Aotearoa Educators Collective launches with panel on the “real crisis” in education

The new bipartisan educator's collective is aiming to provide a platform to promote progressive, evidence-based education policies.

On Wednesday 27 March, the Aotearoa Educator’s Collective (AEC) officially launched with a panel discussion on the “real crisis” in education. 

Informally active before the 2023 election, the AEC was formed as a platform for educators and academics to share progressive, research-led discussion on current education issues. 

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The group includes academics, principals and teachers and is intended to “support education thought leaders”. 

In a press release, spokesperson Peter O’Connor stated that the collective wants “a bipartisan approach to education that takes politics out of the classroom and lets teachers get on with the job.” 

Wednesday’s panel was the collective’s first official event and included over a hundred participants across in-person audiences at the University of Auckland, and online participants from across the motu. 

The discussion was chaired by AEC spokesperson Peter O’Connor, Professor of Education at the University of Auckland, and led by Lynda Stuart, Principal of May Road School; Rebecca Jesson, Associate Professor of Education at the University of Auckland; and Jodie Hunter, Professor of Education at Massey University. 

From left to right: Jodie Hunter, Lynda Stuart, Rebecca Jesson and Peter O’Connor during the opening panel of AEC. Photo: Naomii Seah.

In response to the question of the real crisis in education, panel member Jesson pointed to the inequity of New Zealand’s education system, noting that for the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) test, administered in Year 5, New Zealand has not seen significant change in attainment since 2001. However, when the data is disaggregated, students who face housing instability are among the worst performing within New Zealand. Similarly, PISA research shows that students who face food insecurity and poverty are more likely to underperform. Jesson notes that this points to New Zealand’s inequitable education system. 

“Our children are more vulnerable to the effects of SES than other countries, bar Iran, Malta, Brazil and Bulgaria,” Jesson concludes. 

“Who is this a crisis for?” asks Jesson.

Stuart agreed, calling the current education landscape a “political football”, meaning that inequity and high needs in schools aren’t adequately addressed. 

Hunter added that under the current system, professional learning and development isn’t sufficiently prioritised or resourced, further widening inequity. 

There was a general consensus that systemic change was needed within education, and solutions to current and longstanding issues would be necessarily complex to meet complex needs. 

In a press release, AEC stated that they do not support “sound bite policies” like mobile phone bans and minimum requirements for reading, writing and maths. 

Stuart called these initatives a “distraction from real issues”.

Other topics of discussion at the panel included the role of initial teacher education and the proposed introduction of increased standardised testing, which was compared to the era of National Standards. 

The evening concluded with O’Connor calling for academics and educators who were interested in joining the AEC, especially those who were keen to contribute to their website. 

“If we want to be heard we need to work as a collective,” said Hunter.

The full recording of the panel and discussion can be found here.  


Naomii Seah

Naomii Seah is a writer and journalist from Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand. She enjoys crochet, painting, and a coffee or two at the beach. Her work can be found at The Spinoff, The Pantograph Punch, Stuff, and of course, School News NZ.
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