Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Holiday courses for teachers would save on relievers, suggests principal

John Laurenson also advocates a single board of trustees looking after all state education - from early childhood through to tertiary - in a given area. Photo / APN
John Laurenson also advocates a single board of trustees looking after all state education - from early childhood through to tertiary - in a given area. Photo / APN

Making teachers take courses during school holidays instead of in term time would save a lot of taxpayer money on relieving teachers, says Christchurch principal John Laurenson.

It would mean a cut in the 12 weeks of holidays many teachers enjoy but those who do well on their professional development courses could get extra pay, he suggests.

He also believes that independent schools should be required to take some of the more difficult children who drop out of the state system as a price for their state subsidies.

And he is challenging the notion that a school should operate on a single site from 8am to 3pm with its own board.

Mr Laurenson has been principal of Shirley Boys High School for the past 16 years and with just a few years to retirement, he doesn't have to please anyone and can say what he thinks.

In the wake of the Christchurch earthquakes, he has been thinking about how to make the education system more effective and efficient.

But he is making his suggestions at a time when the Government is looking to find the $114 million it will no longer save after reversing the class ratios announced in the Budget last month.

The coalition of education organisations that opposed the policy said they would be willing to discuss with Education Minister Hekia Parata where other savings could be made in education.

She will be meeting teacher unions this week.

Mr Laurenson said he knew that most teachers worked during school holidays but it would be a good time to have mandatory professional development.

"You test them at the end of it, you require them to do assignments and the top 20 per cent you could reward with bonuses."

Setting up performance pay based on classroom teaching would require the establishment of a big bureaucracy, he said.

Students would benefit as well because taking teachers out the classroom during term time disrupted their learning.

Another of Mr Laurenson's suggestions is to create a more seamless education system through getting one board of trustees to serve all state education in a particular area from early childhood through to tertiary insteadof having a different board for every institution.

He said he had put that suggestion of "hub-based education" to Ms Parata, Education Secretary Lesley Longstone and fellow principals.

"We have to look at new ways of doing things," Mr Laurenson said. "You could use eastern Christchurch as a test case."

At present, every school had it own board and its own set of resources, he said.

"That's dumb. You need to look at a single-governance model. You don't need to duplicate your resources - one assembly hall would do all of them, one performing arts centre.

"There are enormous savings to be made just in that alone."

Mr Laurenson said the earthquakes had taught him that education did not need to be confined to one site or that a school day needed to be based on an 8am-to-3pm timetable.

- NZ Herald

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