Concerns about Education in NZ

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Concerns about Education in NZ

#1  Postby devogue » May 17, 2020 11:49 pm

I usually have the side of teachers - I've accepted it when they say they are very stressed, that they work really long hours and that they are generally underappreciated.

Now I'm not so sure.

NZ has just gone through a major lockdown. All of the schools and childcare facilities were shut down and children had to stay at home with their parents, who were also on lockdown.

This meant that my 11 year old Devlet stayed at home with us for seven weeks all told.

During this time his school week consisted of:

Sunday Evening: An email from his teacher arrived with a set of assignments for the week. This email if printed off would be about half an A4 page. On average there were about six tasks, including four tasks involving Maths and English exercises to be done daily. The other tasks were assignments such as "Imagine Anzac Day from the perspective of a Kiwi soldier" (history here is pretty much always Anzac Day), or "Creatively describe how popcorn is made".

Monday - Friday: The Devlet works on his iPad (no pen and paper at his school - tablets for all) using apps like Maths Buddy for his school work. There is nothing to stop googling of answers, there is no need to show working out of answers (ie comprehension) and all of his maths progress is expected to be self-taught. For instance, I had to learn (again) and then explain to him how to calculate the area of a scalene triangle. I forced him to work on scrap paper to learn the process, but he complained that all his friends were just googling answers and it "wasn't fair". Once he had calculated the answer he popped it in to a field on Maths Buddy and it informed him if he was right or wrong before going on to the next question.

At no stage was his teacher involved, from the beginning of the work to the assessment, and he had a similar app for English comprehension.

He did some really good work on his assignments, but as a layman I found I could read his work and point out errors in grammar, historical accuracy etc. within ten minutes. If I had a class of thirty to assess, I would imagine it would take me about five or six hours to mark all of their work on one assignment.

His school day lasted from 9am - 12pm every week day.

So my point is, if his teacher doesn't have to mark his English and Maths work, and only has to assess a maximum of two assignments per week from his students, each taking a maximum of 6 hours, then his total work time over the course of a week has been 12.5 hours (giving 30 minutes to create the work sheet sent out on Sundays).

So what has he been doing for the rest of the week and how does he get away with it? How come he doesn't just Zoom his entire class from 9-12 or even 9-3? They all have tablets; they're all at home. I've seen photos of the school staff on their Facebook page on a huge Zoom meeting.

How much else self-learning is happening? What is actually going on in my child's classroom from 9am - 3pm now that he is back at school? What should I expect?

I hope some of you out there (especially teachers) can allay my suspicions and fears - or possibly give me some questions I can ask his teacher without making a dick of myself because I don't understand how education now works?
Last edited by devogue on May 18, 2020 3:18 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Concerns about Education in NZ

#2  Postby UncertainSloth » May 18, 2020 2:19 am

middle of the night here but, as someone deep within the uk system, i promise to come back and post at more length...

one question - are schools completely closed there to all pupils?
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Re: Concerns about Education in NZ

#3  Postby devogue » May 18, 2020 3:14 am

Thanks Sloth :thumbup:

UncertainSloth wrote:middle of the night here but, as someone deep within the uk system, i promise to come back and post at more length...

one question - are schools completely closed there to all pupils?


Level 4:

March 24th to April 27th


Zero school attendance for both adults and children (included Easter holidays 28th March - 14th April)

Level 3:

April 27th - May 18th


"Students [children of essential workers only] must stay in a ten student bubble in a designated classroom to continue their online learning. A teacher will be present, however, they will likely be continuing to teach other students online" (school announcement)

Level 2:

May 18th/19th


Al children back to school with social distancing observed.
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Re: Concerns about Education in NZ

#4  Postby theropod_V_2.0 » May 18, 2020 10:53 am

It could be that teachers are feeling abandoned, and seen by some as less necessary than thought. It could be that teachers are seriously depressed right now. Give your kid’s teacher(s) a little slack. It’s not like they were trained in remote learning, or somehow should have been prepared for this. Few other social agencies were/are.

Good on ya for working so unfairly with yer kid! Just wait til that kid figures out just how unfair the world really is. Parents can only stand back and watch as some lessons are self taught.

