Those that know me, know I hate Maths, but love Statistics. Maybe it’s the graphs and the figures; but mostly it’s the story they tell without having to say anything. Interpreting the statistics isn’t rocket science, and generally they can speak a lot of sense into a confusing situation.
It’s no wonder then that recently I have been looking into a range of different statistics surrounding Education in New Zealand at the moment. With the upcoming election, it’s important to have a grasp on what the current Government is trying to do, as well as what the implications are (if any) for them or the opposition hopefuls.
vs & Quality Teaching
Firstly, there is a perception out there that the two major parties are at odds about their policies. National are investing in IES / Quality Teaching and Labour are saying the money would be better spent being putting into lowering class sizes. This is not an either / or situation, but a fact that both are important, but each are differing as to the importance of them, and the priority they hold in the current educational climate.
I must say that having worked in a classroom for the last five years, I would be able to better spend my time focussing on each individual child in my class if there were less of them. Not because of a time factor (although this would certainly come into it) but because of a behaviour management factor. I certainly notice a huge improvement in my students focus when there are 5 or 6 away. My class size for the lat 6 years has been:
- 2009: 31 students
- 2010: 28 students
- 2011: 29 students
- 2012: 27 students
- 2013: 27 students
- 2014: 27 students
National claims to already have addressed the class size issue by employing more teachers. I’ve yet to see any impact of this at the school where I work, and certainly from the class sizes above we’re still talking a lot of students. I’m also not about to say that Labour’s proposed ratio of 1:26 is going to change much; except that if I’m operating on a ratio of 1:29 and I have 27 (2 less than the ratio size), then under Labour I should see a class of 24. Which already becomes more manageable from a teaching point of view.
Class Sizes & Number of Teachers
Yesterday I wrote about this in another blog post (see here):
“I headed over to EducationCounts.govt.nz and downloaded their spreadsheet on student numbers since 1996.
We can see that in 2008, the student numbers were 758,094 students.
In 2013 there were 762,400 students. This is an increase of 4,306 students. That’s 0.56%. Half a percent.
4,306 students would be spread across 149 classrooms, (based on the teacher/pupil ratio in NZ state schools of 1:29)
That’s 149 teachers that are needed in the increase to maintain this ratio.
In 2008, there were 52,958 teachers according to EducationCounts.govt.nz. In 2012 (which is as far as I can go from the same spreadsheet) there were 54,250 teachers.
However, in this news release, it states that teacher numbers increased from 55,124 in 2008 to 58,707 this year. Discrepancies will exist, and some will include ECE Teachers and other teachers.
For the first set of data from EducationCounts (which remember, is a government website), there is an increase of 1,292 teachers, or 2.4%.
For the second set of data from the press release, there is an increase of 3,583 teachers, or 6.4%.
Both somewhat removed from Hekia’s 15% (or ghost teachers as I call them).
Even if we take the smaller percentage, and the increase of 1,288 teachers in 2012, it is still far, far away from the 149 new teachers that are required. That’s a surplus of 1,139 teachers.
Obviously a lot of teachers are part time or reliever teachers. So lets take a look at FTTE teachers (Full Time Teaching Equivalent).
With full time teachers, there has been an increase of 1,102 FTTE Teachers (2008-2012 data). Still not even close to the 149 teachers it would require to lower the class ratio to 1:29 based on the data.
The difference between full time teachers, and the total number of teachers is just under 6,000 teachers in 2012. With 49,305 full time teachers spread across the 762,400 students (2013), this makes a teacher ratio of 1:15. This of course is an average, with a lower ratio in junior classes and senior classes, creating the 1:29 bulge in the middle.
To change the ratio from 1:29 to 1:26 it requires a bit more mathemagic. The main reason for the difficulty is we have to work out the different ratios. For this, we go back to our first spreadsheet. I’ve put the resulting data into the table below.
||Current Teacher / Student Ratio
||Required No. of Teachers
||Lowered Teacher / Student ratio
||Required No. of Teachers
for New teacher/student ratio
|| 38,737 Teachers
I don’t confess to being a mathmagician; and there may be a high possibility I’ve missed out some key information. At least I’m prepared to admit it if I get it wrong. If you find some issues with these numbers, can you please comment about where I’ve gone wrong so I can put it right.
But to my knowledge, I’ve done the math correctly; and it raises some very interesting questions. Most importantly, if we lowered class size ratio by 3 students for each year bracket, we only increase the FTTE by 5,500, and we are still well within the current 49,305 current FTTE teachers.”
One thing I didn’t go into in my last post is the cost associated with lowering the class size. Obviously cost is a big factor when government’s make policies, though some (including me) may ask does it matter when it comes to Education – we’re building the future generation… We do still need to be accountable.
One thing I won’t go into arguments over is the associated costs such as building new classrooms to accommodate the extra classes needed due to the decrease of teacher:student ratio (needing a higher number of classrooms in the school”. The reason being is two fold: firstly, that the government hasn’t taking into consideration the associated costs, such as, hiring relievers, in their IES policy, and secondly, there are many, many schools with now empty classrooms, as there are also those with no extra classrooms. When we are discussing averages (such as we are here given the access to data I can find) we learn that we give and take a little either way.
So lets have a look at the stats:
The average teacher salary in 2012 was $71,526. The average secondary school teacher earned $73,995, while the average primary school teacher earned $69,660. Whether this figure has gone up or down since 2012 is difficult to guess as we would have to ask Novopay!
Using these averages and multiplying them out by the increases I found yesterday, we get a table that looks like this:
||New T:Ss Ratio
||Number of New Teachers Req.
