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ALWYN POOLE: More evidence of our education woes plus … the SOLUTIONS.

Updated: Dec 7, 2023

Today’s education headlines:


  1. A Crown Agency for “Parenting” to provide information to make New Zealand the very best parenting country on the planet.

  • Including “Project 5.75”: Ubiquitous education and support for pregnant women/partners re care for their child in-utero. Huge information/support programmes to counter FASD and other harms.

  • Massive parents as first (and most important) leaners and teachers programme age 0 – 5. Including health, reading, numeracy, movement, music, languages. See David Eagleman: The Brain e.g. “If developing brains are not given the proper. “expected” environment – one in which a child is nurtured and looked after – the brain will struggle to develop normally. … Without an environment with emotional care and cognitive stimulation, the human brain cannot develop normally …. The brain can often recover, to varying degrees, once the children are removed to a safe and loving environment. The younger a child is removed, the better his recovery.”

  • Language in the home is absolutely key. Many, many words and conversations and words that are positive!

  • Information and encouragement for parents to remain fully invested in the education of their children throughout the schooling years.

2. The Ministry of Education must be massively restructured and re-purposed. This should start with the resignations of the Secretary for Education (Iona Holsted the $600,000 woman) and the other 11 bureaucrats on this page. Believe it or not the Ministry’s motto is: “We shape an education system that delivers equitable and excellent outcomes. “

They simply do not. Every aspect of our system is in dire shape – not just the PISA results. They leadership is incompetent and the Minister should declare no confidence in them. Erica Stanford trying to change the system with these idealogues in charge would be like trying to tow an ocean liner up Queen St with a moped. If the All Black coach loses a game or two the nation goes nuts. The Secretary of Education can oversee HUGE systemic failure and very few appear to give a big rat’s backside.

In June 2017 there were 2607 Ministry employees. In June 2023 there was 4113. This has been inversely related to school achievement. They do not serve the children and families of NZ and they are very poor at serving the schools. I know of a number of the best Principals who have resigned and left the profession simply due to having just got sick of non-sensical Ministry compliance and how poor they are at their work.

3. Put huge focus on improving our teacher quality and how we train teachers. This is from day 1 in schools when our Primary teachers need to know best methods of teaching math, reading and writing. They must be well qualified themselves and see potential in children – not deficits (which often are used as excuses).

4. Split the collective contract in two and super-fund/incentivise teaching in high equity index (low decile) schools from Year 1 – 13. Provide Principals in those schools with a Business Manager to take care of resourcing, contracts, etc – allowing them to fully focus on academics. Trust these Principals with significant incentive payments to attract and keep great teachers. Limit class size to 15. Help the families – provide uniform, stationery and IT and don’t ask for donations. Make every year urgent in these schools but also have a 19 year plan so that by the end of that these young people, who will go on to parent the next generation have education levels, that don’t offer up an excuse for our school system. The secondary teacher shortage is qualitative as well as quantitative. To attract great degree graduates and second career people they must be paid to train as it is no longer tenable to have them without a year of income in a high employment economy and with so many international opportunities.

5. Emphasise inputs:

  • Simplify the NZ curriculum (and dump the current “refresh”). Align it with the international highest standards.

  •  Attendance, retention until at least 17yo, parental engagement. Make this data publicly available in real time. There is no possible justification for the attendance data to take up to four months to be made available.

  • “Movement is medicine” physical fitness and activity is a huge part of human development and oxygen feeds the brain.

6. Be honest about results and set goals with all of the 420 high schools individually that have them improving from their current state.

  • Level 1 NCEA for LEAVERS.

  • Level 2 NCEA for LEAVERS

  • Level 3 NCEA for LEAVERS.

  • UE for LEAVERS.

  • Progression into further education for LEAVERS (including apprenticeships).

7. Rename UE. Too many Principals/teachers use it as an excuse when they state – “University does not suit our [BROWN] kids”. Keep the purpose of the qualification but elevate it as the true level of high-school graduation and extract the excuse aspect. Possible NCEA* would work.

8. Have a superb Designated Character School policy/process to allow for schools to develop that suit the non-cooker cutter kids. Make approval independent of the “network” and aside from Ministry officials.

9. Deal quickly and effectively with the Unions. They offer nothing helpful to the dialogue so throw them a bone and walk on.

10. Mimic Success. Work out the schools in each EQI range that is excelling and make them “lighthouse schools”. Manukura, McAuley High School, St Joseph’s Maori Girls.

11. Encourage public discourse from all of our school Principals. I was told by a Deputy Secretary of the Ministry of Education that their main priority was to “protect the Minister”. That is abject nonsense. There is so much IP and experience held by our 2,600 Principals. Encourage them to express their views.

12. Move away from the “stop kids falling through the cracks” mentality. If you don’t fall through the cracks you are still on the ground floor. NZ kids need aspiration, and they lead to have leaders! It is the best time ever to grow up and this should be the Da Vinci generation. They have to be led out of the fog of fear.

13. Provide high quality afterschool care in keeping with Harlem Children’s Zone who look after all children from 7am – to 7pm (when needed).

Alwyn Poole Substack

2,147 views56 comments


Dec 09, 2023

Alwyn Poole needs to become the chief advisor to the new minister of education Erica Stanford.


Just Boris
Just Boris
Dec 09, 2023

You know your stuff Alwyn and I've heard you talk frequently on education. You are a voice of reason. You missed a point which is to make parents responsible for attendance (with penalties for continued breaches if required), but otherwise some great initiatives. The teachers’ union, like the nurses‘ union, is run by left wing pro-Maori activists and both need to change or be ignored. Fixing Teachers Training College and unitecs is a huge priority, as the vast majority of teachers are brainwashed idiots when it comes to social issues. Kids don’t need te Reo and tokenist culture, they need education, to read, to write, to calculate. I hate to say it, but ‘white man stuff’ is what wil…


commenting as Johanna

Illiteracy and lack of numeracy is not just a current post covid problem, it has been building for generations and is inter-generational. In the 1970's there was a recognized problem with students dropping out of school at 15, unable to read or write. There is now exponential growth of illiteracy which is paralleled by the increase in birth rate among Maori and the numbers of those languishing in state funded/housed 'poverty' , existing on the dole, producing yet more children. Four generations of people unable to read, write, add or subtract, unemployable because of illiteracy is appalling, an indictment of the NZ education system.

The government has to address this burgeoning problem at both the parent and…



It is highly commendable to want to be the best in the world.

But not all kids are up to that and besides, society would collapse if there were too many Chiefs and not enough Indians.

What is needed without doubt is a general gearing up of the quality of education. In general terms education is about supplying the country with competent workers. Our brightest need to be able to compete with the best in the world but we also need to provide a meaningful education for those who are not academic but will make up the heart of our workforce.

Set everyone's sights too high and some will fall at the first fence and never get up.

Just Boris
Just Boris
Dec 09, 2023
Replying to

I must have missed the reference to skin colour In his comment. The German system as an example allows more practical kids to go that way and academic kids to go another. Makes sense to me. But perhaps I’ve incorrectly read your reply as sarcasm, which means I’m possibly dim or you were too subtle.


Murray Trenberth
Murray Trenberth
Dec 07, 2023

I am a former secondary principal, who worked for ERO briefly and was on contract to the MOE for a year, so feel I can comment fairly. This is the best and most comprehensive comment I have ever read regarding the approach we need to take to improve our results.

This is an excellent comment, Alwyn, I agree completely. I have written 25 articles on "Voice Media" regarding what has been happening in education and what we need to do to reverse the downward trend in educational achievement. This one article says it all, far more concisely than I have been able to. Well done.

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