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What’s happening with National’s school leadership policy?

Remember how the National Party announced a $359 million School Leadership policy in January this year? Earlier this month we caught another glimpse of what the Government’s “Investing in Educational Success” (IES) programme might look like. 

The Working Group assigned to hammer out the finer points of the policy has released their summary report and a background paper. Part of IES is the Government’s pledge, if re-elected, to invest $359 million over four years into “Community of School Leadership Roles” and “Principal Recruitment Allowances,” in addition to “Community of Schools Teacher (across community) Roles” and “Community of Schools Teacher (within school) Roles.” 

Apart from inflicting upon us several astonishingly clumsy “working descriptors,” the policy is an attempt to leverage the benefits of quality leadership and teaching to improve student performance across the education system, as well as provide career pathways for leaders and teachers.

On the whole, the policy and its implementation remain unclear. And it has attracted several negative responses (even from some members of the Working Group):

  • The Auckland Primary School Principals’ Association believe children’s “learning could suffer”;
  • The primary teachers’ union (New Zealand Educational Institute Te Riu Roa) holds the policy is “unacceptable and unworkable”;
  • New Zealand Principals’ Federation President Philip Harding remains “unconvinced”;
  • A Waikato-based academic criticises the lack of evidence supplied by the Government in support of IES. He also thinks the policy could promote a “managerialism” that leads to a “less principled” school system.

But there have been positive reactions as well, including these three:

  • The secondary school teachers’ union (New Zealand Post-Primary Teachers’ Association Te Wehengarua) welcomes the report, labelling the process as a “positive example of sector collaboration”;
  • Secondary Principals’ Association President Tom Parsons greets the Government’s transparency and the general “constructive collaboration” so far;  
  • Education Minister Hekia Parata, as you might expect, also hails the cross-sector collaboration.

Various working parties will sort out the details of IES over the coming months. Certainly the policy has potential drawbacks, but these could be moderated with various amendments; our own research on school leadership will explore these in depth and will appear in July.


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