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Form for Private Schools to Record Their Feedback on the Recommendations That May Impact Their Schools

Policies and Procedures Ref

Questions to Consider

R14

Do you consider your school currently has policies and procedures for the welfare of students?

Cost to Implement?

Yes, we have many policies and practices in our school to look after the welfare of our students. No, we do not have formally documented policies and procedures manual for the If not, what would it cost you welfare of students. to develop and maintain such policies and procedures? At MCS we take a holistic view of the welfare of students. If we were required to write a comprehensive manual documenting all our welfare standards, policies and procedures, we estimate the following costs: Establishment Costs Total: $50,000 Annual Maintenance Costs: Total: $10,700 Expert Assistance Costs (Annual) Counselling: up to $15,000 pa Pastoral Care: up to $15,000 Nursing Care: up to $15,000

Manukau Christian School (“MCS�) Comments Establishment Cost/Time Estimates: -First draft, 200hrs at $150 per hour: $30,000 -Legal Review: $10,000 -School staff input and review: 100 man hours at $50 per hour: $5,000 -Board consideration: 100 man hours at $50 per hour: $5,000 Annual Maintenance Cost Estimates -Formal review, analysis, report by external expert, 50 hours at $150 per hour: $7,500 -Legal Review: $2,000 -School staff input: 14 hours at $50 per hour: $700 -Board Consideration: 10 hours at $50 per hour, $500 Summary -We believe this recommendation is without merit and will have the opposite effect from its intent: it will undermine our school. We believe it is trying to fix a problem which does not exist. Our school has never had a problem with looking after the welfare of our students. We maintain a policy of close contact with our parents at all times. -There is an extremely low risk, and a very low probability of pupil welfare not being carefully considered and protected at our school. -Moreover, we simply do not have the resources to fund this development. If it is legislated, we would need the Ministry to


provide a special establishment grant, and fund the ongoing expenses of maintaining a formal welfare policy. -We believe this recommendation to be a classic example of the incessant gradual increase in state bureaucratic control and softdespotism over the private school sector. -We believe this recommendation fails to take into account the higher duty and standard of care which we believe private schools operate under. As we said in our submissions to the Law Commission: “The review by the Law Commission must proceed with the recognition that private schools are under a far greater discipline and immediate accountability than schools in the state education system. Therefore the regulatory regime of private schools must be appropriately light-handed and nonbureaucratic, avoiding the bureaucratic model, which is appropriate to governmental tax-funded state ministries and institutions. “Attendance at state schools is a function of state compulsion, geography and demographics. Attendance at a private school is completely voluntary. Moreover, it represents a voluntary choice on the part of parents and pupils for which parents must pay a great deal. Not only do they pay through the taxation system to fund the state system, (which they do not necessarily support or agree with) but also, to enable their children to attend a private school they must pay again for their children's education out of after-tax income. The financial burden is considerable. “Therefore, given this operating environment, the only way a private school can continue to exist is to offer value above and beyond the local state schools. This creates a situation of extraordinarily high expectations on the part of parents, and a much higher level of immediate accountability on the part of the school. Put bluntly, if a private school does not perform and


provide educational value to the expectation of parents, they remove their children—quickly. The State guarantees to take the children back at no cost, after all. “This creates a level of accountability far higher than in the state system—where the model of accountability is essentially bureaucratic, indirect, non-immediate and where regulation is in loco parentis. It is much, much more difficult for parents to remove their children from the local state school to attend another state school. This effectively lowers the immediate accountability of state schools to parents and their children.” This recommendation will do nothing more than impose the state educational bureaucratic management model upon the private school sector, which will have the effect of increasing the operating costs of our schools, and further weakening the sector as a whole, distracting us from the core function of teaching and learning. But, to add insult to injury, it will add no value—there is no trade off, because the Law Commission has already acknowledged, no problems of student welfare actually exist in the private school sector. Its rationale rests merely on a vague “modernisation” argument: that is, “in this day and age” (LawComm Report, 2.54) -Therefore, we find this requirement to be unreasonable. Ref

Questions to Consider

R.17 “It should be a criterion that the school have sound governance and management structures and practices.” What are your views on this recommendation?

Cost to Implement?

