scheme is great:

…there will be 17,609 places for School Direct trainees in 2015 and 15,490 higher education postgraduate places

Proponents cite the increasing numbers of applications year on year as evidence that School Direct works. I would posit that it is evidence that would-be teachers can no longer afford to go to university and prefer to earn money while training.  Who wouldn’t?  But that in no way means the scheme is superior in terms of training.

There are another concern, too.

As universities shut down their teacher training programmes, there will eventually be a lack of places even for School Direct trainees to get their uni-based components:

Under School Direct, schools recruit trainees directly and link up with universities to provide out-of-classroom training. Trainees have an “expectation of employment” at their school at the end of their training.

But critics are concerned that the shift to School Direct may destabilise the teacher training system because universities cannot guarantee student numbers – and so funding – year on year.

And there’s a teacher shortage looming in the UK…

Hey, but who cares, because when push comes to shove the government will scream !!!TEACHER SHORTAGE!!! and decree that teachers don’t have to be trained at all.

You know, like they don’t in charter schools already….

See the link?

Cheap, disposable labour – seemingly the government’s goal for all employees these days.

I think the most telling part of the article is when the Department for Education spokesperson said:

“The School Direct programme is a key part of our plan for education.”

Yes. I bet it is.

Alllllll part of the bigger plan.

I’m telling you, people, we are on one hell of a slippery slope.

~ Dianne


Sources and further reading:


Labour’s education policies will raise quality teaching and learning – NZEI

nzei logoThe Labour Party’s plans to screen prospective student teachers will help ensure quality teaching and learning for children.

NZEI National President Judith Nowotarski says this will go a long way to ensuring that teaching remains highly professional and that the best and brightest enter the profession.

“In recent years there has been virtually no oversight of teacher training and this has led to too many courses, too many students and not enough emphasis on quality.”

“There needs to be a very high standard of entry into such an important profession.  Our children deserve only the best.”

Ms Nowotarski says Labour’s policy is a welcome shift from the current government’s policy of “dumbing down” the teaching profession by allowing unqualified and unregistered people into charter schools and early childhood education.

“It is ironic that the government constantly talks of improving teaching quality while at the same time allowing untrained and unregistered people to act as teachers in charter schools and early childhood education centres.”

Quality of education in early childhood would also get a big boost under Labour.

“We welcome Labour’s plans to require early childhood education centres to employ at least 80 percent qualified staff at early childhood centres.

“Once again, this is a big point of difference between the current government’s quantity over quality approach to early childhood education.

“Labour’s policies, including smaller class sizes, will go a long way towards improving education for New Zealand children, especially those who are vulnerable and struggling.”

Resist Teach For America (and Teach First NZ?)

resist TFAThe article below highlights concerns with Teach For America (TFA) and speaks to many of the concerns regarding Teach First NZ:

Article Reblogged from Cloaking Inequity:

“Have you ever found yourself trapped in the insufferable position of having to tolerate a Teach For America true believer relentlessly bombarding you with justifications for Teach For America’s placement atop the corporate org chart of educational excellence?

Teach For America is a $300 million “non-profit” organization that executes a highly sophisticated integrated marketing communications strategy that includes traditional and digital advertising, a wide range of experiential and special event initiatives, and plenty of public and media relations.

With millions spent on corporate communications, it’s to be expected that Teach For America has crafted a concise list of focus-group tested talking points. With discipline matched only by GOP pundits, Teach For America’s “brand evangelists” (from the corporate communications team all the way down to the on-campus recruitment interns) stay “on message” by relentlessly repeating the same lines. The only problem? Many are deceptive at best, while others are downright false.

Here are some suggested replies for eight of Teach For America’s most tried arguments.

1. When a Teach For America supporter says: ”Teach For America might not be the answer, but it’s a part of the solution.”

This is how you might respond: To overcome the challenges associated with educational inequity, Teach For America’s standard of training would require it to be vastly superior to any school of education or alternative route – not less. Corps members would need the ability to deconstruct their own privilege, fully understand their own role in historically oppressed communities, and develop strong relationships with true veteran teachers (not Teach For America corps members who only taught 2 or 3 years). Unfortunately, with only a few weeks of training, and often zero student-teaching hours within the placement community or assigned grade, Teach For America corps members receive nothing close to the unparalleled training that would be required to systemically reduce educational inequity. In all likelihood, by providing the least prepared teachers to the students with the greatest needs, Teach For America corps members may be doing more harm than good.

