I have great pleasure in introducing the ‘re-issue” of our publication “Tomorrow’s Schools-Twenty Years On”. This important collection of essays was first issued in 2009 to mark the twentieth anniversary of the founding of Multi Serve Education Trust (now Cognition Education Trust and the commercial entities that make up Cognition Group) – a direct outcome of the fourth Labour government’s implementation of the far-reaching educational reforms known as “Tomorrow’s Schools”.
Now, at nearly the thirtieth anniversary of the introduction of “Tomorrow’s Schools”, another Labour-led government has appointed a national task-force charged, in the Minister’s words with, “a fundamental look at the system,” and its outcomes. Improving equity of outcomes is a strong integrating theme in the task-force’s terms of reference. The central intent of the terms of reference are contained in the phrase, “every child’s right to a responsive education at their local school, regardless of where they live” – a redolent reminder of the founding vision of the universal public education system as it was framed by Clarence Beeby, a Director of Education, under the first Labour government almost 80 years ago.
Beeby’s vision of a schooling system was one where, “all persons, whatever their ability, rich or poor, whether they live in town or country, have a right as citizens to a free education of the kind for which they are best fitted and to the fullest extent of their powers.” This vision has focused and thrilled the idealism of generations of teachers and become the enduring litmus test of our nation’s educational performance. Over the past twenty years that “test” has become increasingly uncomfortable as national statistics continue, for example, to point to apparently embedded patterns of underperformance for Maori and Pasifika students.
The question of the extent to which the “Tomorrow’s Schools” policy and regulatory framework both progresses and impedes the achievement of Beeby’s vision, is key to the work of the recently -appointed review task force. It is a complex question, and that complexity is intensified by the compressed time frame that the task force must report within. We are “re-issuing” this set of essays aware that they do not capture subsequent important intiatives like National Standards and Communities of Learning. However, we are also aware that many of the issues identified by the 20 year review of “Tomorrow’s Schools”, remain the same.
The Minister hopes the work will help ignite, “a thirty year strategic conversation.” By re-issuing this collection of essays, Cognition Education Trust hopes to contribute to the immediate public debate and support the Minister’s aspiration for a longer-term conversation. The nature and outcome of the discussion is fundamental to the future of our social democracy and is central to our Trust’s mission - to invest in educational initiatives, interventions and projects that measurably advance education in New Zealand.