Teachers and principals have spoken out at an emotional public meeting against Government taskforce proposals which they say would move them around schools "like numbers in a spreadsheet".
"I think that is an attack on those considering entering the profession," one young man told Dr Cathy Wylie, a member of the taskforce led by former principal Bali Haque which recommends that teachers and principals should be employed by regional education "hubs", rather than individual school boards.
Wylie braved a mainly hostile audience of about 200 people tonight in the public meeting at Auckland Grammar School, the biggest so far in a series of 40 meetings being organised by National education spokeswoman Nikki Kaye about the taskforce proposals.
She defended the proposal for principals and teachers to be employed by hubs, but admitted that taskforce members "didn't express ourselves very well" in a proposal to appoint principals for five-year terms.
"We did not intend that there is a cut-off period - five years and you're out," she said.
"Our intention was, 'Let's just see how it's going.' We were thinking that there is a review time, it might be that the principal wants to talk to the hub about other opportunities within the hub, but there is certainly no sense that the hub would take a principal, when the community wants them to stay, away from that school."
Auckland Grammar headmaster Tim O'Connor, who has vowed to fight the proposals, watched silently but did not speak.
However parents, school trustees and former students of Grammar and other Auckland schools spoke out for the rights of schools to choose their own leaders.
"The schools our children go to were chosen because we believe the leadership of those schools to be exemplary," one mother said.
A man said: "If I knew my headmaster within five years was going to leave, I'd be the first person to pack my bags and go with him."
The young man who said the proposals were an attack on new teachers asked: "Should the public have access to teachers who have been employed on the basis that their values and their strengths align with those of the school, rather than having those teachers, and even the school leadership, moved around like numbers on a spreadsheet?"
Wylie replied that principals would still control teacher appointments within their schools, although both principals and teachers would be formally employed by the proposed 20 regional hubs.
"They wouldn't be numbers on a spreadsheet," she said.
"We do see the opportunity for teachers to be seconded, if they want to be, to do some other work within the hubs, but there is no intention whatsoever to do the things you talk about."
St Peter's College headmaster James Bentley asked why, in that case, the taskforce wanted teachers to be employed by the hubs.
Wylie replied: "It has to do with trying to remove the 'busy-work' that principals and boards told us about, thinking that if the teachers were employed by the hubs, that might make some of the HR [human resources] work easier."
Bentley said afterwards that he was still very concerned by the proposals and his concerns were shared by "a number of schools across New Zealand".
Kaye said she shared the concerns about "breaking up the relationship between parents and principals".
But she said National's goal was "to get as much cross-party agreement as we can" on the reforms, possibly by allowing schools to opt in or out of the hubs or through a "graduated" model allowing some schools to govern themselves but bringing others under the hubs.