2. When a Teach For America supporter says: “Teach For America corps members are more effective teachers. The Mathematica study shows that Teach For America corps members produce gains equal to 2.6 extra months of learning.”

This is how you might respond: This is how you might respond: First, there is no such thing as a test that measures months of learning. That would mean all students learn at the same pace. As any parent or teacher knows, that’s not true. In fact, the “gain” was just .07 standard deviations (miniscule in statistics). By comparison, reducing class size can increase learning by .20 standard deviations (3x more effective). Second, the study only included Teach For America secondary math teachers (136 of them), but claims that this is true for all Teach For America corps members regardless of whether they teach secondary math or not. In most communities, the majority of Teach For America corps members teach elementary, not secondary. Therefore, the miniscule test score gains in this study do not apply to the vast majority of Teach For America corps members. Using the Mathematica study to imply that all Teach For America corps members are more effective than other teachers is patently deceptive. (This entry was edited on 3/19/2014 to make a correction in response to a critiqued levied by Teach For America)

For more information on the Mathematica study check out:

How I teach 2.6 months more of math in a year than the rest of you slackers
New Mathematica TFA Study is Irrational Exuberance
“Does Not Compute”: Teach For America Mathematica Study is Deceptive?

resist TFA 23. When a Teach For America supporter says:  “Teach For America doesn’t take jobs from other teachers. Teach For America just provides corps members for regions that have teacher shortages.”

This is how you might respond: School districts run by politicians who are pushing for the corporate takeover of public education sign contracts with Teach For America to hire Teach For America corps members each year regardless of whether there is a qualified teacher shortage in the region or not. Chicago is a perfect example. In 2013, after closing 49 schools and laying off 850 teachers and staff because of “budget concerns”, Mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s hand-picked school board authorized an increase of 325 new Teach For America corps members at a cost to Chicago taxpayers of $1.6 million in addition to the salaries that the schools will pay Teach For America corps members. Teach For America corps members are now in direct competition with displaced teachers for available jobs at district schools and charter schools. Similar situations have occurred across the country includingBostonNew Orleans, and Newark.

4. When a Teach For America supporter says:  “Teach For America doesn’t take jobs from other teachers. Teach For America just provides teachers for subject areas that have teacher shortages.”

This is how you might respond: Teach For America’s school district contracts make clear that Teach For America teachers are to be considered for all open teaching positions in a district, not just hard to staff subject areas. Teach For America’s contract with Louisiana’s Jefferson Parish Public School System explicitly states, “Teach For America Teachers will be hired by School District for vacancies across the full range of grades and subject matters and not restricted or limited to so-called ‘critical’ or ‘shortage’ subjects or grade level vacancies.”

5. When a Teach For America supporter says: “One third (33%) of Teach For America corps member alumni are still teaching.”

This is how you might respond: Teach For America’s data comes from their annual alumni survey. Unfortunately, Teach For America won’t provide that survey data to outside researchers to verify their claims. However, peer-reviewed research studies show that roughly only 20% of Teach For America corps members are still teaching anywhere after five years (the national average is approximately 50%).

6. When a Teach For America supporter says: “Two-thirds of Teach For America alumni remain in education”

This is how you might respond: Teach For America’s data comes from their annual alumni survey. Unfortunately, Teach For America won’t provide that survey data to outside researchers to verify their claims. However, it is widely accepted that many Teach For America alumni, including those who only taught for two or three years, go on to become principals at privately managed charter schools and run school districts. This begs the question, “Are novice teachers with 2-3 years experience really qualified to be running schools and districts?”

TFA cartoon7. When a Teach For America supporter says: “Teach For America is not a part of a conspiracy to privatize education.”

This is how you might respond: In districts across the country, pro-business politicians are closing down public schools and replacing them with privately managed charter schools. Many recent court decisions have concluded that charter schools are not public schools even though they receive public money. A public entity is accountable to the public. A private enterprise is accountable to its board of directors and shareholders. Therefore, as public schools are closed and replaced by privately managed charter schools, the public school system is becoming privatized.

