RT HON TREVOR MALLARD
SPEECH TO NEW ZEALAND PRINCIPALS ASSOCIATION
FRIDAY 18TH MARCH
Thank you for your welcome.
This is my first keynote address in the education portfolio since becoming Minister nine weeks ago. I'd like to take
this opportunity to thank you as an organisation for the support and advice you gave me in helping to develop the policy
which will form the framework for our developments in education during this term of government.
I'd also like to thank the individual principals whose schools I visited, or whose meetings I attended. I have always
appreciated the free and frank discussions I have had in school staffrooms and at principals' meetings. And while there
is no doubt that my time is a bit more of scarce commodity these days, I am determined that I will continue to visit
schools on a regular basis and maintain the dialogue with people working at the grassroots of education.
I also hope that you will extend invitations to my Associate Ministers who work with me on policies that affect schools.
In particular Lianne Dalziel who has been given the delegation for special education, and Parekura Horomia who will be
responsible for school transport and for Maori education.
I must add here that the Government sees closing the social and economic gaps that have developed between Maori and
Pacific peoples and other New Zealanders as a major priority. The Prime Minister has established and chairs a Cabinet
committee to oversee the work in this area. Both Parekura and I are members of that committee. I know that Parekura will
also constantly make sure that any decisions I make in the education area reflect this priority. Parekura also has a
rural background that I know will balance my urban background. Some of you might have heard or read his maiden speech
when he reminisced about walking 5km to school and watching the school bus pass him by, and commented on the irony of
now being the Minister responsible for those buses.
Those of you who have met Lianne will know how fortunate I am to be working with an associate of her calibre. Lianne is
passionate about helping individuals who are less able to help themselves. She will be a tireless advocate within
Cabinet for children with special learning needs. And her legal training gives her a good grounding for dealing with
some of the more complex issues associated with special education.
I'd also like to mention Steve Maharey. Steve's responsibilities are in the tertiary and industry training areas so you
won't see as much of him in your circles, but he is a valued member of our education team.
I'd like to start off talking a bit about early childhood education. That might seem a bit unusual given that you are an
audience of primary school principals. But I see early childhood education as integral to our closing the gaps ideology.
I have maintained responsibility for early childhood education within my office and am working with officials and with
the early childhood sector on ways to improve quality and increase participation in early childhood education.
Primary school teachers, and in particular those in the junior classes, often tell me how noticeable the difference is
between children who have participated in quality early childhood education, and those who have not. I'm working on a
number of initiatives in early childhood education to go into this year's Budget round. They include provision of
buildings in low socio-economic areas, funding to help community groups meet licensing standards, and the first work on
setting the Diploma of Teaching as the minimum benchmark qualification for licensing purposes.
I hope that you will reap the benefits of these initiatives in years to come.
But now to some changes and proposals that impact on you and your sector in the more immediate future. None of these
should be a huge surprise to you. This Government is committed to following through on the promises we made while in
Opposition. We were regarded as a cautious Opposition. We were certainly careful not to promise the World and not to
make commitments we didn't believe we could fulfil. It's made our job in Government easier, as we have moved into the
Beehive with a clear policy direction and clear and open agenda.
Some of the results of that work have already been announced, others I will give you an update on today.
It gave me great pleasure to be able to approve the extension of the supplementary funding entitlement to all primary
school principals rather than just those on individual employment contracts.
You will know, better than I, how the change will affect you personally. But I am pleased that as Education Minister I
had the opportunity to demonstrate, within the public sector, the Government's commitment to collective bargaining.
Some of you will choose to stay on an Individual Employment Contract and certainly that is your right. But I know that
many of you – those on collective contracts and those on IECs – felt the unfairness of a system whereby the Government
financially rewarded only those schools whose principals either broke away from the collective or were not allowed to be
a part of it.
In one of the first media interviews I did when I was as Minister of Education, I was asked about National Testing.
Would the new Government continue with the pilot that was to start this year?
I answered no.
As outlined in the election manifesto for both the Labour and Alliance Parties – national testing in primary schools is
not going to go ahead. There was no grand announcement, there was not even a press release.
While that decision was made quickly once we were in Government, it is an issue that I have spent considerable time and
energy considering over the past two years. We are certainly aware of the considerable desire among the parental
community to know how well their children are doing at school – within a school, nationwide, and even internationally.
But is national testing the answer?
I have been convinced by education experts – both academics and those working at the coalface – that it is not. I'd like
to say here that I completely reject the ignorant suggestion that our opposition to national testing is guided by
teachers who oppose it because it means more work for them. It seems fairly obvious to me that it would be much easier
to put a piece of paper in front of a child and leave them to sit a test than it would be to conduct a comprehensive
I have asked the Ministry of Education to examine an approach to externally referenced assessment in primary schools
which is not limited to a one-off test. This is partly an issue of teacher workload. There is some great work being done
on assessment. That work needs to be pulled together and assessment tools and methods that are working well need to be
I also support the notion of schools providing reliable information to parents. Work is underway on the style in which
schools should report six monthly on literacy and numeracy.
Those reports must be easy to understand and provide parents with the information they can use to help their child.
There is huge potential in using information technology to ensure the speedy transfer of that information when a child
switches schools. When a new pupil turns up at your school, it seems pointless to me that you spend days - and sometimes
weeks - chasing up information on what progress they have made at their previous schools.
As Minister of State Services, and acting Minister of Information Technology, I have an added interest in seeing that
Government and government agencies utilise technology sensibly and effectively. We simply can't afford another INCIS.
But I have been horrified by stories like a seven-year-old who turned up at a school one day and it was the ninth school
he has been too. I think better use of IT can relieve some of the problems that situations like that create. Although, I
think the Government's housing policy of lowering rentals on state houses will have an even greater benefit on a case
study like that.
