Alwyn Poole: A Big Week for all NZ Families with School-age Children
Through the work I do and the data-sets I process on New Zealand high-schools, I receive many contacts from families about the issues in education. In response my first point is often, 'If you are asking, you are heading towards the right path for your child(ren) to do well because you are engaged'. There is, of course, more to being a parent that supports and enhances a child’s education than just that – but if you are indifferent, matters are not as likely to turn out well.
The NZ education system, through Boards of Trustees (BoTs), is designed to be led by families. This is often de-emphasised as the Ministry of Education, or school senior leadership seem to hold all of the cards and keep them close to their chest. This coming week most newly elected BoTs will hold their first meetings.
It is the BoTs that are the employers of the Principal and staff. The BoTs can play a huge role in setting the direction of a school and in improving outcomes for students. The past three years, around the globe, have seen parents come to the realisation they need to be much more pro-active and challenge what is being taught, the quality of teaching and their child's progress (or lack of it). Growth in home-schooling has been significant – even in New Zealand.
Most new Board members will be aware there are significant challenges in our system. They might be aware of NZ’s rapid comparative decline in international measures of literacy and numeracy. They might be aware of the attendance problems in the NZ system (although the government seems very reluctant to release Term 2 figures).
They might even feel that they have some understanding of how their school performs through NCEA figures that are released in February. Those figures are cohort figures – Year group by Year group for those students who remain. Some schools are losing 40% of their students before they turn 17 years-old which does not show up in cohort measures.
The figures the new Trustees need are the figures for LEAVERS that are released in August and I produce a full range of metrics that can be compared to every other high school in NZ. I have two data sets available: one against the decile system (still in place this year), and one against the newly-released Equity Index numbers – that should have some correlation to achievement – that are being used for some aspects of funding from 2023.
If you – or anyone you know – has joined a high school BoT (or simply if you are interested) – please make contact. Please also keep in mind BoT meetings all have to be open to every parent and the public.
You can make a difference.