Wednesday, 24 August 2016

When should a child begin formal schooling in New Zealand?

Currently New Zealand's education system is going through its biggest shake up in nearly thirty years.  It currently feels like every day we are having new revelations come out of Minister Hekia Parata's office to see how much higher she can push an education professional's blood pressure and heart rate!

Earlier this year Ms Parata raised the possibility of more "flexibility" with the age of starting school to give parent more "choice" and allow schools to set "expectations" for their community.  This may mean the following could happen:
  • a school could still receive children from the day they turn 5 years old, as happens now.
  • a school may decide that children will start schools at set times.  This may mean one intake a year at the beginning of the school year, or twice a year (terms 1 and 3), or at the beginning of each term.
  • children may need to already be five and start at the next intake of new entrants.
  • children may start earlier than five years old to met the date of an intake of new entrants.
At the website for the Education (Update) Amendment Bill I found the following:

Currently, most children start school on their fifth birthday or soon after. Some schools are encouraging parents to start their children at school as part of a cohort on set dates during the year.
Under the current Act, however, schools must allow any child who has turned five to start school on the day requested by their parents.
The Education (Update) Amendment Bill (the Bill) proposes to enable schools to implement a cohort entry policy whereby new entrants could only start school at the beginning of each term. The earliest that children would be able to start school is at the beginning of the term closest to their fifth birthday.
Before introducing a cohort entry policy, school boards of trustees would be required to consult with school staff, parents of current and prospective students of the school, and local early childhood education services.

The website then goes onto explaining the details more:

When will these changes take effect?

The Bill is expected to come into force in 2017.

Who will these changes affect?

These changes will affect schools with Year 1 students, children starting school and their parents and whānau, and early childhood education services.

What are the benefits of cohort entry?

Some education professionals consider that cohort entry enables them to support better transitions to school, simplify school and classroom planning, and minimise disruption for existing new entrant children.

When will children be able to enrol in a school with cohort entry?

Children will be able to start at a school with cohort entry at the beginning of the term closest to their fifth birthday, or the beginning of a later term. This means that some children will be able to start school up to eight weeks before they turn five, while other children will have to wait up to eight weeks after their fifth birthday before they can start school.
The precise cut-off dates for each term will be published in the Gazette and on the Ministry of Education’s website. Children turning five before the cut-off date for a term will be able to enrol in a school with cohort entry at the beginning of that term.
  • Hana turns five in week eight of term one. As her birthday is closest to the beginning of term two, if she was enrolling in a school with cohort entry she would need to wait until the beginning of term two to start school.
  • Tom turns five in week six of term four. As his birthday is closest to the beginning of term four, if he was enrolling in a school with cohort entry he could start school at the beginning of term four, or the beginning of a later term.

How will parents know which schools have cohort entry policies?

Schools will be required to publicise their cohort entry policy at least a term before implementing it. This could be done through their website, for example. Parents will also be able to find out whether a school has a cohort entry policy or not using the “Find a School” function on

Will this change affect the compulsory age for schooling?

No. Parents will continue to have the option of not starting their child in school until their sixth birthday, irrespective of whether or not the school they enrol in has a cohort entry policy.

If a child is unable to enrol in school until after their fifth birthday, will they still be eligible for ECE subsidies?

Yes. Any Ministry of Education ECE subsidies, including 20 Hours Free, are currently available up until a child turns six or enrols in school. The Ministry of Social Development will be making changes to the childcare assistance regulations to ensure that children who are not able to start school until after their fifth birthday will continue to be eligible for the childcare subsidy.

If a child enrols in school before their fifth birthday, will they be eligible for the OSCAR subsidy?

Yes. The Ministry of Social Development will be making changes to the childcare assistance regulations to ensure that children starting school before their fifth birthday will be eligible to receive the OSCAR subsidy.

Naturally this topic encourages a great debate.  There are a number of concerned parties:  children, parents, new entrant teachers, principals and early childhood educators.  Let's look at how this impacts on all of these groups and various views they may have.

Every child knows that they can start school on their 5th birthday.  It has been a long established custom in New Zealand to do so, and children will look at other children whose birthdays fall in the school holidays with pity. 

Last year my nephew turned five and began school the day after his birthday (he wanted to have his cake with his day care mates on his birthday), and he was very excited.  In the tradition of my family, my mother went to see him off to school as his Nana.  This is a tradition as my great grandmother saw my mother and myself off to school when we turned five.

So changes to when a child starts school may dampen the excitement of the ritual and anticipation of beginning school for children if this is changed.

The change in the culture of when children begin school will have to happen for children and their parents if changes are made.

Many parents welcome their child turning five and beginning school. 

First there is the knowledge that they and their child have achieved the milestone of starting school. 

There is the ritual of the fifth birthday and the giving of a new school bag, lunch box, drink bottle and pencil case loaded with goodies to help them learn (or lose on the first day of school). 

The anxiety of taking them to school and leaving them there... the amount of parents who cry themselves back to their car and home/to work usually outnumber the tears of the child!

