NZ Principals’ Federation
Secretary for Education
Thursday 29 June 2000
Christchurch Town Hall
“Here is Edward Bear coming down the stairs now, bump, bump, bump on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It
is as far as he knows the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there is another way, if only he
could stop bumping for a moment and think of it. And then he feels that perhaps there isn’t.”
I intend to provide a high level overview of the past ten years and to look ahead over the next ten.
“Tomorrow’s Schools” was a major reform.
It was about giving parents greater voice through major changes to the ways schools are managed and governed.
It happened at a time when three things were shaping the education policy climate.
First, education was moving to centre stage of most policy discussions about both economic and social policy. Economic
performance was dependent on skill development. Education was essential to overcome a range of social problems faced by
Second, the country was confronting a major fiscal crisis and the imperative was to close the Government’s budget
deficit as quickly as possible. Expenditure cuts and restraint impacted significantly on the education sector.
Third, while there was a lot of agreement about the approach to economic policy there was little agreement about the
best approach to social policy. For example the Royal Commission on Social Policy was effectively shelved.
As I look back across the decade a number of things are evident.
First, while for many schools and their communities “Tomorrow’s Schools” was liberating, it led to administrative and
management issues dominating much of the time of a principal. In doing so the focus of principals was shifted away from
educational leadership. I think the original authors of “Tomorrow’s Schools” thought most principals would have been
able to do both more easily than proved to be the case.
Second, it was inevitable that some schools would fail or struggle as would some Boards. It took until 1995 before some
forms of support for schools that were in difficulty began to be put in place. The Ministry is now developing a stronger
monitoring capability that should help bring about earlier and more effective interventions in at risk situations as
Third, some wider systemic issues associated with children who were not succeeding in the school system prior to
Tomorrow’s Schools reforms were not addressed. It has only been in the last few years that a much greater concerted
effort has begun to be put in place to develop more effective strategies for the education of Maori and Pacific
Today the focus of policy is centred back around student learning.
There is a growing focus on standards and ensuring children reach these standards to the best of their abilities.
This focus can be seen in the work around establishing benchmarks for literacy and the development of exemplars and
assessment material across the curriculum areas.
In the early childhood sector indicators of quality have been developed.
The new National Certificate of Educational Achievement is based around a much more explicit articulation of what
students need to do to meet particular standards.
At a tertiary level there is a stronger focus on quality assurance.
In terms of student learning is a very strong focus on ensuring children get the strongest possible foundations in
literacy and numeracy.
There are a range of initiatives in place to support this goal. This includes more exemplar material and diagnostic
tools. It includes professional development and professional support. It includes a focus on strengthening the role that
parents and early childhood educators play.
The changes to National Education Guidelines are designed to reinforce a strategic and effective professional practice
approach to school and classroom management. They are a clear statement that a strategic and professional approach to
student learning is expected – not a compliance based one.
The emphasis is on the good use of assessment and other information to identify the learning needs of a student and to
referee and improve teaching strategies. It is about effectively informing and engaging parents and Maori communities in
the education process.
We are at the early stages of seeing ICT making a big impact on the life of a school, a teacher and a learner.
The development of a education portal Te Kete Ipurangi will see teachers being able to access a wide range of quality
assured curriculum material.
ICT will make co-operation between teachers, between students and between leaders, students and other people and
organisation much more possible and easier.
There are a number of strengthening education initiatives in place involving a number of schools and their communities.
The emphasis in these is on putting in place more effective teaching strategies and raising student achievement.
In a number of these initiatives there is also a strong emphasis on developing the role of the family and community in
supporting the education of the child.
For example, in Mangere and Otara there is a focus on developing literacy skills in both a school and home setting.
In the relationships being developed with Maori and Pacific communities there is an emphasis on building the capability
for parents and community to have a more effective voice.
Crystal ball gazing out ten years what might the future hold.
