Faculty of Education

The Myth of Partnership: Educational Reform and Teacher Disempowerment

Issue 2:1992 (Published 1993)

Keith Sullivan

The running of learning institutions should be a partnership between the teaching staff (the professionals) and the community. The mechanism for creating such a partnership will be a board of trustees. (Picot, p. xi)

The process of contemporary educational reform in New Zealand has been fast and furious. Officially, the process of reform was initiated when a taskforce to review education administration headed by Brian Picot was appointed by the Fourth Labour Government in July 1987. The taskforce released its findings, Administering for Excellence: Effective Administration in Education (otherwise known as the Picot Report), 10 months later in April 1988. Government made a gesture of seeking public opinion about this report, but the turn-around time was rapid and the Government’s own response, Tomorrow’s Schools, was published 5 months later in August 1988. After the recommendations were implemented (1 October 1989), a review of the reviews entitled Today’s Schools (the Lough Report) appeared with further reform recommendations. Meanwhile, the Business Roundtable had commissioned a report (the Sexton Report, December 1990) which appeared to influence government thinking. The National Government, after coming to power in October 1990, carried out its own series of educational reviews which were released with a major publication, Education Policy: Investing in People, Our Greatest Asset, at the time of its first Budget in July 1991.This was heavily influenced by Sexton and resulted in further modifications to the structure of education reform, creating a system which is a far cry from the Picot intentions of the above quotation.

For the past five years, then, there has been an ongoing series of changes and reassessments that has caused chaos, confusion and massive insecurity throughout the education sector. This paper, through a small and continuing ethnographic survey based on interviews with fourteen teachers in four different Wellington-Wairarapa schools, reports on some aspects of this insecurity.

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