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Re: Concerns about Education in NZ

#5  Postby UncertainSloth » May 18, 2020 11:47 am

apologies for my tardiness...

theropod's got a lot of it bang on, certainly the way the uk's seeing it at the moment...

a system that was never designed to work remotely, with the majority of schools not having the technology or vle access to enable any sort of quality long-term online provision

plans change day after day based on short term and long term need, government expectation (and ofsted, for that matter) - as i'm in 12 weeks isolation, my main remit at the moment is the organisation of online provision for the whole school and i've had to draft, redraft, submit, tweak, tear down, build from the floor up again, something that will support the continuation of 'learning' when we don't know from one week to the next how long it may be for...

a lot of this, as with much of my experience of the virus in this country, is a complete lack of foresight and emergency planning - so another aspect of the work i've been doing is to build something robust enough to be as future proof as we can be in this profession, while being simple enough to roll out for pupils & parents to engage with with only remote support (as well as train staff in)

i think the essence is, a lot of teachers just don't know what the expectation might be of them when not working 'on-site' (the majority of schools here are work on a hub basis, with provision for keyworker and vulnerable children - this comes down to the strategic planning of the school's eaderhip as to how effectively this time is spent (if you wanted to question an area, this is the one i'd suggest, rather than the teacher themselves as they may well be feeling exactly as theropod describes...

it's just not a 'rigid' enough profession to be able to transfer a template easily from one form of delivery to another - and those gaps are starkly obvious at the moment and all we can do is the best we can to provide for the children & support the families...

so, going back to your situation - the decisions made are likely to be guided by the policy adopted by the school or local govt/council as interpreted by the senior leaders - they would be the ones to go to if you have concerns, or the school's governing body

from a teacher's point of view - you're doing the right thing with your kid....i'd want pupils coming back that had been kept to some sort of structure in their day, who had been encouraged to think for themselves, had engaged with elements of the home learning provision and had had a broad and balanced curriculum experience at home, not just being crammed

fuck knows what the future will hold after all this for these kids, but you've done the best you can for yours...which is likely what the teacher & school are trying to do as well...whether or not that's happening in all households, well i'll keep my own counsel on that one

oh, and you're right about the marking....now if you consider a minimum of 3x that on an average day when marking falls outside teachers' directed (paid) time - their evenings, weekends, holidays...it's easy to see why so many leave the profession....
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Re: Concerns about Education in NZ

#6  Postby campermon » May 18, 2020 12:49 pm

What Sloth said :thumbup:

Plus, it's really difficult trying to teach physics without interaction. Our school have MS Teams and all the gubbins for getting tasks out to kids, so initially we were setting revision / consolidation work. Now we've been asked to 'teach' new content online. I thought great, I can live conference with my small y12 group to do tutorial, all good socratic stuff! But we're not allowed to due to safe guarding. I can see the point, but it wouldn't be too much effort for a senior leader to sit in on such conferencing type lessons.

Lack of imagination as well as foresight.

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Re: Concerns about Education in NZ

#7  Postby OlivierK » May 18, 2020 12:53 pm

Also, always be wary of the word "just", as in just Zoom with the kids in the class. This actually needs thinking through/training. What do you do if someone in a Zoom call gets abusive? Or the kid or someone else in their household isn't appropriately dressed? Or (with senior students) is driving when they're not legally allowed to be using a device? Not really things you need to consider so much on a staff call.

I reckon the teachers at our kids' school have really gone above and beyond to teach remotely, and yet sometimes there are still classes where my kids have done a period's work in 10 minutes, and are left with not much going on. I reckon they've earned a break (which the youngest uses to game with his schoolmates, the eldest to swot up on other subjects, and the middle a bit of both). At 11 years old, I wouldn't give much of a fuck if a bright kid missed a whole month completely.
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Re: Concerns about Education in NZ

#8  Postby I'm With Stupid » May 18, 2020 6:42 pm

I don't work in the public sector, but I can give you an idea of my normal week at the moment in a language school.

So basically what were previously 2 hour classes with up to 20 students have been split into 50 minute sessions with a maximum of 10 (although in reality, usually less). Prior to this, they are supposed to spend about an hour (in reality no more than 30 minutes, I'd say) doing some online activities that are linked to the lesson and automatically marked by the computer. Then after the lesson, they are required to do a short project that they upload to the website and that gets sent to the teacher. For secondary age students, the project might lead in to the next lesson (e.g. plan a presentation and then deliver it and improve it during the live session). But our students only come once a week. And the only reason we can do all of this is because coincidentally the online teaching system was already in its early stages when the lockdown happened, so lots of materials had already been developed.