And then there is the joy in no longer forking out for day care fees (my brother's biggest joy when his son started school) for working parents.

Any change to the starting age/time of a child being a new entrant to school will affect parents.  It either means they may end up with their child at home or in day care for longer, or it may mean they are required to start their child at school earlier than the established New Zealand custom.  Many will feel the need to "keep up with the Jones'" so they can "give their child a head start" by starting their child as a new entrant before they turn five, so this needs to be carefully considered and will require parents to be educated about the options that will be open to them if changes arise.

New Entrant Teachers
The debate about when it is best for children to start their school journey is long established in the world of a new entrant teacher.  Some enjoy and celebrate new ones joining them as and when they have their fifth birthdays, other lament the disruption of settling in a new child every few weeks and having to start all over again.

Some teachers support having set intakes, either annually, at the beginning of the school year and mid year, or at the beginning of each new term.  Some welcome the idea of an intake at the beginning of each month.

New entrant teachers will roll with what happens, but their main concern is that the child has had a practical amount of pre-school visits before they officially enrol at school so they can become familiar with the teacher, class and other children as well as some of the routines.

Principals currently have a big headache.  While they will endeavour to collect the appropriate information about who is a pre-schooler who is likely to attend their school well in advance, there is often a surprise enrolee who may pop up out of the blue to start on their fifth birthday without warning.  This can play havoc with class numbers, teacher:child ratios and space considerations for classrooms.

Early Childhood Educators
Children legally currently do not have to enrol in a primary school until their sixth birthday.  But if we start having children enrolling in primary school before their fifth birthday, this will have implications for early childhood providers. 

On one hand there will be less children, and this could affect their funding.  Then again, it frees up a place for a younger child to come into the early childhood facility. 

My opinion
I think that a change in this custom of when children start school is a good idea.  However this legislation will make it messy.  Under this legislation no one will know what the preferred enrolment of any of their local schools are unless they do a bit of research.  How many parents are going to do that?  How many irate parents and distressed five year old will school office staff and principals be confronted by?

I think, for the sake of children, parents, teachers, principals and all other interested parties that there has to be uniformity in this custom of when children start school up and down New Zealand.

I believe the best way forward is intakes of cohorts.  Each cohort should start school at the beginning of each new term.  Every child should already be five, or turning five within two weeks of the first day of the term - no four year olds who turn school after two weeks of the new term - but if you want your child to be closer to six years old before they start, that is still your choice as a parent.  This gives every child a group of students they will move through school with.  It will allow principals to appropriately plan staffing and use of classrooms within their school to accommodate the group of children starting each term.  It will allow the new entrant teacher to start the term with all their students and plan accordingly for them.

This has great possibilities for improving the transition for school for many children and giving them the best start to their school journey.  But the Minister has failed the standard by making the proposal too complicated in allowing different schools to have different intake policies after consulting with their communities.  The Minister will be failing children and parents as well as teachers and principals if this continues in this form.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Special Education - Let's Change the Name and Solve Everything!!

Somewhere, in the dark depths of the Beehive:

"If we change the name of the outfit, Minister, it will look like we've fixed everything thing!" grovelled an MOE official.

"Hmmmmm...." mused the Minister. "I've heard of this strategy before... but where...?"

"Well, Minister, it's a strategy Mrs Tolley is using with her portfolio."
On Friday the Special Education Update (aka Review) was released... with a new fangled name, Learning Support Update.  You can view the report here and also the Cabinet Paper here.
By releasing it on a Friday, the Ministry of Education was trying to sneak it in under the radar.  But as many people have been awaiting it and also contributed through submissions and speaking at Select Committee meeting, with widespread consensus that many children are missing out and the funding is inadequate, this was never going to slip into obscurity.  Over the weekend, people have become more aware of this report, especially in light of the debate over another large pot of money, covering the Operations Grants of schools, with the looming threat of a form of Bulk Funding called Global Funding.

While Hekia Parata talks up the Update, Chris Hipkins from Labour and Catherine Delahunty from the Greens raised concerns they saw in the final report about the lack of financial resourcing and shifting money from other students with needs.  (See 'Special needs'' term singles out students and will be scrapped, NZ Herald, 22/8/16).
Essentially, this is what the Learning Support Update boils down to:
  • there is no more money.
  • there are more kids who need assistance.
  • a younger age band of children will be targeted to tackle issues earlier.
  • the money to do this will come from the older age band of children.
Can you see any educator or parent of a child who needs extra support satisfied with this?
While I agree that it is sensible and vital to target children as early as possible, it should not be to the detriment of the older children who are struggling to learn and achieve.  To do so it to fail these children yet again.  They already missed out due to a lack of an appropriate professional resources in their early years, such as a speech language therapist or a consultation at the Child Development Centre, and now they are being punished for being too old to fix by this change! 
We should be adequately resourcing all children to access appropriate support rather than rationing it and playing God over who should receive the help they need!!
Within the Cabinet Paper, the Minister discusses:
  • how there has been an increase in the school age population,
  • an increase in students requiring learning support,
  • approximately 10% of the school population requires learning support,  
  • that 95% of those receiving learning support are in mainstream schools,
  • and that there will be no extra funding until she has determined if the current funding is adequate or not and it is being used efficiently.
She also discusses redesigning how learning support is delivered and accessed.  Below is a Service Delivery Model for an Individual from page 13 of the Cabinet Paper:
And this is the Service Delivery Model through using Communities of Learning, also from page 13 of the Cabinet Paper:
Now the fact that there is a Service Delivery Model through the Communities of Learning (CoLs) concerns me.  Is the Minister considering pooling money for learning support with CoLs with a contestable pool for each school to compete for access to from their CoL?  Will individual schools, principals and teachers be over ruled or dictated to as to how to support the learners in their school?

