The School Is Not a Parent, Nor a Parent Substitute

In a Fight

John Lewis
Otago Daily Times

A Dunedin school principal is increasingly concerned by the social expectations imposed on schools – and says some parents need to take more responsibility for their children’s actions.  During the recent King’s High School senior prizegiving, rector Dan Reddiex praised his present cohort of pupils for their outstanding achievements during the year, but went on to express deep concern about the future of education in New Zealand.

He said the school’s ability to educate boys “in mind and in heart” was under threat.  “Alarmingly, in my view, we are increasingly becoming as much a social institution as we are an educational one.  The expectations imposed upon us now as a school, to attend to and reverse the ills of our society, are completely unrealistic and they are beyond our resource capability.”

“It seems now, the first questions about the inappropriate text message sent by a school-age person in the weekend, or the under-age young person attending a party that goes wrong, are not ‘what were the parents thinking and what will the parents do about it’?

“The first questions now are ‘what school does the young person go to and what is the school going to do about it’? And we’ve seen that in the national media this year … I believe it’s not our parent body who thrust these expectations upon us. It’s the media and it’s increasingly a broader societal expectation.”

Reddiex said the lines of demarcation between parental and school responsibility and accountability had been “completely obliterated”.  Following the prizegiving, he told the Otago Daily Times there was an expectation that schools would, in part, fulfil the function that historically had been the role of a parent.  “The vast majority of parents are doing a fantastic job, but there are some who need to take more responsibility for their child’s behaviour.”

. . . . Among other concerns aired by Reddiex during his speech were the Ministry of Education’s push for more open-plan teaching spaces and the increasing use of digital devices in classrooms, which he believed were not as effective as classrooms with walls and good teachers dispensing information.

He said the education sector was also in danger of losing its passion for teaching and learning in New Zealand, because of its “repetitive and relentless” “assessment-driven” education system.  “I believe there are some dangers looming, and some that have already surfaced that threaten the remarkable school that we’ve cultivated, and beyond that, education in our country as a whole.

“We are in a fight. It’s a fight to preserve our purpose, our profession and our passion.  “And we can’t afford to turn our backs,” he said.

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