Some principals ‘furious’ over proposal for radical education restructuring

Radical change will usually annoy some people, and so it seems with some school principals over the proposal to radically change the way schools are administered.

The reform was announced just as schools were closing down for the year.

Stuff:  Furious principals warn education reforms will ‘destroy the school system in New Zealand as we know it’

Furious principals say they will march on Parliament in protest at the most radical restructuring in 30 years, saying the proposals will destroy schooling as New Zealand knows it.

The proposal to relieve school boards of responsibility for property, HR and financial management is the one that has been most warmly-greeted by the Government. Education Minister Chris Hipkins said the report reflected what he often heard from schools: that boards felt ill-equipped to manage property, especially when problems such as leaky buildings cropped up.

The School Trustees Association and Principal’s Federation have offered cautious support to centralising some of those responsibilities. And this week, Manawatū Principals’ Association president Wayne Jenkins said boards of trustees faced “huge” responsibilities, and he welcomed a re-evaluation on their role.

But at some of the bigger secondary schools, especially in Auckland, anger is mounting. In this week’s strongly-worded attack, Macleans College principal Steven Hargreaves wrote to parents and staff in the holidays to say the proposed changes would “destroy the school system in New Zealand as we know it”.

Hargreaves joined other heads, including Auckland Grammar’s Tim O’Connor, in revolting against the proposals.

Taking power away from boards would create “bland, one-size-fits-all” institutions and destroy the role of communities in schools, Hargreaves said.

He called on parents to oppose the recommendations and said parents had already been quick to voice their backing for him.

Over the summer break, schools would be picking over the report in detail and identifying the key issues, Hargreaves said. A parents’ information evening would be scheduled in February and from there they would aim to get traction through the board of trustees and local MPs.

Hargreaves said he was ready to “descend on Parliament” with other principals if necessary.

This weekend, Bali Haque, chairman of the Tomorrow’s Schools taskforce, emphasised there could be scope for hubs to hand responsibilities back to boards.

Haque said there was no intention in the report to take away the “critical jobs” boards currently have.

Boards would retain control over teaching at their schools, the locally-raised funds, and receive a veto or final approval over their principal’s appointment if the taskforce’s recommendations are adopted.

It looks like a lot of consultation is required here.

The Government and Minister of Education Chris Hipkins have already had to try to deal with teacher unions campaigning for substantially improved pay and and staffing levels.