Work is currently underway on legislation to be introduced to Parliament within the next couple of months. Without
giving away too much detail, let me outline some of the issues it will cover.
School enrolment schemes
This Government considers that students have an absolute right to attend their neighbourhood school. There is no use
promoting choice when a parent does not have the fundamental choice to send their child to the local school.
We also support more transparency and fairness in relation to out of zone enrolments. This means that siblings should be
given priority and other enrolments should be decided on ballot.
The current system can result in a waste of resources where some communities have schools with significant numbers of
spare places while other schools are over capacity. We intend to optimise the use of school property by stopping schools
from growing through out of zone enrolments.
There will also be a number of changes to the Education Act to improve the operations of boards of trustees.
Boards have an important role to play in education. However there are difficulties that boards face in some communities.
These can include having insufficient people standing for election and high turnover of board members with the
inevitable loss of experience that this entails.
New legislation will:
provide for staggering of board elections so that not all board members are replaced at the same time,
remove the current limit of 4 schools on agreed board amalgamations to govern clusters of schools,
clarify staff and principal representation when boards are amalgamated, and
allow schools that have merged to hold an earlier election for additional members.
Our policy of abolishing bulk funding from the beginning of next year will also be incorporated into the first piece of
Bulk funding has been one of the most divisive and destructive issues in education. While some schools have no doubt
enjoyed the benefits of bulk funding it has led to an unfair distribution of funding between schools and it did not
recognise the educational needs of schools. Over time bulk funding would have exacerbated the problems of schools in
poorer areas in recruiting and retaining the best teachers.
But I don't want to disregard the positive aspects of bulk funding – namely the extra funding and the flexibility. We
have agreed to allocate all the money which National had earmarked for bulk funding to all schools.
You will have the flexibility to use that money for staffing or operational costs but we will continue to operate a
central staffing formula to ensure that schools maintain minimum staffing requirements. Schools will receive more
information about the formula for this later in the year.
In the interim, the Government intends to make a one-off payment to centrally resourced schools in the current financial
school year using the unspent amount budgeted for bulk funding this year. I will be making an announcement on this
A few additional points covering some more general resourcing issues
I remain committed to ensuring that operation grants are increased annually in line with inflation;
I remain dedicated to the view that the Government's responsibility should be to a strong state education system over
propping up private schools and I have reiterated our intention that private school funding will be capped. There will
be no new places on the TIE scheme from next year.
I have already acted on my view that a Minister of Education should not be too loose in granting integrated status to
schools. There is a place in the state education system for integrated schools and I believe the law in this regard has
been tightened up adequately. I intend to follow that law. Integrated schools will be required to prove they have
special character and they must complement the state system rather than compete against it.
As promised, we are also setting up a working party on staffing to report back within 12 months with a staged plan of
improvements to the current regime for staffing.
I represent an urban electorate and I visit schools in my own electorate on a regular basis. So during the time I was an
opposition spokesperson on education, if I was allowed out of Wellington, I made a special effort to visit rural and
isolated schools. I take my hat off to the staff in those schools. They face some challenges that the general public is
largely unaware of. It is a huge job to deliver the curriculum to a class which may have students from half a dozen year
levels in it. Just because a school is 10% of the size of a bigger school does not mean that 90% of the administrative
work disappears. In small secondary and area schools the challenges are even greater and it makes delivering the
curriculum adequately almost impossible.
It is for reasons like this that small rural schools will be a priority in the staffing review.
And it is for this reason that I am announcing today that the usual 1 March roll revision at primary schools with rolls
of under 160 students will not be applied this year in cases where the school’s roll has fallen.
When it is likely that there will be relief for small schools following this review, it does not make sense for some
schools to lose staff because of roll drop. It could, for example, mean that they have to go through the agony of losing
a teacher, only to find that they are entitled to re-employ that teacher next year or the year after.
However, this change will not affect schools with a roll of 160 students or more, or where surplus staffing provisions
were notified before the end of last year.
I also want the review to focus on the needs of low decile schools. That of course will be part of the Government's
closing the gaps strategy.
I also have a strong belief in the need for professional development and support for teachers. It is central to
achieving a high quality teaching force. While there are clearly issues to sort out regarding pre-service teacher
education, it is important to recognise that the majority of teachers who will front classrooms over the next generation
are already teaching, so it is important to update and develop the skills of those already in the system,
As the pace of change quickens so too do the demands on education to respond. Teachers will need to upgrade their skills
and knowledge to meet these new demands. Schools will have ideas and priorities for professional development but I think
the Government also has a responsibility. It is the schools sector as a whole that benefits from widespread professional
development – not just the school that a particular teach happens to be working in at the time. Therefore there is a
need for central, non-contestable funding of professional development and I intend to secure that.
The Ministry of Education is to report back to me with new options for 2001 and beyond. These options will take into
account the range of school and teacher needs and ways of ensuring that teachers get good value from additional funding.
I also want to explore more fully what professional development needs principals have. The Ministry of Education has
already carried out preliminary work on principals' leadership and management capability. It is an issue that both
principals and boards feel needs to be addressed from a more central perspective. Already there is a wide range of
education, training and professional development options available to principals and aspiring principals. But we do need
to look further whether there are gaps that need to be addressed. This is a particular area that I would welcome
feedback from you. This morning I gave my approval for the Ministry to conduct more detailed consultation with the
sector on this issue.
It's been a busy nine weeks. As I said earlier, I don't think any of this will have been a surprise to you. We have
worked hard in the last few years in consulting and communicating with a wide range of sector groups to develop a policy
which considered the education needs of all New Zealanders. Now I would like to open up for the floor for questions.