Principal on parental and school responsibility and accountability

In a senior prize giving speech a Dunedin principal has spoken of increasing pressures, especially from media, on schools on social issues and responsibilities.

He said that while most parents “did a fantastic job” some needed to take more responsibility for their child’s behaviour.

ODT: Principal bemoans threats to schools

A Dunedin school principal is  increasingly  concerned  by the  social expectations imposed on schools,  and says some parents need to take more responsibility for their children’s actions.

During the recent King’s High School senior prizegiving, rector Dan Reddiex praised his present cohort of pupils for their outstanding achievements  during the year, but went on to express deep concern about the future of education in New Zealand.

He said the school’s ability to educate boys “in mind and in heart” was under threat.

“Alarmingly, in my view, we are increasingly becoming as much a social institution as we are an educational one.

“The expectations imposed upon us now as a school, to attend to and reverse the ills of our society, are completely unrealistic and they are beyond our resource capability.

“It seems now, the first questions about the inappropriate text message sent by a school-age person in the weekend, or the under-age young person attending a party that goes wrong, are not ‘what were the parents thinking and what will the parents do about it’?

“The first questions now are ‘what school does the young person go to and what is the school going to do about it’? And we’ve seen that in the national media this year…

“I believe it’s not our parent body who thrust these expectations upon us. It’s the media and it’s increasingly a broader societal expectation.”

Mr Reddiex said the lines of demarcation between parental and school responsibility and accountability had been “completely obliterated”.

I don’t think this is necessarily new. I remember my school being involved in student behaviour outside school time, like smoking, and there was a kerfluffle at school when I was in Form 1 when a girl self tattooed her hand.

Following the prizegiving, he told the Otago Daily Times there was an expectation that schools would, in part, fulfil the function that historically had been the role of a parent.

“The vast majority of parents are doing a fantastic job, but there are some who need to take more responsibility for their child’s behaviour.”

It usually is a small minority who are at fault.

Otago Secondary Principals’ Association secretary Gordon Wilson said it was a widespread issue.

“Schools are under increasing pressure to help the community solve some of its issues, and often schools are seen as the last place where some of these issues can be addressed.

“That’s not where schools should be. A lot of these issues that schools are being asked to deal with are not internal issues. They are issues that have arisen from outside the school.”

Schools and teachers have long been held as exemplary social examples, with an aim to make it’s pupils similar.

NZ History:  Schools in 1914

George Hogben, who headed the Department of Education from 1899 until 1915, believed that ‘moral purpose should dominate the spirit of the whole school life.’ Schools and teachers were to shape children into productive, moral and healthy citizens prepared to serve their country in both peace and war. J.P. Firth (or ‘the Boss’, as he was known to most) was principal of Wellington College from 1892 to 1920. Firth believed in the virtues of manliness, toil and duty in preference to ease and pleasure, and transmitted to his pupils an abhorrence of ‘slovenliness, sneaking, and all things mean and unworthy’.

Social behaviour outside schools can impact in schools, for example with bullying.

From Tackling Bullying – A guide for Boards and Trustees

“Schools are increasingly involved in incidents where the activities of students at home or in their own time have an impact on the life of the school; for example, creating and posting harmful content on social media using their own Smartphone or computer, whether at school or not. It can affect a student’s wellbeing no matter where it happens.

Schools have the responsibility and power to act when it is reasonable to expect that what’s occurred could have a negative impact on the school’s learning environment. Trying to pinpoint where and when the bullying took place may be less helpful than asking ‘what effect is this having on the student/s involved and how will we respond?’

If signs of bullying such as absenteeism or other worrying behaviour are noticed by school staff, or if anyone reports bullying to school staff, it’s important to investigate and take action, regardless of where and when it happened.”

Often parents are unaware of social exchanges including bullying. Children often stay silent at home about problems they face in school and outside school.

As far as I’m aware schools have always assumed some responsibility for the behaviour of pupils outside school – but in the past at least they took action in school but didn’t want bad publicity for the school.

Schools are a major part of the social interactions of students, so they can’t avoid social responsibilities. They will of course want parents to also take responsibility for their children, but it is a complex issue, and is fraught when there is a clash between school and parent expecations and values.

Colin James – the Green factor

Colin James looks at Greens post-election (surprisingly without mentioning Russel Norman oir Metiria Turei):

Then there is the Green factor
And, for Labour to be competitive in 2017, it needs to re-forge a working relationship with the Greens so that there is a visible alternative government.

The Greens have become well established, with close to 11% of the party vote in both 2011 and 2014. They have become a respectable option for disillusioned Labour supporters or environmentally conscious National supporters. In 2011 they decided they did want to be part of a government, with all the risks of attrition for smaller partners in coalitions. In 2014 they proposed to Labour that the two parties run as a coalition.

Labour rejected that. But Labour also knows it is unlikely to be the government in 2017 without the Greens alongside. Ideally, it would like the Greens a bit smaller than 11% but not so small as to drag the combined vote down short of a majority. The Greens in their turn wanted a higher vote and talked of getting 15% but recognised privately that too high a vote for the Greens would reduce Labour’s vote and could cause the combined vote to fall short of a majority.

In fact, the Greens’ vote went down slightly, by 0.4%, not up. This may have been in part because some potential young voters went to the Internet part of Internet Mana, which did best in the same general electorates as the Greens did, in part because other potential voters concluded there was not going to be a Labour-Green government and in part because the Greens were stereotyped as well to the left of Labour on social and economic issues – and too sympathetic to “poisonous” Kim Dotcom on spying matters – which may have discouraged environmentally conscious centrist or National-leaning voters.

The static vote has triggered a debate within the party. Kennedy Graham, in an opinion piece in the New Zealand Herald on 9 October, argued that the Greens need to reposition themselves on a “vertical sustainability axis” as distinct from a left-right axis, which he said consigns sustainability to secondary status when it is the primary issue – “whether we shall live, tomorrow”.

He noted that one of the Greens’ charter’s four principles is “social responsibility”, a centrist notion flowing from sustainability and implying individual obligation, and not “social justice” (a left-right term, which is one of the Global Greens’ six principles). “The vertical axis of sustainability allows us to move more freely along the left-right axis in analysis and prescription,” Graham wrote, implying Greens could (in theory) be open to coalition with National as well as Labour. [Graham 2014]

With new MP James Shaw, a business consultant, Graham also shares an understanding that the economy is global (as well as the environment) and that policy has to reflect that reality – which poses difficult policy questions similar to those Labour faces.

From Colin James to the Victoria University post-election conference, 3 December 2014 DRAFT – MAYBE SUBJECT TO ADJUSTMENT