Teach For America’s role in this privatization agenda is by providing corps members to teach at the newly opened charter schools for wages that are often well below the first-year salary of local public school teachers. Recent documents revealed that many charter school management organizations are so dependent on Teach For America to provide them cheap labor that charter managers are reluctant to open new schools without Teach For America.

For more information on Teach For America’s connections to other agents in the privatization and corporate takeover of public education, read the report Mapping the Terrain: Teach For America, Charter School Reform, and Corporate Sponsorship by Teach For America alums, Kerry Ketchmar and Beth Sondel.

8. When a Teach For America supporter says: “Teach For America corps members will now have one year of training.”

This is how you might respond: This is a step in the right direction, but no details have emerged. Furthermore, it is being launched as a pilot program and will most likely not include all corps members. Therefore, Teach For America will still send thousands of the least prepared teachers into classrooms with children who have the greatest needs.

This article is reblogged from Cloaking Inequity

For all of Cloaking Inequity’s posts on Teach For America click here.

A strangely schizophrenic stance on NZ education

funny-pictures-i-may-be-schizophrenic-catIt’s a bit of a worry when the man who created the PISA rankings comes to visit NZ, meets with Hekia Parata, and starts waxing lyrical about how National Standards are going to do great things for our education system, but that’s just what Andreas Schleicher did.

It’s especially odd when, in the same breath, he is lauding our amazing school autonomy, our ingenuity, our innovation.

This is my article from The Daily Blog, pondering his strangely schizophrenic standpoint…

I have been left confused by a recent article by Andreas Schleicher.

In it he begins by singing the praises of  ”New Zealand’s liberal and entrepreneurial school system.”  He speaks very highly of the benefits of school autonomy, reflecting that “It would be hard to imagine [principals doing the same] in one of Southern Europe’s bureaucratic school systems” and ends with triumphant praise of the Kiwi schools that “have moved on from delivered wisdom, to user-generated wisdom, from a culture of standardization, conformity and compliance towards being innovative and ingenious”

Wow, I thought.  He gets it.

He understands that autonomy beats bureaucracy, that creativity beats standardisation, and that Kiwi schools are doing a good job.

Then I remembered, this is the same man who, in a visit to NZ recently, sang the praises of National Standards, and alarm bells started tinkling far away in the back of my mind, but I read on…

Principals’ concerns

Schleicher says there were Kiwi principals complaining to him that they have difficulties attracting, developing and retaining effective teachers, yet he doesn’t address this at all.  Surely that’s a hugely important issue if we are to improve our system further?

Just ponder what school leavers and graduates might be thinking  if they consider teaching as a career:  Why join a profession that is being battered world wide?  Why take a job that is used as a political football?  Why pay for training when some are being paid to jump into the classroom with little or no training?

Because, really,  if teachers can now go into schools after just 6 weeks’ training over the summer holidays while schools are shut or, in the case of charter schools, go into the classroom with no training at all, surely that will put a fair few off paying fees and taking years to get a teaching degree?

Are we slowly but surely giving up on the idea of trained teachers?  And if so, how does that help raise the bar?  Just how does it help principals’ concerns over attracting, developing and retaining effective teachers?  Maybe that’s why he glossed over the issue – it’s easier for him to ignore it than address it?

But I would love to know what the principals think.

There is no discussion, either, of why teachers are leaving the profession in droves.  Maybe it’s easier to gloss over serious issues like that?  But you would think, wouldn’t you, that it might be worth a few lines?

No, because all Schleicher is really interested in, is promoting National Standards….

– Read the rest of the article at:

If you want to know what he thinks of National Standards, click the link and read the rest (and the comments below the article, too).

I’m still baffled by his strangely incoherent views, to be honest, and would welcome any feedback on his original article and my response to it.

~ Dianne

Whoooah, now THAT’S a poem: Hallelujah the Saviors are Here

saintPoet Rachel Smith, 18, is a senior and a member of Epic Sound, the Kenwood Academy Slam Poetry Team.  This is her second year participating in Louder Than a Bomb.

Hallelujah the Saviors are Here is a condemnation of teachers who come to “the inner city” without becoming a true member of the community.

You can hear it here, performed by Rachel, herself.