While the above models talks about it as having a role of analysing and reviewing learning support provision and providing professional learning for classroom teachers, I am wary of putting learning support under the CoLs umbrella.
This phrase also concerns me:  "Improving investment decisions using social investment analysis".  It concerns me because it is taking indicators like the mother's lack of education, a parent being in prison, or being a long term beneficiary and labelling a child as at risk without actually looking at the child themselves.  The Minister often chastises teachers as having deficit thinking towards certain students - well Minister, this is the pot calling the kettle black, because using these indicators is deficit thinking too.

Another aspect that concerns me about this phrase the way it looks at children as their learning potential as an investment, that it all boils down to money, almost like widgets off the production line.  I baulk at this view.  While I agree we need to be prudent with money and we need to ensure it is used efficiently because there is not an unlimited budget, as a teacher it is off putting to think of children as an investment, that their achievement outcomes are all that matters.  We are not just there to ensure they can read, write and do maths.  We are there to ensure these children become effective communicators, are co-operative, can think critically and problem solve, and are kind people who can contribute and function in our society.

I am also concerned about where the support for students who do slip through the earlier interventions will come from.  Some children do not show their learning needs until after their first year at school.  By the time it is realised there is a deficit in their learning they may have moved out of the age band targeted for early intervention and therefore miss out.

I have grave concerns that money will be taken from the current Special Education Budget for use by the Ministry of Social Development to be used for vulnerable children.  With another Ministry using MOE money that reduces the slice of the pie for schools and MOE specialists.

As Chris Hipkins said about the money in the Operations Grant pool on Q&A on TV1 on Sunday, when more people are eating the pie there is less for all of them and more of them will go away hungry.

While I can see that the Minister has the intention of trying to improve how learning support is delivered to children, I can see many fish hooks and concerns.  Robbing Peter to pay Paul is not an answer.  Not adequately resourcing it so all students can be effectively helped to achieve is a concern.  The role of CoLs and MSD having access to MOE funds is a concern.  Changing the name from Special Education to Learning Support is a minor consideration and just creates confusion.
Quite frankly, I do not think the Minister has met the standard with this Learning Support Update.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Sara Roche is a Cat Flipper and a scammer who endangers animal safety

As a teacher, it has become part of my job to ensure children learn about having a moral code and I usually end up enforcing it.  One thing I do not like as a teacher is lying and cheating.

Sadly on Saturday I was lied to and cheated or scammed by Sara Roche of Hamilton.

I do not write this blog post with a light heart.  I am writing this post because it has come to my attention that Sara Roche is a "Cat Flipper" - a person who takes in a cat under false pretences, and then attempts to sell the cat on again, sometimes falsifying details about the cat.

Anyone who is familiar with me on Twitter knows I am a cat nut and tweet photos of my cats regularly.  So I am gutted to be a victim of Sara Roche's deceitfulness and I am even more gutted that Saucers the Cat was given to this woman under false pretences.  I am gutted that Sara Roche has pathologically lied to my face, on Facebook to more than just me and in text messages to me.

It is my intention that once Sara Roche is honest with me and I either have Saucers returned to me or I have seen for myself she is safe and well that this post will be removed from publication.  This is not intended in any way to harass Sara, but merely to ensure the health, safety and happiness of Saucers and to alert people to the deception of "Cat Flipping".

Last Friday evening I was approached through a pet page by Sara about a cat I had previously advertised, Saucers.  She asked if Saucers was still available, and I said I would PM her.  I did not know that Sara was trawling the page looking for a specific looking cat.

Above is a post Sara put up on Facebook looking for a cat, with a very specific specifications.  This was screenshotted by a couple who thought it was a strange post and they alerted me to it.

This is an edited record of the PMs on Facebook so as not to give away where Sara lives:

My first warning should have been when she said she lived a mile off the road, which is a very busy State Highway.  Google Maps didn't say she was a mile off the road, and when I went to deliver Saucers, Sara's unit was barely 20-30 metres from the highway, right where everyone is winding up to 100km!

This is Saucers when I delivered her on Saturday.  A nearly two year old (in October) tabby cat from our shed whose line can be traced back to early 2011 when the first stray cat turned up. 