MCS Comments -The LawComm Report says: “We believe that it is entirely appropriate that robust governance structures and administrative and management arrangements should be a criterion. It should be evident that a school will be, and is being, properly run.” (2.63) -The problem with this criterion is that it is subject to the same criticisms of the “financial viability” criterion, criticisms which were accepted as valid by the Commission. (See s.2.63 & 2.64)


“Robust governance structures” will vary considerably in a school of ten pupils from that in a school of one hundred. Effectively, such considerations are a wax nose, potentially subject to idiosyncratic and personal interpretation, and very difficult to implement, or for the ERO to audit against. -We also oppose the imposition of any artificial or bureaucratic standards which create unreasonable barriers to entry for nascent private schools. We believe this recommendation, if accepted, may well end up functioning in this way. We prefer “common sense” tests as to whether a school applying for registration could operate viably. -Once a school is established and registered, the ERO would then audit that school against “sound governance and management structures and practices.” What are these? By what standard would a private school be judged? We are apprehensive of becoming subject to unreasonable requirements. -We also fear being required to conform more and more to the bureaucratic governance model of state schools. It would be entirely inappropriate if over time, private schools would be judged more and more by state school standards of governance and management, without the resources of Ministry of Education funding to support and fund bureaucratic management structures. We believe this would an entirely wrong development and would reflect a soft-despotic take over by the state of the private school sector. -We believe that by far and away, the biggest threat facing private schools is the gradual extension of state control into the sector, and the creeping power of officialdom to shape private schools after the fashions of the day holding sway in the state educational sector. We view this recommendation as potentially the thin end of a wedge. -We would be far more comfortable if any changes to the existing legislation were more focused upon restraining the powers of the state and upon protecting the powers, rights,


freedoms, and privileges of private schools, as enshrined in the Bill of Rights. -We believe that the LawComm Report does not recognize the existence of a severe imbalance of power when a private school is in dispute with the Ministry over non-statutory issues, which may reflect, for example, a particular interpretation of the Act or a tenuous extensions of the Act. We believe that the Act should stipulate a conflict resolution process that would be inexpensive, but binding on the conflicting parties (such as compulsory mediation). -Disagreement over whether the management of a school was “robust� or not would be one example of a possible conflict with the ERO or the Ministry, and is not strictly germane to the core business of our school, which is teaching children well. Education Review Office Ref

Questions to Consider

R.21 How long does it take you to prepare for an ERO visit?

Cost to Implement?

-It takes our Principal and school Administrator both working substantially for two weeks to prepare for an ERO visit. We Are there any additional costs find this a substantial burden, for little that you incur? If yes, what benefit. It is far too disruptive to school life and how much are they? and duties, distracting us away from our core responsibilities. -In our most recent ERO audit, our school was criticized outside the parameters and limitations that apply to an ERO audit of a private school (for example, an ERO auditor did not like our teaching methods and pedagogical approach). This required followup correspondence and series of meetings, the upshot of which was an apology from the ERO. But, working through this process took

MCS Comments -We believe that ERO personnel are inadequately trained and/or equipped to conduct audits of private schools. There is a tendency to apply criteria and standards of state school audits to private schools, since they are more familiar to ERO auditors. We find that we frequently have to remind auditors of the differences between state schools and private schools as stipulated in the law. -Therefore, we believe that a specialist private school auditor should be appointed. -We also believe that R21, if accepted by the Government, should stipulate that ERO audits of private schools are to be limited to the conditions for registration (see the final section in this document). -We would welcome a six year ERO audit cycle. -We believe that ERO audits as currently constructed add little or no value, and, if anything, actually weaken the school, due to their


a considerable amount of time from both the Principal and Administrator, and some board members. Offsite meetings were eventually held in the ERO's offices to resolve the matter satisfactorily. This contributed no value to our school whatsoever and added to our costs.

distraction and cost impositions. All of the teaching staff were disappointed at the apparent uninterest by the ERO auditors in actual classroom operations in our most recent audit, which is where any school stands or falls. We wanted to talk about education and what our children were learning and achieving; the auditors wanted to talk about documents, policies, and procedures. It was like ships passing in the night.

Suspension and Expulsion of a Student Ref

Questions to Consider

R28 Do you currently have & 29 policies that reflect the requirements outlined in these recommendations?

Cost to Implement?

Establishment Cost/Time Estimates: -First manual draft, 10hrs at $150 per hour: $1,500 -Legal Review: $4,000 -Board consideration: 10 man hours at $50 If you were required to follow per hour: $500 these requirements, how Est. Total Establishment Cost: $6,000 would this affect you? Annual Maintenance Cost Estimates What would the cost be to -Formal review, analysis, report by external establish and maintain expert, 3 hours at $150 per hour: $450 disciplinary procedures? -Legal Review: $1,000 -Board Consideration: 10 hours at $50 per If you do not already follow hour, $500 these requirements, what Total Annual Ongoing Costs: $1,950 p.a extra time do you anticipate would be involved to contact -With respect to additional time/costs in parents, prepare, and hold meeting with parents, we already extensively meetings? work with parents and expend a great deal of time to resolve the occasional issues which arise. We do not anticipate further time/costs in this regard.