And for more on ‘saviour teachers’ in the USA, read here: Why Teach For America can’t recruit in my classroom.

Or if you would like something more local, this is the Kiwi version, teachers trained in 6 weeks and then sent into schools in poorer areas: Teach First NZ

Are they better for the recruit than for the students?

Or are they a good idea?

SOSNZ Education news round-up

As ever, it’s been a busy week as in the wonderful world of education.

catherine isaacNZ Charter Schools featured heavily (and were most definitely charters and not partnership schools, which rather implies Hekia’s tanty last week had little impact.

It was announced that Catherine Isaac is as to be in charge of  deciding who will be allowed to set up charter schools, which drew plenty of gasps and criticism as she had also been chair of the charter schools working group.  Most of us weren’t surprised at all.


exams 2US Charter Schools were also in the news thanks to the latest CREDO report.  My favourite part was where the Herald and others trumpeted that charters were doing better than public schools.  What it actually said was that cahrter school students were about the same level in maths and on average eight days ahead in reading.   Oh I did laugh.  Eight. Days.  So, about the same then.

“I don’t think eight days is a whole lot,” said CREDO research manager Devora Davis of the charter school students’ reading edge. “There’s a lot of variation across the states. It’s a national average.”

Twenty years down the line and the best that magical charter schools can manage is that they are achieving about the same as public schools.  Hardly good value for money given the cost.


graduation hatToo many teachers – Also in the news was the fact that there are too many teachers applying for too few jobs, with up to 100 applicants per job in some areas.

Are too many teachers being trained for the jobs available?  It certainly seems that way.  Maybe the powers that be are expecting a lot of resignations…

Also to consider is the impact of over-supply on teachers with more experience?   And will many of the new graduates end up working abroad, or even leaving the profession before they begin?  So much for the teacher shortage we were warned of not long ago…


no moneyFunding for special needs students is still a hot topic, particularly with parents of special needs children.  The news that decile ten private schools were far more likely to apply for and receive funding to help special needs students take exams hit many a raw nerve.

No-one would wish to deny high decile students the help they need, but it does lead to questions about the system when so many lower decile school students that apply for help don’t get it and – equally disconcerting – a huge proportion of low decile schools don’t even apply for the help.


What else? National Standards, PaCT, Badass Teachers, and Christchurch schools have also loomed large this week, but I think that’s enough reading for anyone, so I shall leave it there.

Happy reading, happy thinking.


What will we come back to after the school holidays?

It’s not looking like it will be an overly restful break for most school staff this summer, and many parents and pupils will also be worrying what they will return to in 2013.


Some will be worrying that there will be no school to even return to, not least of all those in Christchurch who are facing mergers and closures, and the wonderful special needs staff at Salisbury School who are still fighting valiantly to keep their residential school open.

Fighting Back

People all over the country will be writing submissions to parliament to prevent these closures.  Parents who are worried for their children, teachers, principals and teacher  aides whoa re concerned for their students.  Kiwis concerned for their communities.

Anyone who has been following the rise of charter schools (or partnership Schools as they have been re-branded here) will be reading the Education Amendment Bill and making submissions about that, too, concerned for the devaluation of our education system by putting profits before people.


Many school staff will be worrying that they won’t be paid and that their break will be ruined by money worries and fighting bureaucracy.  It’s bad enough being paid wrongly (or not at all) in term time,  but school staff know that they will have real trouble getting pay woes sorted curing the break when school administration staff are on their holidays.  That means stressed and worried teachers, teacher aides, caretakers, admin staff, and more, all at the one time of year when a rest is paramount to fire up for another big year.

Fast-Track Teacher Training

We will return to the first batch of teachers trained on a six-week intensive course, arriving in the classroom to learn on-the-job with the bare minimum in pedagogical knowledge and less still in classroom experience.  We will be watching and waiting to see how that pans out for the trainees, the mentors and the students.


And as always at this time of year, many are worrying about finding a job because they were on short term contracts.  Some will leave the profession – others will take their skills overseas.

And the rest…

Add to that league tables, National Standards, class sizes, performance pay, property searches, hungry students… the list goes on.

Is it too late?

Yes,t his summer, teachers will be doing more than eating pavlova on the beach,  planning and setting up their classrooms.