Having said that, most of our non-teaching time is still spent creating and adapting existing materials to use online. It's pretty time-consuming. My employer's pretty fastidious when it comes to things like branding and copyright, so every picture needs to be cited, etc, because the materials are then shared with the whole of Asia. Everything needs a detailed lesson plan because lots of people will be using them. I'd say that with a 50 minute lesson planned to that standard, you're looking at 6-8 hours of work. Obviously if you're just planning for yourself, you could probably knock it out in about an hour, but the idea is obviously that you're only planning two lessons for 6 weeks of teaching, and all of your other lessons will be planned by someone else, and because everyone's spent a lot of time on them, in theory they should be better. But we can only do this because we have 30 teachers all teaching the same subject. In a primary school, you've probably got one or two teachers per age group in your school with no formal way of planning or working with teachers from other schools. So when you've got to adapt a whole syllabus from scratch yourself, that would be a massive undertaking.

If, as you suggested, the teach from 9-12 and 1-3 every day, by splitting the class into two groups, they would need to create 3 hours of engaging and educational materials almost from scratch every day. That would be, I would suggest, at least another 3 hours of planning time. On top of this, they'd be expected to set work for the time that they're not meeting the teacher, which would presumably need to be another 2-3 hours of self-study activities. And then mark this work and deal with all of the admin of teaching. Every single part of this would then also take longer than it does at the school. Are the schools set up to access materials remotely, for example, or are all of the textbooks physical copies in the school? Are there syllabuses of materials saved on the school network, and if so, are the teachers able to access this from home? We're lucky that the answer to that is yes, which is why we're able to continue face-to-face lessons to a reasonably high standard.

Having said that, I think an hour of face-to-face teaching every couple of days is definitely doable. Whether it would be a valuable use of time is another question.
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Re: Concerns about Education in NZ

#9  Postby devogue » May 19, 2020 11:23 pm

Many thanks to all of you for taking the time to respond - it's really appreciated.

IWS - my child's school is 100% online. There are no textbooks or exercise books and they do all of their work on tablets or laptops. They were probably better equipped than a great many schools to deal with this situation so I just can't understand why my child has had zero face to face interaction with his teacher through the entire lockdown.

Olivierk - good questions about the logistics side of things. I know it's not as simple as "put the entire class on mute to stop abuse etc" but wouldn't that be a good starting point? It seems that there was either no effort or no solution of any sort was found (I'm speaking only about my child's school here). Not even 15 minutes per day? 15 minutes per week?

campermon - looks like you missed a really good chance to discuss warp field theory :lol:

Sloth - great answer and very illuminating. I've decided to talk to my son's teacher and approach the discussion from a positive and understanding angle. I need to know the challenges he faced, the pressures and guidance (or lack of) he may have faced from above, and most of all the substantive differences between remote and physical teaching - I'm sure he will take me through it and put my mind at ease. The last thing I want is to be the kind of dick who just jumps in without knowing anything about the situation with heartwarming stories of how back in my day everything was better. Thanks also for your supportive words.

therapod - thank you also for your kind words; of course, we all have to go a bit easier on each other during these weird times and I will definitely take that on board. :angel:
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Re: Concerns about Education in NZ

#10  Postby UncertainSloth » May 19, 2020 11:51 pm

aye, at the moment in the uk senior leaders & teachers are tearing their hair out about the whole 'return to school' thing....i've been talking with my head & different union members today and the general feeling is very much that of being thrown under a bus...

thinking as a teacher, i'd appreciate any parent coming to me, appreciating what i'd tried to do to keep things going and how hard it must have been; to have a conversation with you about how you & your son found it, doing school work in lockdown; and if you then asked if there was anything specifically you could do to assist his smooth transition back to full curriculum work...if the teacher's worth his salt, he'll appreciate how difficult it's been for you - lord knows we've had some tricky parents to deal with during this time but we do appreciate the position they must be coming from - the pressures of home learning, perhaps while working from home themselves, possible financial pressures etc...

as a senior leader, i'd appreciate the time you took to catch up with a member of my staff to see if there was anything you could do further to support your son's learning...

but then you know all this - the last thing anyone will need coming down from all of this is someone going off on one at us over something we've had very little control over (not that i'm inferring for a minute that you would...:D )

i don't know what parent/teacher relationships are like in nz (i would expect much better than some i've been witness to over here) but hopefully you can have that sort of conversation
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Re: Concerns about Education in NZ

#11  Postby OlivierK » May 20, 2020 2:01 am

devogue wrote:Olivierk - good questions about the logistics side of things. I know it's not as simple as "put the entire class on mute to stop abuse etc" but wouldn't that be a good starting point? It seems that there was either no effort or no solution of any sort was found (I'm speaking only about my child's school here). Not even 15 minutes per day? 15 minutes per week?

