Still haven’t got time to…

…write (‘cos I’m still trying to clean up the novo-poop that’s still afflicting our staff). Maybe this guy’s right: Novopay is a useful distraction for those of our politicians hell-bent on back-room issues that will have really serious front-room consequences.

Dear Dairy…

It has been three months since my last entry and it is only now that I have found the time to get back to you: that and the fact that I am now on Novocaine in a desperate bid to reduce the Novopain.

I cannot begin to describe the time and energy the education system’s new payroll has consumed since launching in August. Certainly, if my secret ambition had been to be a pay-clerk in a three-ring circus, I could not have taken a more torturous route to get here! In fact - that is unfair to circuses: it’s a zoo. And that’s not really being fair to zoos either!

This mess is taking considerably more than twenty extra hours per week of mine and my payroll officer’s collective time…and we’re no closer to unravelling the hopelessly entwined soggy spaghetti that is the paper trail…yes really - paper: the forms we can fill in online but have to send in pdf format because their ‘system’ doesn’t cope with too much in the way of direct online inputting.

'Course, this is not surprising because it was apparently well understood that the system wasn't ready but the decision-makers said to launch anyway! Thank God they're not in charge of air-safety or neurosurgery.

Not a single pay cycle has been right. At Christmas, someone who hasn’t worked here since the start of 2012 was randomly paid a couple of thousand. Dollars - of our money. What’s worse - the total amount of money removed from our bank account exceeded the total paid out to the staff…so where did the rest go?!

Anyhow, must dash. We have “start of year” forms to complete before 14 January and we need to meet the deadline if we are to have any hope at all of at least some of the staff getting paid something when school starts. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! ….I think the drugs have finally kicked in….

Of tables and deciles…

Quite a week for education; National Standards (NS) data published by Fairfax media – complete with a website to allow you to compare the results. How useful: a device to make you seem tall (if you’re walking with dwarfs - or the reverse if you’re not).

The upside – and there is one – is that NS don’t make a whit of difference to kids; they’re designed for political not educational purposes. We have included them in the raft of tools we use to guide our teaching because we have to. We report against them because we have to. But they’re a bit like tooth fairies: everyone knows about them but everyone has their own version of what they do… Certainly, they don’t appear to have told the government anything that they didn’t already know. One of trends reported last week was that “poor kids do worse”. That’s a trend that didn’t need NS to identify; it’s been around for years (it has to do with being able to afford resources).

The stuff that makes the difference to kids’ progress is still good teaching, good support from home, and a willingness to learn. Let’s keep focused on that.

Waverley Park is rated at decile 5M. Originally, we were a 3 but ratings are reviewed after each census.

According to “There are five specific factors that are taken into account when deciding on the decile rating of a school. These are:

·       Household income – percentage of households with income in the lowest 20% nationally.

·       Occupation – percentage of employed parents in the lowest skilled occupational groups.

·       Household crowding – number of people in the household divided by the number of bedrooms.

·       Educational qualifications – percentage of parents with no tertiary or school qualifications.

·       Income support – percentage of parents who received a benefit in the previous year.

So, poorer communities with fewer qualifications and lower incomes are likely to be in Decile One, whilst wealthier communities with more qualifications and higher incomes are likely to be in Decile 10.”

Funding is allocated to NZ schools based on their decile rating; the lower the decile rating, the more funding per pupil a school gets.  Each decile level contains roughly 10% of schools: there are sub-divisions within each declie level: 1a, 1b, 2c, 2d…. with the funding rate decreasing as the alphabet progresses.

Not everything that matters can be measured; and certainly not everything that can be  measured matters… apparently, “the system” doesn’t understand this. Systems were supposed to work for people; increasingly in NZ, it’s the other way around.

How true…

A friend sent me this in an e-mail - “The Green Thing”…

Checking out at the supermarket, the young check-out lass suggested to the older woman, that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.

The woman apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this green thing back in my younger days.”
The young clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”

She was right — our generation didn’t have the green thing in its day.

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soft-drink bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were truely recycled.

But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags, that we reused for numerous things, most memorable besides household garbage bags, was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our schoolbooks. This was to ensure that public property, (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribblings. Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bags.

But too bad we didn’t do the green thing back then.

We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.

But she was right. We didn’t have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the throwaway kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts — wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.

But that young lady is right; we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana. In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.

But she’s right; we didn’t have the green thing back then.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.

But we didn’t have the green thing back then.

Back then, people caught a bus or a train and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger joint.

But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the green thing back then?

The latest thinking…

The latest thinking…

Creative solution…

Check out the latest solution for larger class sizes (albeit just a prototype at this stage):

Make sure you read the questions and answers for the some fine examples of the sort of creativity that National Standards may very well crush.

Kelvin Smythe - still right on the money…

In his latest posting “John Armstrong - charter schools, and fairy tales from the ACT conference”, the redoubtable Kelvin Smythe continues his resolute pursuit of the truth.

When are public schools going to be freed from the hold of the ignorant, the ideologically-driven and the bureaucratic to do better what they do best, that is to inspire and lift all children no matter their backgrounds?

Warwick Elley in his comment on OECD reports says ‘that New Zealand is consistently ranked in the top three or four countries in literacy. And in general, the only countries that consistently surpass New Zealand are the ethnically homogenous ones of Finland, Korea, and Japan.’

Armstrong’s column prompts further comment.

Armstrong is deluded if thinks performance pay based on the measurement of narrow perceptions of numeracy and literacy, and on value-added notions related to national standards (which don’t yet exist), then somehow linked to imprecise deciles, and to class compositions that vary widely within a school, and which establishes a cash nexus as the motivation for teachers working with children, rather than love for them and professional responsibility – is the key to improving education in New Zealand and preparing children for the 21st century. Especially, when New Zealand public schools are one of PISA’s stars in literacy and numeracy, and when they are also a PISA star in the teaching of children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

It’s not from the owning of the schools that profit is sought by the corporates but from consultancies, teaching materials, and assessment systems. That is why Murdoch, for instance, has bought in, in such a big way, to education resources. And please don’t try to say charter schools are not about globalised education: powerful companies throughout America are tooling up for participation. Charter schools are a way for national identities to be overridden, education to be globalised, and massive profits to be extracted across national boundaries. It is these companies that will be providing the range of assessment systems in which big profits are so enticingly available. It is strange isn’t it, the national identity that will find its way into globalised schools will be mainly American, and to a lesser extent, English, and Australian. All countries New Zealand public schools comfortably outscore in PISA.”

For the full article - and other “inconvenient truths” (for the politicians) - go to []