Celebration Day Speech 2011

Celebration Day Speech 2011 (the celebration!)

Last week we enjoyed our Year 13 Graduation Dinner and I listened as these young people talked about their plans for next year – university study – to become a teacher, to study media and politics, communications, graphics and digital design, early childhood education, and automotive and vehicle technology – and all with the achievement levels they need to be accepted for these courses. I was impressed as always by these “Warrior-Scholars”.  I am also impressed by all of our teachers who nurture them through their younger year levels and develop in them, the motivation to stay at school right through to the end of Year 13 – for the first time, many tell us, in their whānau’s experience.

We say good bye to these senior students today and we wish you all the best in your journey beyond school, where we know you will continue to make us very proud of you.

I also see our young people take the stage in Kapa Haka and Pasifika performing artsspeech contests, speak their own languages, welcome visitors to our marae, do the dishes, serve the kai, and look after those who visit our school, and I see how strong they are in their cultural knowledge and values. Knowing who they are and being proud of that is an even greater achievement than any academic success – and what is special about Kia Aroha College is that we think our young people have the absolute right to both.

So I want to thank all our staff, teachers, support and office staff who work so hard every day in support of our kids. My thanks to our Board of Trustees for their strength and support. Thank you also to our parents and families, for your support of Kia Aroha College and the very special character and philosophy of our school.

Finally my congratulations to all of our young people who we will honour and celebrate today.

[headline]Celebration Day Speech 2011 (the issues!)[/headline]

Usually at this time of year principals stand up at prizegivings and talk about their school’s achievements – and there will be plenty of those celebrated today. But this year I can’t help commenting instead on what is happening outside our school – so it’s great to see our Member of Parliament, Jamie-Lee Ross here today to hear what I have to say. While we might not have had much change in 2011, unfortunately we can’t say the same for our wider education system where it seems to me that change is out of control. With the completely out of the blue agreement this week between John Key and John Banks to trial charter schools in South Auckland – it’s about to get much worse. You will notice of course we are not trialling these schools on the kids in their electorates! Just ours!

The extreme pressure from the Ministry of Education on students, teachers, principals and boards in schools like ours that have resisted the introduction of policies such as National Standards – because we know they have failed everywhere else in the world – has been the worst I have known in my forty years in education – and many of you know I’ve been in some big fights with education policy and officials.

These changes treat children as consumersschools as businesses, and learning as pass rates and percentages – and I am extremely proud of our board and community’s courage in standing up against these major – and seriously flawed – changes.

Like other schools across the country who have also stood up against these policies, we will  be forced to give in under this pressure and comply, but the important lesson for our young people is that we make our voices heard and we stand up and speak out when things are not right – especially when they damage our children.

All of us who are parents know our children don’t walk or talk at the same age but we give them time and we praise every effort as a huge success – and eventually they learn, at their own pace. When we expect children to all achieve the same standards at the same age and, when we label their efforts as failures when they don’t, that flies in the face of every truth we know about how children learn.