Monday, September 7, 2009

ERO reviews: how long is too long?

Tonight on 60 Minutes was a tear jerking (well, for the more sensitive souls in life...) segment on South Auckland's multiple site school, Felix Donnelly College, and its probable closure after the fourth consecutive damning review from ERO.

I did that thing one does when a newspiece irks one.

I raised my voice at the television.

I am so angry at the Ministry of Education*. Deputy secretary for Special Education Nicholas Pole admitted he had not been to the site (or rather one of the sites) , but 'had seen the photographs and was deeply concerned'. How long does the Ministry of Education need before a decision maker attends a site and puts their money, our money, where their mouth, their policies and their values are? I hate it when politicians continually attract bad raps, for I cannot help but still hold hope that they all mean well somewhere in their mad methods, but in this case? I'm pretty ruddy annoyed.

'Deeply concerned' is one of my favourite phrases under the umbrella of 'talk's cheap'. We need more people who make the decisions on the fate of our youth in this country to do so wearing blue collars instead of white. In contrast to Pole, the (now former) principal of Felix Donnelly, Therese Ireland, was an articulate, (seemingly) dedicated patron of education for the troubled and disadvantaged youth of New Zealand. While she wore a questionable fuschia silk jacket for the interview, she appeared to be the best thing for that school and yet her efforts were futile.

I felt like I was looking at photos from a bombsite in Baghdad. And yet if I so desired, I could fly to Auckland and be at the site of those photos in 90 minutes.

How unfair it seems to know that carers asscociated with the Youthlink school (Youthlink is an agency that comes under CYF. It's typically aimed at those children who are at early adolescent level and strives to put these cases into schools) that is Felix Donnelly have now been 'moved along' from their home where they looked after many of the students. These students who have NEVER had a chance at leading the kinds of lives you and I have known. We will more than likely continue to know 'the good life' and impart those same opportunities on to our own children, at least to the best of our abilities.

From what little experience I have of cases where children have been subjected to such disgusting behaviour, I cannot believe that the one haven they are entitled to live one part of their lives in, their school, is yet another institution in which they are not safe. They are being 'educated' by those who either initially had the desire to make change and lost their way at an early hurdle, or 'fell in to teaching because I didn't know what else to do at uni'.

Only on the 2nd September, the NZ Herald published this article on the imminent end of an era for Waimokoia school in Auckland. While annoying that we are only hearing about it now (police involvement may have hurried that along!), and despite subtle (or not-so-subtle, depending on the individual's take on the media) digs at the school being on valuable property in Half Moon Bay (if the middle/upper class are affected, it WILL make the news), and suggestions that a student's story is not always feasible (a fair enough subtlety to include in this case, perhaps, but I always try and remember that where there's smoke, there's fire), I was still glad that the public were being made aware of such an event.

Perhaps Nicholas Pole and/or Anne Tolley could book airfares to Auckland, kill 2 birds with one stone, visit both schools, meet some of the students, the principals and perhaps even a woodwork teacher or two before making final decisions on the fate of both decile 1 schools? Hell, really make it look like a long trip by visiting Dilworth, a school where the criteria for entrance too is adversity, but because Dilworth is decile 5, it may make for nice photos. I know from sports exchanges in my school years that they have excellent grounds. They'll probably score some jam and scones too. Yum.

Before I leave this intense post for your consideration (first one back after a couple of weeks and I'm loaded with material!), one thing I took from the May ERO report (all reports are made public by the way: it makes for interesting reading if you have the inclination!) was their comment on the 'selling' point Felix Donnelly has. At most, the school has adopted, and maintained, a ratio of 1:6 teacher:student. Apparently, this ratio is both overwhelming and unsuccessful. Students don't have the privacy or time to think.

While this makes complete sense, I wonder if a vicious cycle has been established in amongst the hideous buildings that the staff have built this false sense of 'teamwork' that is disproved in the ERO report ("poor quality of teaching in the school, the professional isolation of the staff, and their lack of willingness to engage in worthwhile professional learning" was my pick of the findings) because of the level of delinquency that is inevitable at a Youthlink school...easy to judge from the outside in a pristine white shirt...

Until next time.


* hyerplinked to the Minedu decision under the Labour government to close down St. Stephen's School in South Auckland in 2000.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Think this is a dram worth recommending?