My kids are in high school (Yrs 8, 10, 12) and they get a bit of Zoom time with their teachers most days, either one-on-one, small-group, our whole-class. My Year 12 student gets by far the most, especially for Italian, which makes sense. The example of how teachers have to have a policy for dealing with students joining videocalls while driving came from that class!

My Year 8 kid, though, gets very little, although he's often set group work with his mates which they do via Skype. In general, he spends most his days building shit with his mates on Minecraft during school time. He's handing in all his work, so I'm not too bothered.

My Year 10 kid is suffficiently self-disciplined to use free time from classes with minimal workload to do assignments from other subjects, thus avoiding the need for homework time after 3pm. I figure that's demonstrating good life skills.

I will say, though, that I've been very impressed with my kids' teachers through this. They all seem to be working exceptionally hard to keep students busy and engaged, despite the obvious difficulties of doing so while also completely changing the mechanics of their work practices. The school has been pretty transparent with what's had to happen at their end, and has regularly gone a bit beyond with their efforts (for example collating physical materials for work at home for all years K-8 and driving around dropping them off at the letterbox of every student. Given that we're in a regional area, some students live up to 70km from the school - north, south and west, so a pretty non-trivial logistical effort. Years 9-12 have had materials posted to them where their subjects required it.

Glad to have them going back full time next week, though. :grin:
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Re: Concerns about Education in NZ

#12  Postby I'm With Stupid » May 20, 2020 5:36 am

devogue wrote:Olivierk - good questions about the logistics side of things. I know it's not as simple as "put the entire class on mute to stop abuse etc" but wouldn't that be a good starting point? It seems that there was either no effort or no solution of any sort was found (I'm speaking only about my child's school here). Not even 15 minutes per day? 15 minutes per week?

It's not that sort of abuse they're on about though, it's abuse from outside sources. That's why so many governments have banned their schools from using Zoom. Basically as soon as you have an account, your meeting ID stays the same and then anyone can share it making it available to anyone. You have a waiting room where you can check everyone before they come in, but in reality, you get kids coming in with a name that's not their own (on their parents' device for example) and don't know how to use it. We were originally going to use another program for this exact reason, but we trialled it and they simply couldn't handle the demand and it kept crashing.
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Re: Concerns about Education in NZ

#13  Postby UncertainSloth » May 20, 2020 8:02 am

yep - this is another reason we avoided zoom, despite some parent requests - if you chat to the school, you may find the possibility was mooted and discussed but dismissed as implausible...added to the consideration about whether families are actually equipped for such things, depending on the level of deprivation in your demographic - e.g. access to tech, limited data contracts, parental educational needs etc...obviously this may differ in nz...

if schools have the time to futureproof and train staff & families properly in case of future outbreaks, then things like this become a possibility - to drop it on people remotely is nigh on impossible...half our staff don't have a clue what zoom is, let alone feel confident using it if teaching remotely from home - we may have to use zoom for a whole staff meeting soon and people are running a mile...

the complexities, demands and issues far outweigh the benefits, i'm afraid
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Re: Concerns about Education in NZ

#14  Postby OlivierK » May 20, 2020 8:54 am

My kids' school already had all kids using their own devices prior to COVID-19 and uses Google Classroom, so all the teachers are familiar with how to post work for their classes there, and all the kids have logins and know how to access class materials and submit work. That's been the main method of distributing rollcalls and work to do at home, and videocalls have just been used to supplement that - mostly just a quick intro from the teacher as to what they want done with what they've put on Classroom, and a chance to see some familiar faces. All teachers are taking queries by email or in Classroom, and optionally by Zoom/Skype/whatever mainly for one on one discussions with senior students as long as there's something that works for both teacher and student. They have used video-optional meetings for things up to the size of year meetings, though (100+ in a year). They had it up and running full time for all classes for all students on five days' notice of the stay at home order, having had a few test runs with just Year 10 (first at school, then from home) in the two weeks prior when school shutdowns looked imminent. Overall, they've been brilliant, and the amount of work done to make it happen in such a short time seems staggering.
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Re: Concerns about Education in NZ

