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Alwyn Poole: Open letter to Iona Holsted, Secretary of Education, Part Two

Dear Iona

This is the second in a series of three letters and summarises the incredibly important contrast between New Zealand’s top ten versus lowest forty two secondary schools. (The third will delve deep into 2021 results).

I received an amazing response to the first letter (although nothing from yourself). Apparently, some of your officials are still using the unintentionally ironic footer: “We shape an education system that delivers equitable and excellent outcomes.”

In New Zealand, leavers data from schools is by far the most important (a lot more important than “enrolment based”). Some schools have lost so MANY students on the way to Year 13 that their cohort data is irrelevant.

The following statistics are just three indicators of how lacking in both equity and excellence our system is.






If that is equity and excellence then the Ministry of Education definition guide-book differs to a regular dictionary and I am as good looking as Bradley Cooper (no seriously I am).


Not only are those results truly appalling but under your leadership the trend for the needy is downwards. You may claim to be merely implementing policy but your Ministry claims to “shape an education system …”. As JFK said: “Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan.”

The nation is also beginning to notice the role of our Public Sector leaders in the failures of housing, health, immigration, Oranga Tamariki, etc. It is not looking good. As one brilliant, high achieving and compassionate New Zealander wrote in response to my first letter:

“The huge Elephant in the room has nothing to do with abysmal Political Leadership. Regardless of how good a political policy is or Cabinet Minister, they require a committed, competent Agency to roll that policy out. Across the whole of Government we see overpaid, under-performing, non accountable Bureaucrats putting their hand brakes on or worse. A minister averages 6 to 9 years in the seat - Iona will live on.”

I guess there are positives. We continue to produce an under-class which provides cheap labour in our supermarkets, mans the stop-go signs, or reinforces the government’s enthusiasm for long-term welfare dependency. Skilled immigrants benefit because they are needed to do the high paying, high skilled, interesting jobs we could otherwise have educated our young people to do. The Motels etc benefit as people without an education and skill set can’t afford to rent, let alone buy a house but they do need a place to stay. Organised crime benefits because when you are desperate you are tempted to do anything for a dollar or two.

There should be no accepting this situation. Free State Education was designed to empower – whatever the circumstances!

Things MUST change Iona. It’s time to send research teams to those outlier schools that are doing what ALL schools should be doing. It is time to work out what real support looks like – as opposed to bureaucratic control. The only things that happen in schools should be for the good of students and not to justify administrative jobs in Wellington.

It is also time to talk to dissenting voices. Not just your echo chamber.

Young New Zealanders deserve so much better.

Alwyn Poole

https://alwynpoole.substack.com/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/alwyn-poole-16b02151/




2,334 views25 comments

25 Comments


The important school leaving stastistic should also take into account how many school leavers entered a trade training scheme on leaving school.This is possibly even more important than a desk job pushing paper around. Dail Jone

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Replying to

Just checked for you - from one of the bottom 42 schools - not enrolled in anything for their leavers was 46/78 for their leavers. For a top 10 school 14/104.

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Parents need to take the education of their children seriously, whatever the decile of the school. How many parents actually ensure the kids do their homework, never mind making them doing it properly ? How many parents actually take any interest in what is being taught to the children ? How many parents confront the school teachers who are teaching their children nonsense, or not really bothering to teach them at all, just putting it in the too hard basket ? Parents are to blame as much as the teachers.

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lynnsam112
lynnsam112
Mar 12, 2022

The erosion of the education continues as fast as the administration becomes less and less interested about the standard.

Whilst the focus is on ridiculous ideologies and the watering down of academic achievement, the kids grades will continue to drop. Common sense has been lost out of the system and the money is being spent on the top heavy administration. This helps to strangle any initiative at the coal face and continues the downward slide.


How is it that children can go through the system and come out the other end and they still are unable to read???


Cut down on administration and attract good, competent teachers AND LET THEM TEACH without their hands tied behind their backs and their…


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mark. wahlberg
mark. wahlberg
Mar 13, 2022
Replying to

57 years ago when I left school, people with learning disabilities were generally lumped into one group which was labeled DUMB. Teachers always wrote on my report cards "Mark must try harder." How I was to do that was never explained.

Teachers assured my parents that while "I was not particularly intelligent, there would always be work for labourers."


In todays complicated world the education system may understand the issues surrounding learning disabilities but lacks the resources to confront them in any meaningful way. I'm told teachers concentrate on those who create the path of least resistance. To do otherwise sacrifices the many for the few.


Once again the Riff Raff become the flotsam and jetsam of our dysfunctional soci…


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Al Bourne
Al Bourne
Mar 12, 2022


Like almost every other pie that this Govt and previous Govts but esp the current deadbeats have had their finger in our education system is not all that it could be.


Something that electorates need to relearn is what you really need in political leadership is more than a toothy smile. . We don’t need or want chameleon politicians who all they have is an acute political antenna.


Our biggest problem is that the opportunity for power attracts many of those least suited to it. Perhaps the problem lies in the selection systems of politicians or maybe the structure of governance derived from elections needs to be a mandate to govern for ALL, instead of "OUR " people. Al…

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Nowhere Man
Nowhere Man
Mar 12, 2022

Any chance of knowing what the top 10 schools are?

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Replying to

One of the caveats on the data process is that I stipulate that it cannot be published as a league table. The reason being that the issues are political and bureaucratic as the iceberg below what is visible. To name and promote the top schools, to me, necessitates shaming the bottom schools. It is up to the politicians and Ministry to get their heads out of their backsides and make genuine change,

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