She is not underweight, or over weight.  Saucers is desexed.  She had been given a flea treatment earlier in the week.  I told Sara she would probably need worming.  Sara seemed pleased that Saucers was not microchipped (another warning sign). 

I told Sara Saucers had no road sense and was not used to being inside, but would need to be kept inside for at least two weeks.  Sara said all the right things... but hadn't cleared away a number of very precious and breakable objects that were on the window sill... which Saucers made a beeline for when she got out of the cage.  Sara assured me that she would send me photos of Saucers settling in.

I thought it was a bit strange on Monday when I had not heard from Sara, but thought I would leave it another day.  And then I woke up to this post on Tuesday morning:

Within the comments the following screenshots were added of Sara Roche's post advertising Saucers as a "maine coon kitten who is one month old" and comments from many group member on how the cat obviously wasn't a maine coon or a kitten.

 Naturally when I read this post, I recognised Sara Roche and when I got down far enough in the comments to see the photo of Saucers I was very alarmed and told everyone that she was in fact lying about the cat.  It was then I found that I could no longer message Sara, so I PMed the young lady who had posted the alert.

You will notice I have block out everyone else's name but Sara's to protect their privacy.

The lady who wrote the warning post told me that Sara was a known "Cat Flipper" and that she had rescued cats from Sara previously.

Later in the morning I went back to Sara's to retrieve Saucers.  But Sara was not home.  When I returned at 3:30pm she was home but then proceeded to tell me this big sob story about her neighbours complaining that Saucers was meowing all the time (of course she was, she was new to the environment and I had warned Sara that Saucers was a vocal cat) and that her landlord was threatening eviction.

I said to Sara that she should have contacted me and I would have picked the cat up.  I asked her where the cat was now.  She said that it was at her mum's house in Frankton.  I asked for an address and phone number so I could check on the cat.  She gave me a the street name "Sellery Street" and then wrote it was in Hamilton East.

Now I used to deliver pizzas in Hamilton East and most of the southside of Hamilton in my twenty odd years ago, so straight away I knew the address was bullshit, and when I tried the phone numbers I soon found they were bullshit too.

So I went back to the pet page and posted this and then proceeded to post it in every Buy/Sell and Pet group on Facebook I was a member of or could join, and the response from everyone was how appalled they were that Sara Roche had lied to me, had tried to on sell the cat with lies and now would not return her.

Admins of these pages were searching for her in their membership and blocking her from their groups they were so appalled.

This morning I sent Sara this text message because I knew she had blocked me on Facebook.  I wanted to give her the opportunity to return Saucers to me.

The Waikato Times, the New Zealand Herald and Checkpoint on Radio New Zealand are now all looking into "Cat Flipping" because what Sara Roche also didn't realise is I have over 1900 followers on Twitter, some of whom are journalists.  Tag a tweet in the right direction, particularly a cat loving journalist, and their interest is tweaked.

And here follows the conversation over the course of the day with a brief time where Sara unblocked me on Facebook to have a go at me on my post in the Pet page, which I responded to and screenshotted before I blocked her.  You will note that I have edited out Sara Roche's phone number from the text messages.

By the way, I have rung the SPCA several times.  They have had no contact with Sara and are not investigating me or my animals.  I also rang the Hamilton Police Station.  There is no complaint laid against me.  I told them what was happening, they have made a note and asked me to keep copies of everything. 

So Sara Roche, this is just one of my ways to encourage you to do the right thing.  People have been very kind and have told me more about you.... such as rulings against you in the Tenancy Tribunal (these things are public record).... and a few other personal details.  I have a flier made up and I am not afraid to use it to warn others against dealing with you when it comes to animals.

Sara Roche, you have failed the standard as an ethical honest person.  I can only conclude you are a deceitful, pathological liar who is a danger to cats.

If you want this post down, give me back Saucers the Cat.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

National Library services to schools - are they being run into the ground as closure exercise?

