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The Bulletin: No Tomorrow for Tomorrow’s Schools?

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Major reforms proposed for governance of schools, mediation coming in bid to stave off Air NZ strikes, and announcement likely on ministerial transparency.

A major review of how the school system is governed has recommended sweeping changes. The key proposals are covered by Education Central, and the core of the debate from here will likely be over the tension between schools managing their own affairs, and being run by a much more interventionist Ministry of Education. The review specifically focuses on a lot of the reforms made a few decades ago known as ‘Tomorrow’s Schools’ – with a lot of said reforms going out the door.

One of the main proposals is that Boards of Trustees would lose a lot of their current powers under the reforms, including the appointment of Principals. Those roles would instead be taken by Regional Boards, which would be made up of appointees, and would also control teacher recruitment.

It is this loss of control that has some school principals spooked. The NZ Herald reports Avondale College principal Brent Lewis is describing the proposals as “Stalinist stuff,” because of the bureaucratic takeover it would represent. A theme of the proposed reforms is that it will reduce competition between schools, because at the moment many schools don’t receive the resources to keep up. But there are some schools – the more ‘traditional’ ones generally – that quite like that competition as a motivator. Intermediate schools could also be abolished, in favour of junior colleges from years 7-10, and senior colleges from years 11-13 replacing many secondary schools, though this wouldn’t apply to all secondary schools.

For parents and students, the changes will almost certainly see a reduction in the amount of choice that they have. Out of zone enrolments would be capped (I wonder if this includes for the First XV Rugby team) with the idea being that the Regional Boards would assess how many students each school would be able to manage from out of zone. There’s also the potential loss of parent-power of Boards of Trustees get their roles reduced.

The NZ School Trustees Association insists that even with the reforms, Boards of Trustees would continue to have important areas of responsibility. Their President Lorraine Kerr says an ideal outcome would be “enough change to enable school boards of trustees to perform their strategic governance role on behalf of the local community without constantly getting tied up in the compliance aspects of running the ‘business’ activities of the school.” And the NZEI, which represents primary teachers, have given the proposals an initial warm welcome.

As the school year winds down, there will be plenty of time for educators and parents to consider these changes. It’s likely that if they go ahead, it will take several years for them to be fully implemented. There will be consultation opportunities on early next year, including hui around the country, and submissions are open until April.


Air New Zealand and their engineers will go into mediation today, after a threat by the engineers to strike on December 21, reports the NZ Herald. The Friday before Christmas is one of the busiest flying days of the year. The planned strikes are over cuts in conditions for engineers, including overtime rates. But the company countered by saying engineers had received an annual pay rise for more than a decade. It also puts the profits of Air NZ in focus – let’s just say their number here is whopping.


An announcement is expected today on ministerial transparency, reports Radio NZ in their 6.30am headlines this morning. It is understood that ministers will now start releasing details of their meetings as a matter of course. You may recall that not releasing details of meetings was part of the undoing of former minister Clare Curran.


Here’s a story I missed last week, but caught up on thanks to the Gone By Lunchtime podcast. It started with the chief executive of Te Puni Kōkiri being grilled by MPs, over why the Whanau Ora agency gave out effectively a $600,000 dividend to a private shareholder – the National Urban Māori Authority. That prompted some serious tensions between Whanau Ora minister Peeni Henare, and his cabinet colleague Willie Jackson (a former chairman of NUMA) covered in this amazing video story by One News journalist Maiki Sherman. Mr Henare says any surplus relating to Whanau Ora should be reinvested, rather than paid out.


There has been an outpouring of horror and grief at the suspected murder of British backpacker Grace Millane, reports Radio NZ. A man has been charged with murder, a week after the 22 year old went missing. Her father, who has flown to New Zealand, says the family is devastated by her death.


Do CEOs get paid too much? The automatic response for many on reading that will be an instant yes. And there are some excellent reasons to think that. But Stuff have put together an excellent series on the top CEOs in the country, bringing together all sorts of views on the nature of the pay and the roles themselves. It quite possibly won’t change your mind, but it’s well worth reading all the same.


