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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

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