There will be a more diverse range of students. The growing proportion of students who will identify as being Maori or
Pacific will continue to grow as well the diversity of the family and social circumstances. With this will be a greater
growth in Maori immersion education and demand for teaching in Pacific languages. There will be a higher number of
children with special needs.
With growing diversity will be the need for more diagnostic tools and a greater requirement for individualised learning
ICT is likely to drive major changes in both how things are done but also in terms of what is possible.
I recently represented the Minister of Education at an APEC Ministerial meeting. Let me share some of the thinking and
issues that were raised from the 20 countries that included the USA, Canada, Chile, Singapore, Korea, Japan and Vietnam.
Every country, when looking ahead, saw a major challenge being the need for their teachers to adapt to new and
Teachers of the future were seen as ones who would facilitate learning. They would need to spend more time guiding
students to quality learning material and assisting them to develop the skills to be a self- motivated learner.
It would be important for teachers to consciously model learning, and show that they are happy to learn along with
Education success was seen as requiring teachers need to increasingly understand the influences of language and
culture and how these could be used to enhance a standard of learning.
There would be a much greater need for teachers and schools to make sound assessments of each student’s individual
needs and from these develop the most effective learning programmes for each student.
The increasing number of at risk students would continue to place greater demands on teachers’ pedagogical skills but
also on their diagnostic skills.
Schools would spend more time in ensuring that students have relevant individualised learning plans. Learning against
these plans would be regularly monitored and modified of new information.
School managers would spend more time ensuring that assessment data and student information was being effectively
analysed in terms of an individual student’s learning.
You would be analysing aggregated student information to assess the overall effectiveness of the teaching programmes
under your direction.
ICT offers the tools and the potential to dramatically reshape education delivery and practice.
It creates the possibility of much richer data sets and the ability to analyse a much greater and richer range of
Like a lot of organisations schools generally are data rich but information poor.
Most teachers and schools I meet readily admit that teachers over assess and do not make enough use of assessment data.
Such practices add to workload with very little benefit to student learning.
In essence the information age is about the ability to derive knowledge and wisdom from data.
Again ICT creates the huge potential to make this possible.
ICT creates the opportunities to link the learning of one student to that of another in geographically quite separate
It creates opportunities for teachers to share information, experiences and assessments.
It creates opportunities to open up learning to many other groups – connected learning communities.
I am sure you find it hard to keep enthusiastic when you have read the 25th version of the same assignment. ICT creates
the opportunity for children to write for different audiences and to learn from the feedback.
For example, I saw an example recently where children learning to write corresponded with a retired person who was
learning to access the internet. This led to those children getting more enthusiastic feedback and made them more
enthusiastic about responding. It also provided positive reinforcement of self worth to those children.
I visited a secondary school recently where a history teacher was working with two other history teachers in different
schools. They got their students to provide an interpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi signing. They then got their
students to compare the differences in their perceptions. This enabled them to see the importance of looking at issues
through the eyes of others.
Effective use of ICT in schools will require significant shifts in attitudes and skills.
In effect ICT will see the control of learning shift away from the teacher to the student.
This will mean that that teachers will need to let go of some of the traditional ways of teaching.
It will become important that students develop the skills of self-motivation, self learning and self direction.
The teacher will need to guide the student to quality material and to provide the students with ways in which learning
can be reinforced through interactions with other students or people from outside of the school.
Maybe the test of a good teacher in the future will be how well a student learns without the teacher in the classroom.
Maybe the question that will be asked of a student in the future is not where did you learn but how did you learn.
The essence of much learning lies in the interaction between a teacher and student.
“Tomorrow’s Schools” was about giving parents more voice and enabling schools to respond more effectively to community
and wider economic changes.
After a period in the early 1990s when the implementation of “Tomorrow’s Schools” dominated the focus of policy has
become much more strongly focused on student learning.
Looking ahead ICT is likely to have a profound impact – not in terms of the importance of a teacher but in terms of this
role and in terms of providing a teacher versus school with a much wider array of powerful looks that can enhance,
assist and guide the learning of all students.