A leading critic of competitive self-governing schools has been appointed to a five-member taskforce charged with rethinking "Tomorrow's Schools".

Dr Cathy Wylie, a chief researcher at the NZ Council for Educational Research (NZCER), wrote a book in 2012 calling for about 20 regional education authorities to provide "vital connections" between schools.

She also proposed "a single government educational agency" to take over the work of supporting schools from the multiple agencies created by the "Tomorrow's Schools" reform in 1989, including the Ministry of Education, Education Review Office (ERO) and NZ Qualifications Authority (NZQA).

However her voice on the new taskforce will be balanced by four other members including a former NZQA deputy chief executive Bali Haque, who will chair the group.

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The other three members are:

Chris Hipkins plans to reappoint Barbara Ala'alatoa, seen here with students at Sylvia Park School where she is principal, as chair of the Education Council. Photo / File
Chris Hipkins plans to reappoint Barbara Ala'alatoa, seen here with students at Sylvia Park School where she is principal, as chair of the Education Council. Photo / File

• Barbara Ala'alatoa, principal of Sylvia Park School, whom Hipkins says he will reappoint as chair of the Education Council when her current term ends in July.

• Professor Mere Berryman, director of Waikato University's Māori educational research centre Pounamu Pounamu.

• Professor John O'Neill, head of Massey University's Institute of Education and head of the NZ Council of Deans of Education.

Bali Haque advocates folding
Bali Haque advocates folding "implentation work" by NZQA and the Tertiary Education Commission back into the Ministry of Education. Photo / File

Haque was principal of three schools - Napier's Tamatea High School, Papakura's Rosehill College and Pakuranga College - and wrote his own book in 2014 advocating bulk funding for schools and performance pay for teachers.

"Readers will note that no suggestion has been made to do away with the current Tomorrow's Schools model, despite its obvious problems," he wrote in the book.

"In my opinion it is far too late to do this and it is certainly not necessary to return to the top-down centralised system of old.

"Many New Zealand schools, it is clear, have relished and taken advantage of the flexibility is has to offer.

"However, by building a stronger regional structure for the Ministry of Education, by reorganising schooling provision, and by reducing and reorganising government education agencies, it is possible to make it work better."

Like Wylie, he advocated creating a single new agency for "all aspects of early childhood education, primary, secondary and tertiary provision".

"This would mean that much of the work currently done by NZQA and the Tertiary Education Commission, both of them implementation agencies, would be folded back into the Ministry of Education."

He also proposed a second new agency "built around the current ERO and NZQA audit and review functions".

Mere Berryman advocates transforming schools so that Māori students feel they
Mere Berryman advocates transforming schools so that Māori students feel they "truly belong", rather than being forced to "fit in" to a European system. Photo / File

Berryman's appointment to the taskforce is a sign that Education Minister Chris Hipkins was serious when he drew up terms of reference stressing "better support, equity and inclusion" in schools and exploring the impact of Tomorrow's Schools "on the ability of schools to meet the needs of all Māori students".

Berryman was a co-founder of Te Kotahitanga, a programme that helped schools to understand the cultural needs of Māori students, and its successor, Kia Eke Panuku.

In her inaugural professorial lecture at Waikato University last month, she challenged teachers to understand "the part they have played in supporting a system that's actually been inequitable, particularly for Māori learners".

"When we engage in new practices that focus more on equitable social reality for Māori learners, transformative praxis has begun. Rather than feel they must fit in, Māori students can truly belong," she said.

O'Neill, a leading member of the Child Poverty Action Group, is also a radical critic of what he has called "marketplace or commodity progressivism in schooling".

School Trustees Association president Lorraine Kerr said her initial reaction was that the taskforce members were "a pretty good group". She was not concerned that they did not include any parents on school boards.

"Barbara Ala'alatoa is a principal, so sitting around a board table is nothing new," she said.

"I believe Mere Berryman has talked to and run workshops for boards of trustees in various places in the North Island.

"I believe Cathy [Wylie], in her role with NZCER, has a good understanding through the research they do into boards."

Dr Cathy Wylie has proposed about 20 regional education authorities to rebuild
Dr Cathy Wylie has proposed about 20 regional education authorities to rebuild "vital connections" between self-governing schools. Photo / File

Hipkins has asked the taskforce to report by November 9.

"The taskforce will look at how we can better support equity and inclusion for all children throughout their schooling, what changes are needed to support their educational success, and at the fitness of our school system to equip all our students for the modern world," he said.

Haque will be paid $1000 a day, and other members $750 a day.

Hipkins has also created a 30-member advisory panel including the School Trustees Association, teacher unions, principal's groups, integrated schools, Ngā Kura ā Iwi (tribal schools) and Ngā Kura Kaupapa Māori (Māori immersion schools).