Cooney Should Start Thinking of Students' Rights

  • Brian Donnelly
Associate Minister of Education (Early Childhood Education and Maori Education)

"The president of the PPTA, Martin Cooney, should start focusing upon students' rights to an education," the Minister responsible for the Education Review Office Brian Donnelly said today.

Mr. Donnelly was responding to Martin Cooney's reaction to a report by the Education Review Office on how schools complied with 'hours of instruction' requirements.

"The wide disparity in starting dates for secondary schools at the beginning of 1997 prompted me to instigate a review of actual school practices," Mr. Donnelly said.

At present the law states that Boards of Trustees have to ensure that secondary schools are 'open for instruction' for the number of half-days prescribed by the Minister of Education (in this case 380), each half-day being a minimum of two hours.

"The report shows that there is a wide interpretation by schools of what the phrase 'open for instruction' means It shows that while some schools start classes on the first day of the first term, others delay lessons until the sixth day. Some interpret the Act to mean that all classes are being taught and some interpret it to mean the teachers are at school, regardless of whether there are any students there or not."

"There are also issues surrounding factors such as paid union leave during tuition hours, examination leave and fund-raising exercises."

"It is a well established fact that engaged academic learning time is a significant factor in learning outcomes. The question therefore becomes one about the rights of the students to receive a certain number of tuition hours."

"This is not a matter of teacher bashing, as Mr. Cooney suggests. It is simply a report on the state of affairs as they exist. Surely the PPTA does not object to such an objective account. Mr. Cooney's typical response demonstrates a lack of concern for students' rights to an education of a standard and quantity acceptable to the public who fund the education system through its taxes."

"Many of the practices unearthed by ERO's investigations have built up over the years. It is timely therefore to look at these issues in light of the needs of all young people to get the best possible preparation for their lives in an increasingly complex and demanding world."