# News

### 13 June 2024 – Quaden Bayles, actor

Quaden Bayles has come a along way since he appeared distraught in a video posted by his mother in February 2020. This year he appeared in his second movie, Furiosa, part of the Mad Max saga. Now 13, he played the part of War Pup. He's doing well. Really well. Read more at RNZ, where director George Miller praises Quaden for his quiet confidence and calmness in the midst of movie-making chaos.

### 8 May 2024 – Reading recovery to be dumped

The government announced recently (for example, in this Newshub report) that the Reading Recovery programme is to be dumped. I consider this very good news, for reasons I briefly looked at in July last year. And yet, this week I saw a letter to the editor in the NZ Herald bemoaning the loss of using pictures to try to figure out what nearby words are! If children are relying on pictures to figure out what words are it's because they cannot read.

For decades New Zealand has been crippling the educational success of our children by not teaching them how to read. I looked at some of the consequences of that in May of last year, such as one secondary school principal who has 5% of his students not even able to decode letters.

### 28 April 2024 – Maths fail, NZ Listener

In the 30 March 2024 edition of the New Zealand Listener the cover article was about reducing New Zealand's road toll by Greg Dixon. It was variously named Toll Tale (on the cover), Horror on the Highways, and Taking a Toll. At the end of page 19 was this doozy:

It takes less than 10 minutes longer to cover 100km at 80km/h than driving at 100km/h for cars, and even less for trucks (heavy vehicles have a speed limit of 90km/h).

Really? Let's do a calculation or two. First, a formula. Speed = distance / time. Rearranging, we get time = distance / speed = 100 km / 80 km/h = 1.25 hours = one and a quarter hours = one hour 15 minutes. 15 minutes longer ≠ less than 10 minutes longer. Maths fail. I don't even know how the author got less than 10 minutes.

What about for trucks? Trucks up to 3500 kg have the same speed limit as cars, so if we use the sentence as written we get the same 15 minutes longer calculated above. Let's change the sentence so it's not disingenuous: "... even less for heavy trucks driving at their speed limit of 90 km/h." A heavy truck's original time = 100 km / 90 km/h = 1.1 hours = one hour, six minutes and 40 seconds. 0:15:00 – 0:06:40 = 0:08:20 = eight minutes twenty seconds longer for a heavy truck. At last! This is less than 10 minutes longer. Of course, this calculation ignores the many heavy trucks which have magical speedometers which read 90 km/h when the truck is doing 100 km/h. I'm going to call this one misleading and an English fail (which are sadly very common in NCEA exams).

### 16 March 2024 – Three things which need to change in education

This week Auckland Grammar School principal Tim O'Connor appeared on Bruce Cotterill's podcast Leaders Getting Coffee. They got into the serious stuff at about 8 minutes (after an intro by Bruce several minutes long, and a bit of other discussion) with a discussion of the three things Tim O'Connor believes need to change in New Zealand education.

1. We can't carry on with a curriculum refresh like is being promoted right now. Many heads of department cannot recognise the subject content that is being proposed in the new curriculum. Take stock of the curriculum that is required and put in place a proscriptive curriculum that is internationally benchmarked from year 0 to year 13, so parents can have faith in what is being taught at any level.

2. Stop the NCEA change programme for levels 2 and 3. Many parents still don't understand NCEA and its standards-based system with its not achieved/achieved/merit/excellence bands instead of a percentage in an examination. It's teaching in chunks rather than teaching as a whole. Is NCEA fit for purpose now? NZ results in international benchmarking are only going one way (down).

3. We need to do something with our teacher training status. Initial teacher training is no longer fit for purpose and has not been for many years. Tim does not know any teacher (except those who went through one particular Christchurch trainer) who think their training was worthwhile.

He later made the point that the Ministry of Education is an ineffective body which is not providing support to schools. It creates more work for schools and principals rather than supporting them to lead effective organisations. At about 22:40 he explained that it'll take at least 10 years, and possibly a whole generation, to fix what's presently wrong. Catch up with the podcast on the NZ Herald website.

### 17 February 2024 – The importance of asking questions

Some exciting exam results have been announced, including a student who achieved the best result in the world for one of his exams, and a couple of young ladies achieving 18 scholarship awards between them. The second article includes a fantastic quote by one of the high achievers.

“One thing I do I think is very important is always ask a lot of questions,” added Ena. “So even the smallest things, very pedantic questions I would ask them just to be sure.”

This is a Really Good Thing to do. Asking questions is important. Ask questions when you are unclear about something. Ask questions if you think something might easily be misunderstood – maybe you have yourself. Ask questions if you can see other people are confused.