MCS Comments -We believe that these recommendations try to prevent problems which have never arisen in our school, and would add yet more compliance costs upon private schools. -We have never had the need formally to document policies and procedures for suspension and expulsion of a student. -The Principal and the Board have dealt with any such instances as they have arisen, and have applied appropriate and prudent common sense (which, after all, is a fundamental aptitude for a principal of a school). -Any such action such as suspension or expulsion must be understood within the context of most non-state schools already facing declining rolls, due to the current recession. We regard every pupil as very important to the viability and success of our school. We, therefore, do our utmost to attract and retain all our pupils in the school, and would only move to suspension and expulsion if no other course has worked. -We also believe very strongly that the best education takes place within the context of a strong matrix between parents and schools. Therefore, we maintain channels of good communication with our parents at all times; we would never suspend or expel a pupil without extensive consultation with the parents concerned. -We believe that such courses of action are required as basic disciplines of Christian charity and mutual respect.


-Consequently, we have never had any need to document our policies and procedures in these matters Management of a School Ref

Questions to Consider

R.4, “Managers applying to 5 &6 register a private school should be subject to a 'fit and proper person' requirement, as analogous to the Education (Hostels) Regulations 2005”. “If the management of a school changes in its entirety, or is transferred to a new entity, the new managers should also be assessed against the 'fit and proper' requirement.” Do you agree with the “fit and proper person” requirement and the definition of “fit and proper”? Do you agree with these recommendations?

Cost to Implement?

MCS Comments -We are uncomfortable with the way the LawComm has approached this question. Its recommendations seem to imply that, for example, when a person is adjudicated a bankrupt, he is permanently disqualified as an unfit and improper person, whereas bankruptcy or exclusion from director's responsibilities is not permanent. We do not believe it conforms to the principles of natural justice to have a standard stricter than the reference-criteria. -We are uncomfortable with the criterion of “any offence involving harm to children or violence, or any sexual offence”. Ordinarily this would be a no-brainer, but given the enormous confusion which surrounds the “anti-smacking” law, where a common-sense reading of the law requires that smacking, without exception, for purposes of discipline and correction is a criminal act, yet the Prime Minister is insisting that parents who use a light smack for purposes of discipline will not be prosecuted, we face a situation where convictions of causing harm to children or of violence have been so broadened and become so vague and confused, that the criterion is no longer appropriate, without further qualification and specification. -We would also like to see some pragmatic common-sense override to these criteria. For example, Manukau Christian School has received legal advice that its governing trust deed needs modernising and our external solicitors advise that the most appropriate way to do this would be for the existing trust be wound up and all the assets of the school be settled into a new, modern trust. This will entail changing the management of the school to a new “entity”; yet the personnel involved do not change at all.


-Therefore, we believe that these should not be set forth as hard criteria, but as factors which “ought to be taken into account” when assessing any “fit and proper person” requirement. Property Ref

Questions to Consider

Cost to Implement?

R.18 R18 Where a school & establishes a new campus R.19 catering for a different body of students, the new campus should be required to undergo the same registration process as a new school. R19 Where a school moves premises, or acquires additional premises, it must notify this to the Secretary, who must assess the suitability of the premises.

MCS Comments -While we understand the intent, we think that the LawComm's recommendation here is too formulaic. In reality, the establishment of a new campus may not be “effectively a new school” (s.2.72), which we regard as a rather sweeping generalisation. The same management team; financial controls; administrators; and some of the same teaching staff are likely to be involved. -Therefore, we would prefer a lower-level action. An inaugural ERO audit within six months of the opening of a new campus would be sufficient. This would highlight any issues and put in train a course of compliance, should it be necessary.

-Do you agree with these recommendations? -How may this affect your school? -Would there be any cost implications? School Performance Ref

Questions to Consider

R23f

Cost to Implement?

MCS Comments These recommendations appear reasonable to us.

Other Comments R.21 Recommendation 21 states: “It should be clarified that the Education Review Office has power to review a private school on the same basis as