In December 2014, while we teachers were flat out with a million end of year tasks and dead on our feet, an email quietly slipped into our inboxes informing us of changes to how National Library would loan books to schools and support learning during 2015.
Luckily, NZEI still had some life left in the Wellington office and immediately began co-ordinating a campaign to halt and reverse the changes.  Over the next few months, there were protests, letters, tweets, speeches... but alas, the changes did come to pass, if slightly delayed to start in Term 4 2015 instead of Term 2.
National Library's logo - via their website.
Fast forward to 2016, and in March the rumblings started on the NZ Teachers (Primary) Facebook page that the new National Library Service had failed to meet the standard set by the previous way it was done.  Books weren't arriving; when they did there were not enough; the standard of the service had slipped - over a cliff and was half way down, barely conscious and hanging on by its fingertips.
Last week I was on the page and someone mentioned how poor the service was this term, and that despite it being week 7, they had yet to receive their National Library books and their inquiry was wrapping up.  After a few more comments it was apparent there was a pattern forming.
I then initiated a poll on the page, and over four days teachers posted their feedback via the poll and within the comments with their personal experiences.  Over 100 teachers said their books arrived too late for the learning they were intended to support and four teachers stated their books did not arrive at all.  Many indicated that the new process was too burdensome for one person per school to manage and there was a lack of flexibility.  Many teachers felt that they were not receiving enough books per class and that the selection was not great.  It was concerning the number of schools that now considered the process was in the too hard basket and were no long willing to utilise National Library to source books for teaching and learning.
Many teachers expressed concern that the service is deliberately being run down in an effort to turn teachers off the service, and as participation then falls it can be justified to cut the service completely.
Hon. Peter Dunne, Minister of Internal
Affairs with responsibility for the
National Library.
Photo from Parliament website.
As the feedback came in, I began tweeting Peter Dunne (Minister of Internal Affairs, which is where the National Library fits), Education Minister Hekia Parata, and National Library.  Mr Dunne was the only one to respond out of these three, and he asked me to stop clogging up his Twitter feed, collate the information and send it to him via email. 
So below is the summary I have prepared for Mr Dunne.  I have included the letter I wrote him, the collated data display, and the raw comments from teachers from last week's post and a post in March about how the National Library service is going on the NZ Teachers (Primary) Facebook page.
If, and when, I get a response from Mr Dunne I will hopefully be able to give you positive feedback on what he intends to do to fix the issues teachers have given light to.  I am eternally hopeful that Mr Dunne will take this issue seriously - I am a Sagittarian after all.

Dear Mr Dunne,

Thank you for the opportunity to present this information from teachers about the performance of National Library services in supplying books to schools and classes to support teaching and learning.

National Library has a long tradition of supporting schools, teachers and children in their teaching and learning programmes.  Throughout my twenty year teaching career I have had the privilage of utilising the services of National Library in enhancing the learning in my class.  It has given me access to books I would otherwise have had no access to.

I was extremely concerned, therefore, to receive an email in December 2014 advising that changes to the system would be enacted in 2015.  Firstly, the email arrived at an extraordinarily busy time for teachers (end of year reports, updating student records, reporting to senior management/BOTs, prize givings, concerts, trips, room changes, packing up to change schools, etc).  Secondly, the changes proposed were alarming.  Reading through the stated changes I could immediately see the issues that would arise for rural schools, especially isolated schools, those schools with unreliable internet, those schools with limited devices to take advantage of the online tools the National Library intended to supply.

On the following pages you will see a bar chart displaying the results of a poll on the NZ Teachers (Primary) Facebook page that was initiated due to comments on another post about how disappointing using National Library had become.  In the following pages, there are raw comments from teachers from the post the poll was in from last week, and from a post in mid March asking for help on how to manage how the books were now arriving from National Library so they could be tracked and not lost.  As you will see, teachers were not happy with the service in March and their disappointment is greater in June.

Teachers would appreciate that the service is reviewed.  Teachers and children are finding their teaching and learning programmes are suffering due to the poor selections arriving, if the books do arrive at all.  Many teachers have stated their books have been arriving in the last weeks of the term when the learning is wrapping up, so have not even bothered opening the boxes.

It is the general view among teachers who have spoken directly with National Library staff (usually when asking where the books are) that they are not happy with the new procedures either and staff morale is low in the National Library ranks.

Teachers are very worried that the service is being run down in order to close it down.  This service is essential for schools to access a wider variety of material than their library can provide, especially for small schools and rural schools.  Teachers want to use it, but will not use a sub-standard service that wastes their precious time and does not deliver what is requested.

I hope that any review conducted will include all relevant stakeholders, including classroom teachers, school librarians/teachers in charge, National Library and other relevant national representatives.

If I can be of any further assistance, please feel free to contact me.
The bar chart on the previous page is collated from responses to a poll on the NZ Teacher (Primary) Facebook page.  This is a private group for teachers to share resources, suggestions and ask for support from colleagues nationwide and where issues that affect teachers are discussed.  This poll began at 11:00pm on Wednesday night and the data was collated at 11:00pm on Sunday night.  The poll therefore ran for four days to collect this data.

Below are written responses from teachers about their experience using National Library services supplying books to schools since the changes came into action in Term 4 2015.  Prior to the changes being enacted, there was widespread protest and letters written about how these changes would impact schools, teaching and learning, and particularly schools in rural areas who are small.  What has been very interesting is the impacts on larger schools, as noted in the comments from individual teachers below.  I have not included the teacher’s names to preserve their privacy.

I used it every term, sometimes twice a term. I don't use it now as it is far too difficult with a few books for 450 students. I risk fines with overdue books on my teacher card at the local community libraries now. I have a choice with my selection, I can order specific books as well.

I used to use it all the time with the old system . Don't use it all now because it's too hard.

Our entire school (14 classrooms) cannot get any books until next year now because our coordinator sent off an order for one class. Once your school order has gone in that's it. It cannot be reopened.  I tried to put in an order yesterday for 4 classes but found out we're too late.