Asking questions helps to get your brain involved with what you are learning and therefore gets your brain paying more attention. Quite simply, it helps you to remember things. (This is why I sometimes ask which spelling a person's name uses when first being introduced.)

I have heard from some of my students of teachers discouraging students from asking questions and even disparaging students who do. If you get that yourself, ask why. Don't accept being told you're wasting the class's time by asking questions. If people do not understand what they are being taught everyone's time is being wasted, including the teacher's.

### 17 February 2024 – The importance of using the right units

Meola Rd, the main route between Point Chevalier and Westmere in Auckland, has been closed over the whole summer school holiday for significant roadworks. Sadly, the road closure has been extended by several more weeks. An NZ Herald report explained some of the work being done. The article originally stated (emphasis added):

The works include rebuilding 840m of Meola Rd, half of which is being raised by about 400m over an old rubbish tip.

Just to give an idea of what that would mean, much of Meola Rd is presently not much above sea level, and Mt Eden's summit is at a mere 196m (although anything at sea level is kilometres away from it). That length of Meola Rd being raised by 400m would mean an incredibly steep climb up one side (steeper than 45°) with a precipitous drop down the other.

The article has been corrected to "400mm". Getting the wrong unit prefix can make a huge difference.

### 2 February 2024 – Present situation

Sorry, my schedule is now full and I'm unable to accept new students.

Ian.

### 17 September 2023 – Teaching the teachers

On Thursday 14 September the NZ Herald published Who teaches the teachers? New report looks at the failings of teacher training in New Zealand (subscription required). The article quoted primary school teacher Stephanie Martin's experience in her first years:

"In one of our early meetings, my mentor teacher asked me what I was planning to teach in my mathematics programme when the new term commenced. I realised I had absolutely no idea, nor any concept of where to begin to work it out. I didn't know the stages of learning that these children would likely be at. I didn't know what I should plan to teach them."

The problem was compounded by most of her practicum training being with years 1 and 2, then being placed in a year 4 class.

Martin said teaching [in her University degree] around the content of the curriculum was hardly there during her studies – only about 10 hours each were spent on science and social studies during the year.

...

Research carried out by the Royal Society into mathematics and statistics in 2021 found poor mathematics knowledge among primary school teachers, with one of the [Who Teaches the Teachers] authors describing our maths education as a "goddamn mess".

No wonder most graduating teachers for primary and intermediate levels say they don't want to teach maths to years 6, 7 or 8. They may or may not know enough maths to be able to teach it (which itself is mindboggling), but they sure don't know what they're supposed to teach.

The article was followed up the next day in the print edition with a handful of forum comments:

The big problem is that the current teachers are a product of our failed education system, and therefore don't know what they don't know. The problem has been going on for so long, it has become endemic. – Terry O.

This is particularly relevant for the methods used for teaching children to read, and for primary and intermediate teachers being confident in teaching mathematics.

Unforgivable in the modern age that a key profession should be operating with so little structure and proven processes. The whole thing sounds like an experiment. – Welly G.

I retrained 10 years ago as a science/maths teacher in my 50s, after a career in IT. I was appalled at the training given. I expected to receive a comprehensive set of planning materials to then modify to suit the students I was to teach. No such luck. – Alan C.

This provides further anecdotal evidence that the Ministry of Education is failing is its fundamental role of ensuring teachers are properly trained and equipped to be able do their job effectively and efficiently. And I note that with marking abominations like NCEA uses, science and mathematics cannot be taught efficiently.

### 27 August 2023 – Education news from New Zealand this week

In the last week the Ministry of Education (MoE) announced it will change the law so that schools will teach reading, writing and mathematics the same way, starting in 2026. Changes in this area have been very obviously needed for many years – that it's happening now provides some indication how bad education has become in New Zealand (and it might sadly be mostly electioneering).

What's not so clear is whether the best approaches will be used; the MoE is becoming well known for not doing things the best way. For example, in this article there's a reference to "the new maths and literacy co-requisite at secondary schools" but there's so much writing and describing/creative writing to do in the new online numeracy test that half of it is actually testing literacy skills.

Meanwhile, the acting PPTA president says it's really unusual for teachers to be told how to teach, and the Principals Federation president says the same thing. Um, what? Would this attitude have anything to do with more than half of primary and intermediate teachers graduating from teachers college (where teachers are taught how to teach, right?) claiming that they don't want to teach years 6, 7, or 8 because they aren't confident teaching maths at those levels? Or secondary schools finding a third of their students struggle to read, largely because they were never taught in the right way in the first place? When educators are not on the same page we're going to continue to have problems.