a state school when that is desirable.” -Of all the recommendations made by the LawComm, we believe this to be potentially the most controversial and radical. It represents a significant change in the current law, which, we believe, would shift substantially the balance of power in favour of the Ministry to the detriment of private schools. If implemented this recommendation would place the very integrity of private schools in jeopardy. Private schools are by nature non conformist institutions. Schools, such as ours, by their very existence and purpose will espouse different educational philosophies and pedagogies from the state schooling system. -Parents choose to take their children out of the state system at considerable cost to themselves because they want something different, which they believe is more in the interests of their children. The Bill of Rights (and indeed the UN) declares that this is the prior right of all parents over against the State. Recommendation 21 implicitly and indirectly undermines this right and choice by opening up any private school to an audit which may judge and assess the school according to parameters which reflect the alien philosophical and pedagogical philosophies of the state education system. This would have the effect of overriding the distinct ethos of the private school which parents have chosen in preference. Under present legislation private schools are entitled to operate and teach from different philosophical perspectives. To suggest that ERO has the power to review both state and private schools on the same basis undermines the whole raison d'etre of private schools. -With respect it seems that the Law Commission has ‘lost its way’ from initial observations recorded in its ‘Issues Paper 12 Private Schools and the Law’ to the list of 31 recommendations detailed in the Law Commission Report dated 16 September 2009. On page 3 chapter one 1.1 of the Issues 12 report we read…. ‘Private schools enjoy considerable freedom and, by their very purpose, they should continue to do so. They may choose their own curriculum, qualifications framework and assessment methods, and may offer education within an educational environment of their design. Furthermore, in general, private schools operate effectively and in a way that does not call their educational standards into question.’ -The phrase “on the same basis as a state school” is objectionable to say the least. We recognise that the LawComm report takes the view that ordinarily the ERO report would focus on whether the criteria for registration continue to apply in the reviewed school. But, it reasons that the existing law arguably allows for the ERO to make its review far more extensive, should it wish to do so. It also reports that this view is shared by the ERO itself, which is even more disconcerting. The LawComm writes: “We take the view, which ERO itself shares, that the current section 325 does enable ERO to go wider than this in appropriate cases. If there were perceived difficulties with a school the Ministry could request, or ERO could decide, that there be a review, which might be general, or related to a particular matter. Even if in the course of an ordinary triennial review ERO had particular concerns about a matter going beyond the current efficiency criteria (student welfare for instance) we believe it would even now be entitled to report on it under the current legislation. Given the fact, however, that some have questioned this,


we think it would be desirable for the matter to be clarified in the Act.” (s.2.76) -We believe this permissive approach makes private schools subject, without redress or qualification, to a review which would apply some or all standards used in a state school review, including, but not limited to compliance with the national curriculum, pedagogical techniques currently fashionable within the state system, or particular policies or procedures currently required in the bureaucratic management model within the state education system. -We also believe the phrase, without further qualification, that the expansion of an ERO review to the same basis as a state school can be done when it is deemed “desirable” is likewise completely unacceptable, insofar as it implies that the ERO can capriciously decide to expand an ERO audit, with no redress, justification, or limitation. (The only limitation offered by the LawComm is that currently the ERO is not funded to conduct more extensive audits, which gives the private school no comfort, redress, or protection.) -It seems to us that this recommendation would place us in a situation where the independence of private schools from the state educational system could be suspended capriciously by the Ministry. This is clearly a case of the LawComm trying to fix a problem that does not exist. Moreover, their proposed solution to a non-existent problem, if we have understood it correctly, is prejudicial to the independence and fundamental rights of parents and private schools. -We have mentioned above that in our latest ERO review, we were subjected to criticisms of our pedagogical methods and resources— completely inappropriately, in our view. These criticisms were subsequently withdrawn and rectified. We suspect that under the proposed revision by the LawComm allowing an expansion of a review to the same areas and levels as a state school, the ERO would not have been so willing to narrow down the focus of their review to registration criteria, nor acted with such alacrity and responsiveness to our remonstrations to the Senior ERO Manager. -We are cognizant that the Ministry of Education under previous governments has generally adopted the currently fashionable pedagogical theories which overemphasize pupil self-determination and self-discovery and experimentation in the learning enterprise. At the same time, it has tended to derogate content based knowledge standards. This view has been strongly endorsed by the three educational unions operating within the state sector. It would be easy for the ERO, given this institutionally dominant prejudice, to construct an argument that schools such as ours, which are far more focused upon structured learning and content based knowledge standards act contrary to the “welfare” and “best interests” of the pupils, and therefore need to change. -We believe that any escalation of an ERO review, or any expansion of an audit beyond the registration criteria, should be rejected by the Ministry. The matter is simple: either a private school practice, if continued, would lead to the eventual deregistration of a school, or it would not. If the latter, it ought not to form any part of a review of a private school by the ERO. If the former, then no further legislative authority is needed.


-Therefore, given the reported belief by the ERO that it is entitled to expand its auditing functions of a private school at its own discretion, and given that the LawComm believes it is arguable that the current law would allow this, we believe that any change to the law with respect to private schools must make it clear that the ERO has no authority to review schools on any other criteria than those stipulated for the registration of a private school. In other word, it is our strong view that Recommendation 21 should be reversed, and be made to read: “It should be clarified that the Education Review Office has power to review a private school only in terms of the criteria applicable to registering a private school.�


MCS Response to Law Comm Recs  

Ministry of Education asked for response to Law Commissions Recommendations for private schools. This document is the response of MCS

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