Govt to create $150m a year 'elite teacher strike force'
"Better education initiatives are a welcome election battleground. Come on David/Russel take this National aspiration and beat it"Featured comment
The government is proposing to form and pay extra for an elite corps of up to 270 principals and 6,000 teachers to raise flagging performance in New Zealand schools.
Prime Minister John Key announced the initiative in his first major speech for election year, to a west Auckland business audience, with details to be ironed out this year for introduction next year and spending of $359 million committed over the next four years for its implementation.
Once in place, its annual cost will be $150 million a year, to create a corps of some 250 Executive Principals, 20 Change Principals, 1,000 Expert Teachers, and 5,000 Lead Teachers, in a plan intended not only to raise educational achievement but also to entice teachers to stay in the profession.
The biggest sweeteners will be for a small squad of Change Principals, identified for their strong track record of achievement, who will be offered $50,000 a year on top of their normal salaries to "turn around" struggling schools. Appointments will be for up to five years.
"At the moment, the incentive is for principals to go to larger schools, where the salary is higher, rather than to schools that are the most challenging," said Key. "We are going to change that."
Executive Principals will be offered $40,000 a year more for appointments of up to four years by an external panel to have liaison and leadership responsibilities for up to 10 schools, covering both primary and secondary levels.
They will remain responsible for their own school, but be freed up two days a week to in a role of "supporting other principals to raise student achievement."
"Executive Principals will have a track record of raising achievement and they will pass on their knowledge and expertise to other principals," said Key. "They will be judged on their results."
Some 1,000 Expert Teachers, earning some $20,000 on top of their normal salaries annually, with two days a week to work outside their own schools, under the guidance of Executive Principals.
"Expert Teachers will have a proven track record of raising performance of their students, particularly in maths, science, technology and literacy," said Key.
Some 5,000 Lead Teachers from the current corps of 50,000 teachers nationwide would be identified for $10,000 salary top-ups in exchange for making their classrooms "open to other teachers almost all the time, so teachers can observe and discuss classroom practice with a model professional."
"We are going to give extra funding to schools so teachers can take time out of their normal classroom to work with Expert and Lead Teachers," said Key. In addition, there will be a $10 million fund "for schools and teachers to develop and research effective teaching practice in areas such as writing, maths, science and digital literacy."
While details could change as the initiative was worked through with teachers and unions in coming months, Key said the government's intent was clear.
"We want to recognise excellent teachers and principals, keep good teachers, and share expertise across schools and amongst teachers."
Key's speech comes just four days ahead of Labour leader David Cunliffe's inaugural State of the Nation address in Auckland. With a general election looming by the end of November, the speech appears intended both to build on the government's national standards policy - popular among many parents, but widely disliked by teachers - and to take political high ground ahead of new Labour initiatives that Cunliffe can announce.
New Zealand's education system was "good ... but not as good as it could be," said Key, citing international comparisons showing 15 year olds today are performing in maths at lower levels than their counterparts in 2000.
The gap between the achievement of the highest and lowest performing students had also been widening, "despite a lot more money being spent on education."