In other news, Outward Bound says it's having to deal with more vape-addicted students on its courses.

### 26 August 2023 – Education and science news around the world this week

In Pakistan a bunch of students on their way to school (age 13 up) and a couple of adults needed rescuing from a cable car when one of its two cables broke, leaving the cable car dangling from its remaining cable above a 270 metre drop – with a missing door on one end. That's quite a trip to school.

This article has some interesting info about the educational situation there, and quotes a local teacher saying "It is like we don’t act until there is a crisis. For example, we have four teachers for 326 students." That's close to twice as many students per teacher as my 6th form physics class had. The article says the cost of a cable car trip was the equivalent of 6 NZ cents for students, 12 cents for adults – much cheaper than an Auckland school bus, and quite a lot more exciting (normally).

India was celebrating after landing a spacecraft near the Moon's south pole, and it wasn't long before it sent the rover for a wander. More here, which says Approximately 54 female scientists and engineers have been involved in the Chandrayaan-3 mission.

Meanwhile, Japan is pointing out China is being hypocrital for objecting to Japan's release of tritium-carrying water, when China has been releasing water from its nuclear power stations for years with three times the concentration of tritium. I've looked at Japan's situation in my Chernobyl page, and the controlled diluted release really is the best idea. This article quotes an Aucklander (whom I know) summarising the situation:

Dr David Krofcheck, a senior lecturer at the University of Auckland, said: “The release of currently filtered cooling water containing tritium atoms from the Fukushima plant will not cause physically detrimental effects. Tritium is produced naturally as part of our normal environmental background radiation, and it travels via rain or rivers into the world’s oceans.

“The water release is designed to have seven times less tritium per litre than is recommended for drinking water by the World Health Organization. Much more tritium has been released by normally operating nuclear power plants into the north Pacific Ocean since those plants in China, South Korea, and Taiwan, were first located on coastal sites.”

### 28 July 2023 – Equations page and PDFs updated

The Phyiscs Equations page has been updated with a bunch of extra constants and a few new equations. The PDFs have also been updated.

### 23 July 23 – Thai cave rescue update

One of the children rescued from a flooded Thai cave in 2018, Adul Samon, has graduated from a New York highschool, where he was reunited with Rick Stanton – one of the two British cave divers who first found Adul's soccer team in the cave. Rick gave the commencement address at Adul's graduation ceremony and was on stage when Adul received his diploma.

Adul was instrumental during the rescue because of his knowledge of English, and had been praised by his Thai soccer team mates for his leadership during the ordeal. He won a full scholarship to the school and even became the captain of its soccer team. Read more in this Guardian article.

### 3 July 2023 – Say 'no' to Reading Recovery

RNZ has an interview with Emily Hanford, an education journalist from the USA.

The interview covers how people learn to read, and how they don't learn to read; learning to read is not like learning to talk. The way many children in New Zealand (and the USA) have been taught to read simply doesn't work very well. Further, the way children who struggle to read are assisted may be hobbling them from improvement in later levels of their education.

The article points out the standard early intervention reading programme used in New Zealand, Reading Recovery, was developed by New Zealander Dame Marie Clay in the late 1970s. The programme spread from New Zealand worldwide, but studies in Australia and the United States started to find very serious problems with it.

In Australia, the New South Wales Department of Education concluded that Reading Recovery is largely ineffective and should not be used. In the USA it was found that struggling students who did NOT receive Reading Recovery training were doing better in grades three and four than the students who had received it.

In the interview Emily Hanford says "… good readers are not stuck on the words, the words come really easily to them. And that frees up their attention, their mental energy, their cognitive space to think about what they're reading."

This is exactly the approach I take with basic facts such as times tables, and why I place importance on students knowing their times tables. When the numbers come naturally, the student is free to focus on understanding and solving a problem, without having to worry about what the numbers are.

Insist your children are taught to read with phonics (structured reading), and make sure they practice their times tables.

### 28 May 2023 – The state of education again

Another busy week.

Tuesday.

• The NZ Herald published a letter I wrote at the end of the previous week. It's a little edited but it still makes complete sense, very unlike what happened to a previous letter. The title is the editor's:

Ten cents worth
Jenny Poskitt's op-ed (
NZ Herald, May 17) was an exercise is disingenuousness and hand-waving. It highlights how broken NCEA and the Ministry of Education are. NCEA has value and portability? A 10 cent coin also has value and portability – but not much value. An egg has value and portability. But like education agendas, an egg can be rotten. Don't get me wrong, even a rotten egg has value. But it has much more value to those who want to destroy, not those who want to build up. Under NCEA, numeracy skills are devalued and pushed aside as literacy content is pushed into maths courses. The online pre-NCEA numeracy assessment has so many "explain" questions that it is as much a test of typing and literacy as it is of numeracy. Next year, NCEA 1's literacy-heavy statistics expands to half the maths course. The numeracy of New Zealanders is being systematically destroyed.