Don’t worry though. Take off 15% that the Government gets back through taxes, and the actual cost to the Government to lower class sizes to my proposed (and generous) class size model is $336.2 m. Certainly looks a lot like $359m to me. In fact, with the additional $22.8 million left over, they could put it into my personal account for having such a brilliant idea.
What about Private & Charter Schools?
One of the most boring and overused quotes in the class size debate is: “You don’t remember your class size, but you remember when you had a good teacher.”
I went to private schooling. I think my largest class was in Intermediate where I think we peaked at about 24 students. I certainly remember my good teachers. I also remember the bad ones. I also remember that none of my classes were with 30 other students.
The quote is over-rated. You can say just about the same for anything. ‘You don’t remember all the meal’s you’ve had, but you remember you if you had a good chef’ or ‘You don’t remember all the kilometres you walked, but you remember your favourite pair of shoes’ or ‘You don’t remember all of the politicians names, but you remember when one used this quote’! It’s just silly nonsense they try and play with your intellect.
The fact is, yes; I felt I was an individual in the classes. I wasn’t lost under 30 other students. I had my chance to shine.
Incredibly interesting that John Key chooses to send his children to private schools. Hekia Parata’s own daughter attended Wellington Girls High School, the only Decile 10 state school for girls, which also consistently gets 4-5 year ERO reviews (since 2005), and boasts a 25 pupil class size.
Based on the interview given on Q&A this morning (part 1, part 2) (Sunday 7 September 2014, 13 days out from the election), Hekia listed some hard hitting ‘facts’ about Charter Schools and their registered teacher status (Video at 5:57) . I put facts in inverted commas, because we all know how the Minister can get these wrong from time to time and has to back down from her statements. However, she was quite adamant that these were in fact true, that out of the 36 teachers at the charter schools, 32 were registered with a practising certificate.
Unfortunately for Hekia, she also spelled out a few more interesting pieces of data along side this. She stated that there were:
340 students in the 5 charter schools. Doing the maths, this makes the average Charter School size with a roll of 68 students. Obviously, some will be higher, some will be lower. I’m purely talking about the averages.
In addition to this, if we take our 340 students and divide them evenly among the teachers at these charter schools (all 36 of them), it doesn’t take much to realise that there is less than 10 students per teacher. In fact it’s 9.6 students per teacher.
Put in cold, hard, but realistic terms, it’s an average class size ratio of 1:9.6 . Which is quite low when considering my class of 27. That’s one third of the size, something I couldn’t even have a decent dream over these days.
As a side note, I’m quite intrigued that the term ‘Partnership School’ (remember that!?) has been dropped in all political debates around this issue so far.
Do we need lower class sizes? No.
Do we need the Investing in Educational Success policy? No.
Do we need to make wholesale changes to the Education system? No.
We have world class teachers who get paid boatloads to go and work overseas.
We have a world class curriculum which other countries only dream of and drool over.
The reality is that as most educationalists (including Parata and Key) know that the biggest influences on a child’s upbringing happen outside of the school gates. National Standards have done nothing but show where people live. I’ve calculated in my previous posts the amount of time our children are actually in school in any given year back in 2011. The stats are hard to believe: its less than 15% of the year when broken down into hours!
The problem for the government (and teachers) is that they cannot control those factors. And so rather than being seen to be doing nothing about ‘the tail’ of underachievement, the government is targeting teachers and schools and saying that we aren’t doing a good enough job and we have to try something different. That quote pops out from Hekia’s mouth ‘If we always do what we’ve always done, we’ll always get what we’ve always got’. Yet what if it’s not education that is the problem? We have a tail which underachieves, not because they are dumb or incompetent, but because their home-life is stressed, violent, and broken. There’s no food on the table and no money under it. Keeping warm is a luxury, let alone keeping healthy. All of these issues are BIG factors which I have written about before. My challenge for those that don’t believe these are factors is to go without food for a day or two and try studying for an exam. Seriously, after about 10 minutes of reading text, you will only be thinking about how hungry you are. And when that’s all you’re thinking about, it becomes very difficult to stay focussed and learn anything. Now make yourself a 10 year old child. You might begin to understand the ACTUAL reality behind our under achieving tail.
Unfortunately for everyone, those issues are out of anyone’s control. There is a limit as to how much the government can control those ‘out-of-school’ influences. And so they make changes to those things they can control – the teachers. Change. Change. Change. Assess. Assess. Assess. And cross our fingers that things get better.
Note: You may detect a degree of bias away from the National Party, and that is purely because they have made the job of teaching to be a lot more work for not much reward with National Standards (which aren’t even National, nor Standard – yes I have proof should you wish to see it), as well as a lack of confidence in Hekia Parata; backing down on increasing class sizes (which was the honourable thing to do), closing schools in Christchurch, and the ridiculous implementation of Charter Schools based on the wishes of ONE candidate who had a cup of tea with the Prime Minister once. Need I mention the balls up with Novopay, the resignation of Secretary of Education Lesley Longstone, the deformation of Teacher’s Council to be replaced by a board with no Teacher representative, and of course the new Investing in Educational Success initiative. I am in no way a Labour supporter or spokesperson, and have disagreed with many of their policies around the Mid 2000’s.
None of the stats, facts, or figures I have had to hack into anyone’s emails or websites to obtain. These are all freely available to the public through websites that I have visited. I have no affiliation with WhaleOil.
I must also point out and make this very clear; I write this as an individual, not as a representative of my classroom, nor my school, or Board of Trustees which I currently serve on. My views are my own, and I encourage you to talk with me should they raise any concerns for you.