Friday, August 22, 2014

The Paradox of Pseudo Consultation

This week, the Primary Teachers Union NZEI has released its results on the IES vote.

93% of teachers and principals voted they had NO CONFIDENCE in the policy.

73% voted to dismiss the policy outright rather than go back into the 'pseudo consultation' tent to renegotiate.  

In the last few days there have been a number of articles about NZEIs stance and interviews about it from the PM and the Minister.  Several statements that have been made have stood out for me.  This is my response and any wonderings about them. 

1. From 3 News

"One of the most puzzling aspects about the position being taken by the union is that they negotiated themselves in their collective agreement last year four positions for allowances for accelerated classroom expertise – the very kind of approach that this initiative is built on," she says.

My first wondering is, why did the Government just not use the career pathway the teachers all negotiated in the first place?  Seems to defy logic that the Government would go to all the trouble of coming up with a different process when the profession had already developed one that had the professions buy in.  To suggest that IES is based on what NZEI developed is, at best, a smoke screen for the public, and a fair stretch of the reality in terms of what eventuated.    

2. Radio NZ

Education Minister Hekia Parata said she was disappointed with the decision but that its policy would not be dumped.
"If we're honoured to be returned for a further term of government, it is our expectation that we will be implementing from day one, term one, next year with those communities of schools who opt in to participate," she said.
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When I see this, it sums up perfectly 'pseudo consultation'.  The message from NZEI members that the policy is inappropriate and unwanted was made clear to the Government this week by the results of the vote.  What this statement says to me is that the Government is not interested in what the primary teachers and principals think or feel about this policy.  Irrespective of the tens of thousands of members voting against it because they believe it won't make a difference to improving equity and outcomes for students, and by doing so turning DOWN money for members, the Government will disregard their voice and plow on ahead.  How democratic, said no teacher ever. 

3. The Herald 

"The actions are sadly predictable in election year. The sad thing is, the only ones that will lose out from this political stunt are your children."
Mr Key said the Government would push on with the Investing in Educational Success (IES) policy.

This is perhaps the most disappointing statement so far. In this statement, I read that the PM is trying to imply that primary educators are trying to manipulate things just because its an election. Frankly, I am surprised the PM didn't say 'It's a left wing conspiracy and at the end of the day.." at the beginning of the above statement. (Best I not get started on 'that' particular bandwagon) Teachers and principals cross the political divide. To spin the line 'sadly predicable in an election year' is manipulative and dismissive of the real issues behind IES. Instead, the PM should have been asking WHY, not questioning motive in a way that incites further distrust with the public.

The myth that teachers are all card carrying members of the Labour party is just that - a myth. Teachers and principals want the best for their communities and their students. They too, are parents and they are professionals. They have a vested interest in public education for the same reasons the public do, only, as professionals, they know what will work and what won't. To not take heed of their advice and thoughts on policy is insulting and ignorant. To not take cognisance of the professions opinion is arrogant and I wonder if the reason they discount the professionals opinion is because it is in the interests of students rather than corporate privatisation.

Furthermore, if you read the last statement then it echoes what was stated above - it was never going to be about real consultation - this was a done deal and it doesn't matter what the majority of the profession charged with implementing it thinks.

4. Breakfast TV1
On Breakfast, the Minister stated that the Primary sector had been involved in the process all the way along including trips overseas to places like Shanghai to look at systems for lifting teacher practice, and that by being involved in the tent they had fully involved in its consultation and development, so she was 'puzzled' now why Primary teachers and principals had voted to not be involved.  Or words to that effect. You can watch more here.
This is one of those situations where 'being in the tent' was always going to be a case of damned if you do and damned if you don't.  In Like Lambs to the Slaughter,  back in April, I blogged about how  going into the tent and being beguiled by the baubles of 'pseudo consultation' was always going to be used against the profession.  By the Ministers comments above, it would seem I was right.  I appreciate that the difficulty was always going to be that to not be involved in the process would also be just as risky.  But this has never been consultative or transparent.  The moment the groups working on it were told not to advise their respective members of the details should have been the point at which all parties said 'not good enough', and walked away.  That is the paradox of pseudo consultation.

No teacher or principal I know is opposed to spending money on education.  No teacher or principal I know is opposed to doing what is in the best interests of students, and not one of them is against improved outcomes and lifting the quality of teaching in our schools so that all students and communities benefit.  So, if the profession stands up and the majority turn down a policy in a resounding wave, then the wise politician and member of the public would ask why, and they would listen.

This is not about blue or red, this is about what is in the best interests of our countries children.  

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