• Why is statistics being pushed at the expense of topics such as algebra and geometry? The NCEA version of statistics depends heavily on literacy-based interpretation – so-called "maths" which is not primarily based on numeracy and elevates subjective opinion above absolute answers. This is to be expected from the Ministry of Education, in which it has been claimed only about 1% of the staff has a maths or science degree.

Why would this be important? Other than the obvious resulting dumbing-down of New Zealand students, a 2021 study showed the only effective protection against conspiracy theories is numeracy. We can already see some of the consequences of the Ministry of Education's approach with the rise of conspiracy theories. The Ministry of Education is not helping secure New Zealand's future.

Thursday.

• Newshub has a very interesting read about NZ schools falling behind international literacy rates. There is also a video version of the article – also worth watching. It looks at the way our children have been taught to read – balanced reading or structured reading. Mahurangi College (Warkworth) principle Tony Giles points out that 5% of his secondary school's students cannot even decode, the first step of reading. He says "It's essentially malpractice" that schools are allowed to use a teaching method which is known to have a 30% failure rate.

Seriously, is it any wonder after the pandemic shakeup, that students who cannot read go ram raiding instead of going to school? Without being able to read they know they won't be able to learn anything at school. Ram raiding is much more exciting. (In the video, primary school deputy principal Jo Mauger says that before starting structured reading, their school's literacy rate was declining, and children were angry with themselves and concluding they were dumb for not being able to read.)

One of the reasons teachers are so overwhelmed these days is the number of special needs students they need to cope with. The article points out that one in ten students has dyslexia. Balanced reading doesn't teach children the tools they need to read. It teaches them to pick up meaning from context such as nearby pictures. It's no surprise it simply doesn't work for many children, but it is surprising that such a ridiculous approach would work for anyone. Structured reading is endorsed by the International Dyslexia Association, and works for pretty much everyone learning to read. It has no down side.

Minister of Education Jan Tinetti says she is completely convinced by the evidence but she is not telling schools to use structured reading, not encouraging teachers to use it, not telling teacher training colleges to teach the teachers to use it, and not providing schools the resources they need for necessary teacher training. Is she clueless or does she really want to wreck the fundamentals of society? (She says she wants to have teachers on board with changes.)

The article also mentions a girl with an IQ of 65, said to be "incredibly low". It is low, but with what used to be year 11 maths, I worked out an IQ of 65 or lower is actually 1% of the population.

• One of my students had been given an old NCEA Level 2 Physics exam for practice. One of the questions turned out to be nearly impossible for a Level 2 student to solve in an exam setting. NCEA again. I've added a page about it to my physics exam review pages, and show how it's possible to solve, but using techniques which Level 2 students are not taught in either physics or maths. (I also have maths exam review pages.)

Saturday.

• New Zealand's biggest school Rangitoto College was reported to be dropping out of NCEA 1 next year. The NZ Herald says principal Patrick Gale says the NCEA 1 changes have been poorly implemented and the new NCEA 1 will feed into the old NCEA 2, which it's not well matched to. Like St Cuthbert's College, the school will be issuing its own diploma. Other schools are said to be considering doing the same.

### 13 May 2023 – The state of education in New Zealand

It has been quite a week for the state of education in New Zealand.

Monday.

• One of my students was going over a practice online Numeracy test. This test needs to be completed before any NCEA levels are started. It quickly became clear that while supposedly a numeracy test, so many questions required a typed explanation that it's actually as much a test of a student's typing and literacy ability as their numeracy skills.

NCEA is broken. The sooner it's replaced the better.

Tuesday.

• A tragedy hit a high school outdoor eduation caving trip which should not have taken place at all. I had a look at the school's risk assessment document. It was not a well written document.

It contains misspelled words, missing punctuation, paragraph feeds in the middle of sentences, and contradictory actions for particular risks. It was not a document which was well written, or well maintained. But there was a bigger problem because of the difficulty in simply viewing it.

I was unable to find an easy way to print the thing so that it retained its formatting.

As displayed online – at least with some web browsers – each risk is next to the action/s to be taken for that risk. (With some web browsers they don't line up.) When printed, the risks are printed together in a block, followed by a block containing the actions. There is no connection betwen each risk and the suggested action.