They will be worrying about the future of public education in New Zealand

and hoping that it’s not too late to stop the rot.

Education – Taking A New Path

This is the second part of my report on Pasi Sahlberg’s Bayfield School talk, 5/10/12.  Part 1 is here.


Sahlberg is emphatic that all students must have the same chance at receiving a good education at all levels and that in order to improve education you must improve equity.

What does he mean by equity in education?

‘Equity in education is the strength of relationship between a pupil’s family background and the education they receive.’  

Rich, poor, immigrant, first generation, native, whatever – all should receive the same quality teaching and the same opportunities.  It’s a lofty ambition, but not impossible by any means.

Performance Pay / Collaboration

Teachers work collaboratively within schools and school-to-school.  Schools share ideas and resources with each other.  There is no performance pay – Sahlberg says it does not work, and it would not be accepted by teachers or management there as they value working collaboratively and see that as key to providing a good and fair education for all.  It’s no different to what teachers here are saying – we value cooperation and collaboration above the chance of an extra dollar.


Here Sahlberg offered a warning:

‘Accountability is what’s left when responsibility is taken away.’ 

He stressed that accountability should be trust based, with schools self-monitoring, and monitoring each other, with minimal external monitoring from government or external agencies, and emphasised that, ideally, you should be reviewing your practices and performance with other schools, locally.  When asked what he thought had led to the level of trust teachers enjoy in Finland, he said

‘I think it’s to do with how teachers are viewed and treated by government and Fins.  There is trust.

Ministers do not tell teachers how to teach.’

Teacher Training

Finnish teachers must get an undergraduate  degree and Masters degree before they do their teacher training.  There is no other path.  No one-year course, no 6-week fast-tracking, not even a three-year course.   There is a better chance of getting into medical or law courses than teacher training.   After 30 years of this system, now just about all Finnish teachers have been trained this way.  As a result, teachers are seen as well-trained and well-educated, and they are held in esteem.  There are no teacher shortages.  I know I’d be more than happy to do a Masters and upgrade my skills and knowledge.  I see that as a win:win situation.

High Five

Parental Choice

The idea of different types of school and of private fee-paying schools is not one that Finland supports.  Sahlberg explains that offering choices in education weakens the whole system and weakens communities by causing unnecessary competition.  He argues that schools must be connected to their communities and to each other for success.  In Finland, parents can choose any school for their children, yet they almost always choose the local school because there is an understanding that the level of care and education will be the same at all schools even if the topics/areas covered differ.  Rather than pitting school against school, cooperation, equality and fairness are again the focus.

In other words, teachers want to do their best for their students, and people trust teachers and schools to be doing just that.

Fewer regulations.  Less monitoring.  More trust.

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

Read the rest:  Part 1 is here.

Pasi Sahlberg part 1 – A Dream Finnish Line

how_finland_became_an_educational_leader-460x307Today I had the fortune to spend two hours listening to Pasi Sahlberg talk about education.

He didn’t rant, he didn’t rave, in fact he didn’t even sound impassioned – here just talked sense.  He didn’t have notes or a crib sheet, and he didn’t have a political agenda – he just spoke about something he understands well.  It was really quite something.

The talk covered so many very interesting points that I’m breaking it up into a number of shorter blogs to make it digestible.

Here I will just outline some facts about Finland’s education system, without commentary, and leave it to you to think about and comment on them.

Facts About The Finnish Education System

  • All education is 100% publicly funded in Finland.
  • All school materials (books, pencils, etc) are provided and are free.
  • Dental and health care is free.
  • Travel to and from school is free.
  • Compulsory schooling starts the year the child turns 7 years old.
  • Students have the same teacher from year 1 to year 6, then specialist teachers for the final 3 years.
  • There is no testing until children are 15 years old.
  • Only the core curricula are designed for nationwide application. They leave freedom for local education authorities to arrange teaching in the best way suited to local circumstances.
  • There are no national standards.
  • Every child is fed a hot 3 course meal every day at school.
  • Every school has a doctor, a nurse, and a counsellor on site.
  • Teachers have less student contact time and more teacher-teacher contact time.
  • The schools day is shorter.
  • School is 150 days per year.
  • All teachers have a masters degree and a further teaching qualification.
  • There are no school inspections in Finland.

