Jeremy Vargo

By Jeremy Vargo - 28/01/2014

Jeremy Vargo

By Jeremy Vargo -

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National’s School Leadership proposal

School leadership burst onto the election year programme during John Key’s State of the Nation speech, when he announced $359 million of new funding to identify and encourage leading teachers and principals and enable them to share their knowledge to improve schooling for every Kiwi kid. We were incredibly pleased to see the government identifying this as a major election year focus, given Maxim Institute’s work in education over the last decade, and particularly as School Leadership is one of our two major research areas for 2013-2014. 

Here is a round up of what this announcement means, why these changes were identified by the Government, and some of the reactions so far. 


Read the full text of John Key’s State of the Nation here

The “Key Information” sheet from the Ministry of Education states: 

The Government is investing an extra $359 million over the next four years to help raise student achievement. New roles within schools are proposed: Executive Principal, Expert Teacher, Lead Teacher. It also intends to introduce Change Principals who will receive additional remuneration over the salary they would normally receive as principal of that school. This initiative focuses on raising student achievement across the board, by supporting the education profession to build quality and consistency of teaching and leadership across the system.

These roles will:

help recognise highly-capable teachers and principals with proven track records

keep good teachers in the classroom

share expertise across schools and among teachers and principals.

In addition to these new roles, a $10 million teacher-led innovation fund will be established.


Last year’s PISA results and the 2011 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) showed slipping academic performance in the New Zealand education system. A release from the Ministry of Education about the proposed new funding stated: 

“Our top students are doing as well as students anywhere in the world but there is a big gap between our top performing students and those who aren’t doing so well. We must do better to raise achievement across the board. International studies also tell us clearly that we are not keeping pace with other high performing countries and jurisdictions, particularly in subjects like maths and science. Helping the profession to build quality and consistency of teaching and leadership across the system will result in improved educational achievement for New Zealand young people.”


The new plans have drawn approval from many commentators, including the PPTA and the Principal’s Federation President Phil Harding: 

“It’s hard for me to say it but I’m pretty damned impressed. It is a huge amount of new money and I have never seen such a transformation of ideas and discussion into policy and money in my life. It has gone from a theoretical discussion about how the system needed to evolve and change just last year to the appropriation of significant resource.”

Likewise, education experts from the University of Canterbury have “welcomed the concept of building communities of practice and collaboration across schools.” 

“Having lead and expert teachers will support our collaborative effort in ensuring high quality teaching experiences for our student on placements in schools. Further it creates clear career pathways within schools for our teaching graduates to aspire to in their development.”

The Government’s major electoral opponents have responded, with Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei chastising National’s plan for not addressing “the key reason for our decline in education performance, growing inequality,” and Labour leader David Cunliffe asserting that “paying bonuses to a few teachers won’t turn around New Zealand’s ‘recent dismal PISA results.’”

Maxim Institute’s Education Researcher Dr Luke Fenwick is currently undertaking primary research into effective school leadership, and will be releasing the findings later this year. 

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Jeremy Vargo

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