Mixed here. So far I have got what my team needs, but it takes a lot of being proactive and keeping in touch with the person in charge of it all to have it work. Huge job for her, and nowhere near as good or easy as it was.

What a joke! A library where you cannot go and select your own books. I am the co-ordinator for our school and ordered really early for the last 2 terms. Only got the books into the first few weeks of each term and so they were not used in planning during the holidays because we were not to know what we would eventually get. When the books arrived they were most suitable for the junior school (age relevance) and some teachers changed focus during the holidays and so the books were no longer relevant topic wise. These are still sitting in the box in the staffroom. We are struggling to put together our order for term 3/4 (1/2 the number of books per term) and we are wondering whether it is all worth it... sigh!

Hopeless. Book arrived far too late to be useful. First time I've just left them all in the box! What a waste of time for our staff member who coordinated and me filling out all the new criteria. Very unhappy.

It's an absolute travesty. My school is 10 mins away, I used to be able to change my books as often as I liked, chat with the wonderfully knowledgeable librarians...And now? 30 books (that's right, THIRTY) for the whole school. It's an outrage.

Quite frankly I tried to order books online in January but found that my school had not organised an admin person to take responsibility for our ordering. By the time this was resolved the term was half way through. When we eventually got books there were not enough for all 21 classes as we teach the same concept at the same time. So the small selection we seem to have has not been looked at again. I chose to give up on National Library books at that point and have got a class set from the school library instead.

It is a massive job for the teachers who offer to collect and distribute across our school. We received our quota of books for Term 2 in week 3. The system for ordering is crazy - I am grateful to the teachers who have taken it on, on our behalf!

I have had no books from national library this year and was a regular user (every term) up until this point. I don't know who the contact is in my school and no one has ever discussed book choices with teachers. I blame my school for this more than I blame the national library though!

We have to pick for term 4 now?

A bit frustrating. We were sent a skimpy lot of books on the actual topic - less than enough for one class. I haven't even seen them yet.

We are still using but books for term 2 didn't arrive until week 4! I'm hoping it will be easier to collect the books this term, now that we have a list of books for each topic. It was a nightmare last term when they were all in one big list. It is also taking teachers awhile to be able to choose the books they want for terms 3 and 4. Sure we know what our overarching topics are, but as for needing anything for term 4 that might crop up in term 3; we just don't know that yet.

I liked going in and choosing now just don't get them at all.

Takes forever for books to arrive.

Have stopped using.

Don't use it anymore - too hard.

Not happy with the new system prefer to choose books to suit my own class.

Concerned about not being able to choose my own selection and then returning via post. Too much hassle, so we (as a school) no longer use the service.

Haven't used since the changes. Couldn't be bothered with the hassle. Certainly won't bother using it now. It's still a hassle to get books from public library & return them, but at least I know what I'm getting & they're there when I want them!!

I don't think any of us will use this again. Way too late and one person doing orders is ridiculous.

It was useless. I put in an order and so did another teacher - they sent a puny number relating to the topic and there was nowhere near enough to share. I've ended up leaving them all in her room. At least one person might as well get some use out of them.

It's such a waste of time! Now we have been told that even if you want picture books for 5 year olds you are only allowed to order them using an inquiry question!!!

So many issues at our school.

We ordered books in week 2 of term one for our term one inquiry! They arrived on the Monday of week 11 and weren't really suitable for juniors anyway! Waste of time!!!!

Ordering for the whole school hasn't worked. All of us are doing different inquiries. Preferred the old system.

What I used to love was choosing books that suited my class and needs. What suits my class does not suit the whole school!!!!

Very frustrating. Orders arrive about 2 months after ordering, way too late, and term 3 and 4 orders now is ridiculous. Staff I spoke to there hate it too. We are thinking of ditching it too. Pity, because it used to be a great service!

Still waiting for our books for this term haha.

Useless now, I like choosing my own books. They arrive late, they don't suit my learners, I hate the New system.

I think we've all emailed and written and reposted to stop this and it's all still motored along. I think we can all see that they'll be closing the national library and giving schools the books. what about rural schools without other access points?

I like to go in and pick my own books in the holidays. What a treat to spend a day in the library!!! Can't do that now.

that was the best. I would take my 5 year old with me. she'd find a corner and just immerse herself in literature. what need is there for validation if we've got kids hungry for books. let's feed them.

The Government did cut the service severely probably a couple of years ago now. Doing what this lot do; take a working, useful, functional tool and kill it.  They don't want it to work. They want to get rid of it. So what one does if one's aim is to achieve this loftily negative aim is to eviscerate said organisation, demoralise the staff, await the complaints and then shut it down completely because it wasn't functioning at all well. They achieve their nefarious aims whilst being able to say that they are responding to the people. Advanced Bastardry in action.

Our school does not use the National Library any longer. We don't have the staff to dedicate to organising the resource. So thank god for Auckland Libraries because I'm now going there and borrowing books for my class. We are a decile 2 school and either I'm borrowing the books or we are going without. Ordering books on a topic can be costly as you pay $2 per book if you miss pick up... nevermind fees if you lose a book.