#15  Postby UncertainSloth » May 20, 2020 9:06 am

and that's where it works - we have online learning systems with log-ins etc but we also have a significant proportion of families with no internet access or, adding to this burden, many larger families where suddenly 1 or 2 devices, often on a limited data contract, have to suffice for multiple children all home learning as well as adults working from home...just wouldn't have worked as a blanket system
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Re: Concerns about Education in NZ

#16  Postby OlivierK » May 20, 2020 9:56 am

Yeah, we're fortunate in that regard as our city was a pilot site for Australia's National Broadband Network, so pretty much every kid lives in a house with fibre to the home (rolled out before our Tories got in and started fucking up the network design) with unlimited data. With kids using their own devices at school prior to the pandemic, every kid already had their own dedicated device as well. I absolutely acknowledge that that's a fortunate place to be starting from.

Regarding socioeconomics generally, it's a mixed bag. It's a reasonably well-off school in one of the lowest-income areas of a stupidly rich country. As it happens, that turned out to be enough.
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Re: Concerns about Education in NZ

#17  Postby UncertainSloth » May 20, 2020 10:37 am

it's also a glaringly wide gap between the primary and secondary sector unfortunately...
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Re: Concerns about Education in NZ

#18  Postby I'm With Stupid » May 20, 2020 8:28 pm

UncertainSloth wrote:it's also a glaringly wide gap between the primary and secondary sector unfortunately...

In terms of giving the students time, I imagine it's easier for primary school teachers, because they might have a class of 20 or 25. But your average secondary school teacher will have far more students that they teach less often, so while the lessons themselves might be more effective, it's probably impossible to have face-to-face contact with every student.
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Re: Concerns about Education in NZ

#19  Postby UncertainSloth » May 20, 2020 9:32 pm

I'm With Stupid wrote:
UncertainSloth wrote:it's also a glaringly wide gap between the primary and secondary sector unfortunately...

In terms of giving the students time, I imagine it's easier for primary school teachers, because they might have a class of 20 or 25. But your average secondary school teacher will have far more students that they teach less often, so while the lessons themselves might be more effective, it's probably impossible to have face-to-face contact with every student.


that wasn't my point

and don't get me started on people who think primary is easier than secondary, or that teaching contact resides only with those in your class...not quite sure what your point is on the efficacy of secondary teaching over primary either

and 20-25? :shock:

you'll be telling me i have lovely long paid holidays and a 6 hour day next.... :grin:
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Re: Concerns about Education in NZ

#20  Postby I'm With Stupid » May 21, 2020 3:29 am

UncertainSloth wrote:and don't get me started on people who think primary is easier than secondary, or that teaching contact resides only with those in your class...

I never said that, I said they have more students, therefore making it impossible to do live lessons with all of their students. It's been a while since I've been in a state school, but as I understand it, a primary school teacher will typically have a single class of students which they are responsible for over the school year. Secondary teachers will teach only one subject, but they will teach it to a range of different classes, therefore having more students in total. If a primary teacher had a class of 25 and wanted all of them to get an hour of face-to-face time with the teacher per week, that could easily be done by splitting them into 5 groups of 5 and giving each group an hour a day. A geography teacher in secondary school trying to do the same would have to spend all day every day on Zoom, as would the students trying to see all of their different teachers for all of the different subjects. Obviously if a primary teacher wanted to give their students an hour of face-to-face time for each subject they learn, they'd have the same problem as the secondary teachers.

UncertainSloth wrote:not quite sure what your point is on the efficacy of secondary teaching over primary either

My experience (having taught both age groups) is that secondary students are typically better able to work well online, particularly on anything involving collaboration. I don't know if there has actually been any research on this though, and it might just be the case that I'm better at teaching one than the other, or it might be particular for my subject.

UncertainSloth wrote:and 20-25? :shock:

The average class size of every European country other than the UK is under 25. I don't know what it is in New Zealand, but I took a punt that they probably do better than us on this sort of thing, since they do on most other things.
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