ACT MP Chris Baillie (supplied)
ACT MP Chris Baillie (supplied)

Chris Baillie: Why we need better education standards

Opinion 28/05/2021

OPINION: I was a teacher for 22 years. I watched as some teachers put in minimal effort but were paid the same as those who prepared well and went the extra mile.

In the private sector if you work hard and go above and beyond you get rewarded accordingly. In education you only get paid more for length of service. You can be the best teacher in the school, help with extra curricula activities, inspire children to achieve their best and always go the extra mile but you might earn less than the pretty average teacher next door because she’s been a teacher for ten years longer.

Good teachers shouldn’t just be measured on their student’s test results. Great teachers might be teaching special needs children, they might be so inspiring the kid who was going to wag that day shows up because they’re actually starting to enjoy school, or they might start a technology club in their lunch break. It could even be the teachers who are good at middle management.

Parents, students and principals know who the best teachers are.

That’s why ACT has said it would introduce the Teaching Excellence Reward Fund. It’s a $250 million annual fund that will be allocated to schools, based on the number of teachers at that school.

Principals would oversee the Teaching Excellence Reward Fund. They would have discretion to provide awards to teachers who have demonstrated excellence. There is no formula imposed by Government, this is not ‘performance pay’ it is an Excellence Reward Fund that a principal can use over and above normal salaries, just like any boss of a small to medium enterprise is in charge of remuneration.

All too often teachers move out of classroom roles where they excel and into middle management so they can get a pay rise. This fund would keep our best teachers in the classroom.

Some principals have criticised this and said it couldn’t be done. The fund is modelled off the Academic Endowment Fund at Auckland Grammar which is funded by donations and benefactors. Grammar has proved the fund can work.

ACT is also proposing higher standards for Teaching Registration. Across all of the standardised international measures, PISA, PIRLS, and TIMSS, New Zealand students are in a sustained decline. Students today are learning less than they were 10 years ago. We were once a top performer and are on our way to being a middling one.

The Teaching Council requires teachers to renew their practicing certificate annually. It requires teachers to have completed ‘professional development’ but it doesn’t specify what that development is.

The only separate requirement is for teachers to have continued to develop and practice te reo me ngā tikanga Māori.

We believe maths, science and English are equally important and should also be singled out when teachers renew their practising certificates to teach our future generations. Many teachers have themselves said they don’t feel confident teaching maths.

We would ensure that primary and intermediate teachers undertake professional development in maths, science and technology, and English, alongside te reo me ngā tikanga.

These would include minimum standards, for example all teachers should work towards NCEA Level 2 maths at a minimum. It’s difficult to be inspired to excellence by someone who themselves failed Year 12.

It’s time for teachers get back to doing the work that will set children up for better lives. Teaching so-called “white privilege” will only leave children feeling isolated and guilty. Let’s focus on the positives for kids and empowering teachers so our children are ready for successful future.

This opinion piece was written by ACT MP Chris Baillie. Before entering Parliament, Chris worked for fifteen years as a teacher for students with special learning needs, and before that 14 years as a Policeman.

Chris also owns a small business employing 30 people.

He has a strong interest in sport and music, being an enthusiastic supporter of the local Nelson jazz scene.