It looks like someone somewhere is looking to do away with the service... It gives the powers that be a genuine reason for stopping the service if we boycott. There was nothing wrong with popping in for an afternoon during the 'holidays' for a read and the odd chat with colleagues. A real shame!

They want it to not work so they have an excuse to shut it down.

Given it away as a dead duck - just pointless trying to access.

Is it true (we got an email from our Librarian) that we have to order term 3 AND 4 now?? or is that just us trying to get something in time?

Was a great resource which is no longer. Such a shame.

Totally dissatisfied. Arrived last term in week 8, and not here yet for this term. Sent them straight back last term in original box and will do the same this term. What is going on? This was once a great service and resource.

The following comments are from a thread on NZ Teachers in mid March 2016.

Why did the government change this fantastic service ... Such a valuable resource for teachers and children!!!! Unbelievably shortsighted .... What a schamozzel!!!!!

I feel so sad that I cannot go on and choose my own class books anymore. This new system is ridiculous.

Keen to hear how others track. Shame book list sent out isn't listed in groupings as in the request, instead of the WHOLE school listed alphabetically. Would be much easier to give each class the list matching their request.

it's just made it logistically harder for co-oridantors to manage - the old system was way better.

and we can't go in there to browse and borrow; just browse, pure torture if one then has to go online and order it once a term as part of specific title loan.

Still waiting for the books I ordered to arrive.....

We are using local libraries now. Nat library has dropped the ball IMHO... And so many of us end up paying the overdue fines!!!!!

I'm not going to order them. Painful. Will think about it for another time.

We literally got about 6 books each this term. Useless.

We didn't get term 1s allocation at all! Trying again for term 2 before we ditch.

We got books but others got them first, so a waste of time really!

Note that you have to order Term 3 AND 4 books at the start of Term 3. You only get your allocated amount, but they must cover both terms. What a joke - a library where you cannot browse and take books out!

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Domestic Violence - everyone's problem

I have a confession to make. 

In 2008 when it was revealed that Tony Veitch had seriously assaulted his former partner Kristin Dunne-Powell, I strongly disagreed with the decision made to remove him from his position as the sports anchor on One News.  I certainly was appalled by the revelations of the assault on Ms Dunne-Powell, but I have a firm belief that actions outside the workplace should not influence your role within the workplace.

However, with the heightened public awareness of a lack of privacy in this highly media saturated society, that belief is well and firmly challenged. 

And each time there is a high profile, or any profile person, who is found to be less than what we expect in their private life, there is the pile on that destroys their public life.  Social media and MSM is reflective of how once society used to use the stocks to publicly embarrass a person who did wrong or how polite society would shun an individual and their family for doing the wrong thing.

So when Tony Veitch was put back on prime time breakfast radio, I was alarmed at the public reaction, but thought he was getting back on with life.  Then I noticed people who re-posted Veitchy Facebook posts getting a keyboard lashing in my Facebook timeline.  I decided it wasn't worth reposting his posts and tended to use the downward arrow to scoot past any of his posts that foolishly made it into my timeline from others.

But this week Veitch has once again raised the ire of the country.  It seems he has not learnt the lesson he was supposed to learn.  This has hurt not only his victim, but every victim of every domestic abuse situation because Tony Veitch has a platform, a platform he can use to effect a positive change - if he was to choose to do so - because he has the ear of the men of New Zealand.

Personally, I have never been the subject of physical abuse in a relationship, but I do count myself lucky that I did leave a controlling relationship after six months.  I'm far to independent to have some bloke monopolise my time and try to spend all my waking and sleeping moments with me.  He picked his target poorly. 

But we don't always see that when we are in the relationship, and domestic violence can happen to anyone, from any walk or station of life, rich or poor, at any age.  And New Zealand has an appalling record of domestic violence, with the police attending a domestic violence event every five minutes on average, with 14 women, 6 men and 10 children on average dying annually at the hands of a family member or partner.

Sourced from Google via
And when you know someone who has lost their mum to domestic violence, it hits home a bit more. 

My friend and her siblings will go through the majority of their lives not having their mum in their life.  Helen Mead was killed by her husband when she made the decision to leave.  Her daughters were at primary and secondary school, her son a young man in his early working life.  Every time they hear of a domestic violence death, their devastation they live with daily is amplified yet again.  In If Only from TVNZ's Sunday programme, Helen's father and daughter explain the reality of domestic violence. 

I'm so proud of my friend for speaking out for her mum.  She and her grandfather have spoken out to make the positive change in breaking domestic abuse.

This week the New Zealand Herald began their series on domestic violence in New Zealand.  They opened with a piece from Tony Veitch.  I'm not going to quote Veitch at all, or link to his piece, because by now you all know that all he did was make out that the only time he lost it with Ms Dunne-Powell was the time he kicked her so hard he broke her back, how disappointed with himself he was, didn't even apologising to Ms Dunne-Powell for the pain and anguish he caused, and how hard it has been for him to rebuild his life. 

