Schools should appoint their own principals

I am concerned by media reports that the Ministry of Education is considering taking off boards of trustees the role of hiring their school’s principal.

Rumours about such a significant proposal should not be swirling around in the media without a confirmation or denial from the Ministry. School boards and parents should be formally notified if this change is really on the table.

Prior to the election the National Party gave no signal that the Ministry would be taking over this role. It wasn’t mentioned in their policy.

The Government’s rhetoric around education is extremely contradictory at the moment. One minute National says parents need more choice via charter schools and the next it’s taking away choice from communities by removing the power of boards of trustees to appoint their own principal.

Giving local communities a degree of control over their school was central to the Tomorrow’s Schools reforms. I haven’t seen any evidence that the hiring of principals is too difficult a task for schools. It is more likely that the Government wants to make principals answer directly to them rather than the kids and parents in their local community.

National seem to be making up policy which suits their mistrust of schools and helps to impose their unpopular policies. Principals have been a fantastic voice for children in the recent debate over national standards. They are experts who know what they are talking about. Silencing principals is Nationals way of shutting down that important debate.

The Government has no mandate to undermine boards of trustees powers and to continue to operate in a contradictory and hostile manner towards the education sector.

It is time for National so show principals, teachers, parents and children some respect, and listen to their important contribution of ideas that really would improve our education system.

9 Comments Posted

  1. I just noticed the similarity in the argument made in the 1.26pm post on the 20th of December with that expressed by DPF at noon on the same day.

    I agree with Catherine Delahunty
    December 20th, 2011 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

    I would be amazed if National is considering any such move, and the story linked to quotes various teacher politicians as their sources, so it is probably just scare-mongering.

    But I am glad to see the Greens support school boards being able to appoint their own principals. I hope this means they also support school boards being able to manage their own budgets, decide on their own property needs, hire their own staff and pay them what they think is appropriate for that school?

    Because why would you say the board is good enough to appoint their own principal, but not to manage their own budget?

  2. Those who want bulk funding and charter schools know very well that the desired goal of the government proposing this is less money going into education – and with the school boards managing the reduced spending to absolve the government with responsibility for the tough decisions that are left to be made. As is already done with cutbacks to Health Board funding.

    Part of the programme is based on restraint on professional pay to save money. This often results in staff shortages and hiring locums from the private sector to do essential health work.

    Proposing to appoint school principlas in this light shows a certain cycnicsm about government wanting to maintain heirarchy over the schools while also seeking a way to reduce responsibility for the consequences of funding cuts.

  3. I cannot agree more with self appointed principles. That is the core of voting. They are the core leaders in planning and development of how schools and classes flow. Along with selecting or removing teachers that don’t quite cut it when it comes to having a passion for education and teaching others!

  4. Hey Catherine, should schools/BoT be able to decide where funds are spent, which children to accept or cater for, decide what to offer to their teachers, decide on how to best cater to their community, …. ?

  5. I feel that the Key-party IS setting Aotearoa on a path to the extreme right.. including private schools & everything to be ‘user pays’.

    The school principals will become effectively CEOs appointed by their share-holders ?

    Time to ‘STOP THE ROT’ !!
    “Good onya Catherine”


  6. Are they trying to force independent minded people to seek positions leading charter schools?

    If the government really believes that obedience to educational heirarchy is required why are they trialling charter schools?

    Let’s guess those running charter schools for profit won’t hire principled liberals and or educationalists with a commitment to standards

  7. I have grave concerns regarding the Ministry taking over the appointment of school principals from boards of Trustees, especially when we have a government that will impose politically ideological criteria on suitability for positions. However, I also have concerns about the current system of appointing principals as the career pathway for leadership positions is flawed.

    Prior to tomorrow’s schools applicants for leadership positions needed to have a number of years experience and also have gone through a professional assessment (Grading) before applying and while the system wasn’t perfect only those with some experience of staff management and proven professional knowledge would be considered. No one would be appointed to a position as principal of a large school unless they had proven experience in a smaller one. I am aware of many principals who have been appointed in the role for nonprofessional attributes such as just being male or because they had attractive qualifications yet no management experience. A large school that has hundreds of children and twenty to thirty staff is not an institution for a novice principal to lead and yet that is what can currently occur and I have also heard of small schools being led by beginning teachers.

    It is not so much who makes appointments but the process that is followed and having appropriate career pathway that allows future leaders in education to develop appropriate skills and experience. It is also important to have professional and properly moderated verification of their abilities. A successful trial of a system of professional attestation for classroom teachers has recently been successfully completed and could easily be adapted for aspiring leaders.

    Education leadership needs the best people in these roles, people who are driven by the needs of the children they are ultimately responsible for and have the current knowledge of what makes the most effective teaching and learning practice. They should not be solely motivated by meeting arbitrary and ideological criteria and become gagged civil servants who cannot speak out about poor policy that damages kids.

  8. Surely Hekia Parata is not so dumb to go back to that. I could have believed it of Tolley, because she is.

    But this is pure Merv Wellington stuff that would take us back to the late 1970s – the “one size fits all” model, in which we have rich, white, patriarchal control over our schools, and in which kids who fit that demographic do well, and those who don’t become the reserve army of labour.

    Teaching practices in schools need
    to be determined by the communities the schools serve, not by some neo-con bureaucrat who is politically appointed to a senior position in the Ministry of Education.

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