Big issues for schools in 2018 laid out

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As schools start back for 2018, pupil wellbeing, funding for schools, the scrapping of national standards and teacher employment are set to be the big issues of the year, school principal representatives say.

New Zealand Secondary School Principals’ Association Canterbury and West Coast president Phil Holstein said he was pleased the Government had announced it would review the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) system, which assessed year 11 to 13 pupils.

“I think it’s timely.”

The pressure the assessments put on both pupils and staff was something that needed to be looked at, especially for level 1 pupils.

“We’re over-assessing our students.”

Mr Holstein said the workload involved with both teaching and assessing NCEA also impacted on staff.

“We are starting to lose a bit of our enjoyment of teaching.”

South Canterbury Primary Principals Association president Jane Culhane said she welcomed the announcement late last year that the Government would scrap national standards, but the organisation would have to “wait and see” what replaced the controversial primary school pupil assessment system.

“[We are] hopeful it’s a positive change.”

The standards system gives schools estimated competency levels children should achieve in reading, writing and maths during their first eight years of school.

Miss Culhane, who is principal of Waimataitai School, said in addition to maths and literacy, which had been the focus of national standards, schools would potentially teach more science and arts subjects to their pupils under a new scheme.

“I think schools will go back to teaching what they think is really important.”

Mr Holstein said staffing schools was continuing to be difficult, and many secondary schools were having trouble filling staff positions as the new term approached.

Miss Culhane said most South Canterbury primary schools had teaching staff sorted for the first day of the school year, but there was concern over relief teachers for the district.

There were plenty of teachers who had lost their registration after taking time off work – whether to have children or for other reasons – and they were being held back from returning to teaching because of the cost of having to do a course before they could get back into the classroom, she said.

Behavioural issues were continuing to impact on both teachers and pupils, and attracting specialist staff to South Canterbury to support pupils with learning needs continued to be a struggle, Miss Culhane said.

School funding was an ongoing issue.

While schools had received a slight increase in funding, the costs of running schools – such as compliance costs – continued to go up as well, she said.

Mr Holstein said the mental wellbeing of pupils and staff was also set to be a big issue, but schools were in a “good position” to help.

“[It is] one of our most critical things.”

The wellbeing of principals was also important to the association, and more collaboration between all schools, both secondary and primary, was providing positive means to support one another, he said.

“This has to be good.”