This was countered in Stuff by Ms Dunne-Powell's father chastising Veitch for not apologising to his daughter or acknowledging that the incident was not a one off, but part of a pattern of physical abuse throughout the relationship.  And that fact is record - the list of how Veitch assaulted Ms Dunne-Powell over the course of their relationship is public record and appalling.

Many other blog posts from others have preceded mine, mostly in support of Ms Dunne-Powell and also chastising Veitch for attempting to portray himself as a victim and missing the opportunity to make a positive change to help break the cycle of domestic abuse in New Zealand.  Mine will probably only add to that.

But in today's NZ Herald I was heartened by an article, with a video, Family violence: Breaking the cycle of 30 years of abuse which focused on Jeremey Eparaima explaining how his cycle of violence began for him, how in each new relationship he escalated from verbal threats to pushing, then slapping, then punching and kicking, to choking and holding a knife at his partner's throat.  He explained how to the outside world he was an all round good guy, successful at work, popular on the rugby field, who abused his partners, terrorised his children and never was charged once by the police, despite the neighbours ringing the cops on a number of occasions. 

He talked about the regret, the self-loathing, the promises of not to do it again, how it would be good, and then his rage would return.  He talks about the stats of women and children killed through domestic violence, and believes that fact that he didn't add to the statistics was not through good management of his behaviour.

Mr Eparaima talks about how he accidentally ended up at an anger management course supporting a mate who he thought really had a problem, and then realised he had big issues of his own.  He then re-enrolled to start the following course - and that's how he began to stop the cycle of abuse he had carried on from his own childhood, how he is now giving talks and advising new police recruits about the effects of domestic violence and how to recognise it.

This quote from the article sums up where Mr Eparaima is with his family situation currently:

He has apologised to his former partners -- and his kids. He will be making amends with them until the day he dies and feels thankful that he has relationships with them and is able to be a grandfather to their children.

What is the difference between Veitch's piece and this article on Mr Eparaima?  The difference is ownership and acknowledgement and making constructive change to stop the cycle of abuse.

Kyle McDonald has an opinion piece in today's NZ Herald about domestic violence too: Family violence: Kyle MacDonald: Domestic violence is a male problem.  Kyle is a person I respect for his stand on mental health, rape culture, feminism, and domestic violence issues - I respect him, but I don't always agree with him.  I don't think domestic violence is a male problem, because women are capable of inflicting it as well, so therefore I think it is everyone's problem. 

Yes, men are more likely to inflict domestic violence, and women are more likely to be on the receieving end, and these men need to change their behaviour and take responsibility for it - no argument there - but that doesn't mean that this isn't a problem for women to be part of the solution. 

Sometimes a woman is the catalyst for the man to change - by leaving and telling her story, which is so much easier said than done - read Family Violence: 'He held a chainsaw to my neck' for one woman's story of trying to leave an abusive relationship, which contains the some traits many women's stories of leaving have.  However, lets not give up on the capacity of women to do this, to leave, to initiate a break in the cycle.

But men like Jeremy Eparaima changing how they behave and speaking out are essential.  Having beds available at Women's Refuge helps (remember that time the Christchurch one closed because it couldn't access government funding?).  Having police who will take action helps.  Having a justice system that will protect the victim helps.  Being an aware friend or neighbour or member of society helps.

I like what Mr Eparaima had to say today:

           "Stopping family violence is everyone's job. It is everyone's job to go next door if you hear something
             going on; if you see something in a carpark it is up to you to go and make sure everything is okay.
          "Lifting awareness is the only way we're going to stop this epidemic.  There needs to be a change."

Yes, New Zealand is below the standard on domestic violence and finding solutions.  We need to keep talking and implementing solutions and helping people to break the cycle of domestic abuse.

Like others have said earlier this week, Tony Veitch had the opportunity to use his platform for making a positive change in the lives of other abusers by helping them see the way to break the cycle of domestic abuse.

He didn't.

So Tony Veitch, you failed the standard.

Where can you find help if you are in a domestic abuse situation?
It's Not OK - Information line 0800 456 450
Women's Refuge - Free national crisisline operates 24/7 - 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843
Shine - free national helpline 9am- 11pm every day - 0508 744 633
Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and Middle Eastern women and their children. Crisisline 24/7 0800 742 584
White Ribbon NZ

Help for men wanting to break the cycle of domestic abuse:
If you are experiencing or witnessing violence, or want to change your own behaviour, you can ask for help. It can be hard, but getting involved or reaching out for help for yourself could save a life.
• It's Not OK information line 0800-456-450 for information about services that can help men.
• Shine runs a No Excuses stopping-violence programme for men. Ring the helpline on 0508-744-633 to find a programme near you or even if you just want to talk to someone and talk through your options.
National Network of Stopping Violence

Thanks to the NZ Herald for a great series and the help info.