This all suggests the document was not easily used, or, importantly, easy to apply. I suspect similar problems with safety documents are widespread. The poor state of this particular risk assessment will not be a rare example.

(Blaming Google Sites for the formatting is not an excuse.)

Thursday.

• Reviewing a term test with a student, I pointed out she had to assume that two pizzas were the same size to be able to answer it in the way the question was probably intended. Why should she have to make guesses simply to be able to answer what should be a simple question?

This sort of carelessly written question is extremely common in NCEA. (With the NCEA insistence on greater literacy content in maths, it's hypocrisy to produce so many questions with flawed wording.)

• Also, St Cuthbert's was reported to be abandoning NCEA 1 next year because of changes the Ministry of Education is making to the course for 2024, such as expanding statistics from one third of the year's maths coursework to half of it, and combining the science subjects biology and chemistry.

The school's principal says the changes would leave students unprepared for higher levels of learning, especially with algebra only one eighth of the year's work. I note NCEA statistics is literacy-heavy, and the changes are thus another example of dumbing down the numeracy content of NCEA Mathematics.

NCEA is broken, and it's going to get more broken next year. More schools are taking steps to replace it themselves.

• Also, later on Thursday the mother of one of my students pointed out the latest crap from the Ministry of Education, which I had somehow managed to miss until now.

A critical maths pedagogical approach uses maths to develop critical awareness about wider social, environmental, political, ideological, and economic issues. Critical maths recognises the importance of understanding, interpreting, and addressing issues of power, social justice and equity in the community and the wider world. Akonga are encouraged to interrogate dominant discourses and assumptions, including that maths is benign, neutral, and culture-free.

My first thought was the paragraph is horrifying if not a joke. (It's real. The quote is from page 8 of document, which is page 10 of the PDF.) My second thought was with all the agenda to be taught, where will any remaining maths teachers find time to teach maths?

The Ministry of Education is broken. It seems determined to destroy maths education in New Zealand.

• English is not an official language of New Zealand. Apparently the government thinks that's just fine – we still need to learn English as a foreign language for when we move to Australia to fill their need for nurses and other essential roles, after all.

Friday.

• The head of the Secondary Principals' Association responded to the news of St Cuthberts, saying "Nah, NCEA 1 is fine." (Or something like that.)

That seems rather disingenuous, since he's talking about the present NCEA 1, not the 2024 changes, which are said by St Cuthberts to have particularly significant problems with English, science and maths. Also, St Cuthberts says in question 14 of its diploma FAQ "The current version of NCEA Level 1 which is being replaced, has met the needs of our students to prepare them to be very successful in NCEA Level 2 and 3, or the IB Diploma. It is the new version of NCEA Level 1 which will be implemented in 2024, which has prompted this change."

Many years ago I had a similar discussion with a teacher who claimed the not-very-old NCEA was just fine for maths and science, I said it certainly wasn't, and nothing I said could shift his view. The very next morning the cover story on the NZ Herald was the then Minister of Education announcing big changes for NCEA because it simply wasn't working right.

It still isn't.

• Auckland Grammar School principal Tim O'Connor pointed out in an interview today that his school abandoned NCEA 1 years ago, and they have been using their own fit-for-purpose form 5/year 11 course which well prepares students for both NCEA 2 and AS Level.

He even mentions we need to get rid of the Ministry of Education!

### 27 February 2023 – Carbon monoxide can kill

Following Cyclone Gabrielle, two 14 year old boys were left vomiting and barely conscious in the middle of the night, with a third, older, boy repeatedly collapsing. The cause was carbon monoxide fumes from a petrol generator which had been running in a garage for 90 minutes earlier in the evening. The garage's external and internal doors had been shut, and the carbon monoxide had seeped throughout the rest of the house.

It was only the family's three year old German Shepherd persistently barking at 1am that alerted the parents to the problem.

The contradictory details in the Newshub and Stuff versions of the story, such as whether they successfully called an ambulance, or went to a neighbour for help who took them to a medical clinic, are explained in the Newshub interview video. The ambulance took the boys to Napier Hospital and the neighbour took the parents to a medical centre. All five required treatment with oxygen, and after they eventually got home they put the generator outside – where it should have been.

Carbon monoxide can be deadly, and it could have been in this situation. It permanently binds to haemoglobin in red blood blood, meaning blood can no longer carry sufficient oxygen around our body. If it's not fatal, carbon monoxide poisoning can take three months to fully recover from, while new red blood cells are made. If you don't already know, get informed of the dangers of carbon monoxide. Don't kill your family because of your own stupidity or ignorance.

### Other News

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