Competing marches on abortion reform have been held over the past week. Newshub reports up to a thousand were part of an anti-abortion march in Wellington on Saturday, including former PM Sir Bill English. Earlier in the week, hundreds marched from Frank Kitts Park to Parliament, calling for abortion rights, reports Stuff.


Here’s two pieces about social media from over the weekend that are really worth reading: Writing for The Spinoff, Danyl McLauchlan contrasts the distrust of mass media with the actually existing undermining of society that social media companies engage in. And on Stuff, Tess Nichol has a column on difficulty of quitting social media, when the platforms are designed entirely around getting you to mine your life for content. Full disclosure: I saw one through twitter, and the other through facebook.


From our partners at Vector: The pros and cons of putting solar panels on the roof of your home are well debated. But what about the empty rooftop spaces on commercial buildings throughout our country? PowerSmart’s Sam Vivian explains why more New Zealand businesses are adding commercial solar systems to their buildings.


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Alex Braae, played here by a model, confronts data. Image: Getty

Right now on The Spinoff: We’ll be rolling out a series of data posts about the attitudes and lives of both Spinoff readers and the country at large this week, based on a nationwide survey we did with UMR. I wrote today’s piece, which pulls five graphs out to give a flavour of the sort of questions we were asking. We’ve got a few more advent Hot Takes, including an ultra-rare piece of writing from the company boss Kerryanne Nelson. And Ben Stanley tells “the story of the greatest All Black you never knew” – the poignant tale of Aaron Hopa, a beloved Waikato figure who died in a diving accident 20 years ago.


Best Journalism of 2018: With some stories, it’s hard to see when they break just how wide reaching the ramifications might be. So it was with today’s suggestion, from Liam, who has nominated Newsroom for their coverage of law firm Russell McVeagh, spearheaded by the journalists Sasha Borissenko and Melanie Reid. The first story was broken all the way back in February, and it has become a defining story of 2018.

Partly that was because the sort of sexual harassment, misconduct and bullying described in the original story was far more widespread than just one firm, at which the behaviour was egregious. Partly as well, that is because it came at a particular moment in the wider culture where a lot of what had previously been swept under the rug was thrown into light. Law students protested especially against the structure of the profession they were about to enter. And it has forced change in the legal world too, with firms left scrambling to update their company policies and try and reform their cultures. The point is, the story had a significant and long-lasting effect, and when it first broke, it wasn’t at all clear that would be the case.

If you’ve got a suggestion for this series, you know what to do – email me – thebulletin@thespinoff.co.nz.


Two ridiculous sporting results to share from the weekend, if you haven’t caught up on them yet: The Black Caps won a cricket test series in Asia (this is very unusual) and it was also the first away series win against Pakistan since 1969. And then the next evening the Wellington Phoenix went to visit the reigning A-League Premiers Sydney FC, and after soaking up early pressure hammered them 3-1. The eye-popping result still doesn’t put them into the playoff bracket, but it does show the positive signs shown under new manager Mark Rudan aren’t an illusion.

Is this the worst job in professional sport? I’m keen to get your suggestions on whether there are any that are tougher. It’s a story on ESPN about ‘first runners’ in field hockey – for the Black Sticks men at the ongoing World Cup, that’s been Blair Tarrant. They’re the people who have to charge the strikers on penalty corners, and face the possibility of being hit by a missile travelling upwards of 100km/h without much padding. Speaking of the Black Sticks men, they’ll be playing overnight at 2.30am against England for a spot in the World Cup quarterfinals.

Finally, a belated congratulations for all of the winners at the TP McLean Sports Journalism Awards. As is the custom for these things, all the organisations put stories topped with their own winners, so here’s RNZNZMEOne News, and Stuff.

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From our partners: Lithium-ion batteries are magnificent feats of engineering and vital for renewable energy. But if we’re not careful with them, they’ll create enormous environmental problems, writes Vector Senior Sustainability Advisor Juhi Shareef.


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