Finland is consistently in the top 5 countries in the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) lists.  These are the December 2010 figures:

Finland’s results: score points   OECD countries all participants
Reading literacy  536  2nd  3rd
Mathematical literacy  541  2nd  6th
Scientific literacy  554  1st  2nd

Makes you think, doesn’t it.

Read Part Two Here.



Pasi Sahlber’s talk at Bayfield School, Auckland, NZ, 5th October 2012.

6-Week Teacher Training Course

A new teacher training programme has been developed by Teach First and The University of Auckland that will see graduates undertake a six-week course over the summer holidays and then placed in schools to do the rest of their training in-the-job.

Those chosen for the scheme are being touted as the creme-de-la-creme graduates who received top honours, and the goal is to get them trained and ready and out teaching as soon as possible.

But even that is being questioned: “The PPTA has found the current proposal is in breach of both the State Sector Act and the Education Act; there is no evidence that entrants to the Teach First Course will be “brighter” than entrants to more conventional New Zealand pre-service secondary courses” PPTA Source

Now, I am not opposed to fast tracking per se.  If this or any other course is based on sound ideas and proves to work, then great.

But I do have some questions…


  • Why is it assumed that if a graduate got top honours they will automatically be a good teacher?  Many  brilliant teachers  didn’t get fabulous undergraduate degrees, but man, they do know how to teach.
  • Why is it that the teachers trained on these schemes are only sent to low decile schools?  The argument that they need great teachers doesn’t sit well with me because there is nothing to say the people on this scheme will be any different to those coming out of a one-year or three-year course.
  • How will the trainees be supported once in work?   Just how will it work?  Because the reality is they will “responsible for the learning of anything up to 100 challenging adolescents after only six weeks of preparation” Source
  • Will this scheme undermine other (longer) courses and those training on them?  Assuming the fast-tracked teachers are paid while they effectively train on the job, how will that affect uptake and morale on the full time courses that people are paying to undertake?
  • Who is doing the mentoring?  There is an implication that the schools these fast-trackers will be sent to are short of good, high level teachers.  If that is true, just who is going to be mentoring them?  And will there be a selection of different mentors, so the student sees a variety of teaching styles and gets a broad understanding of different practices?
  • Does this course have a knock on effect of further demeaning teachers in the eyes of the public? Will people believe that just about anyone can teach if you can do the job after just six weeks of training?  Or maybe people will assume all teachers arrive under-prepared, especially if they are in a low decile school.

So many questions.



I found the following quotes interesting to compare:

“A year-long course has a lot of non-contact time, when trainees are out in schools.”

University of Auckland’s dean of education, Graeme Aitken.  Source

“Trainee teachers in proper teacher education spend large blocks of practicum time in classes where they gain invaluable teaching experience. These fast track programmes won’t even touch the sides, particularly as they’ll be held over summer when there are no children in schools to teach.”

NZEI President Ian Leckie.  Source

I know what Mr Aiken means, and I’m not being facetious, but surely the contact time in schools matters hugely?  Surely being able to train in the field then go back are read more theory/discuss with peers, then go back into the field and evolve your learning and your skills is a good model.  And that’s the very bit that’s being cut out here.

As one commentator said “Learning the theory is all very well but until you’ve stood in front of a class and had to manage 30 different sets of behaviour you have no idea how you will cope. For that shock to come when the school, and its students, are stuck with you for two years is dreadful.”


The argument is that the scheme is being used to attract people into those subjects with largest shortages.  But many factors feed into that shortage – poor work conditions, stress, and low wages being key.  These are in no way addressed by the scheme and so  fast-tracked teachers will most likely drop out at roughly the same rate as other teaching graduates.

It’s questionable whether fast-tracking is actually effective in keeping  teachers into the classroom.  “Almost half the first participants in a similar scheme in Australia are no longer teaching after two years.”   “This high dropout rate mirrors that of programmes with the same features in the United States”  NZ Herald 11.6.12 (link below)


Why do we actually have a shortage of teachers?  Will this course train teachers well?  Will it serve the students of those trainees well?

Keep your eyes peeled about this one… it might work, it might not, but it’s going to be a very interesting experiment one way or another.


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