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Sunday, 26 January 2014

A Change Principal

Harvey Rees-Thomas, principal of HIBS 1999 - 2001
National's recently announced education policy has announced the creation of the "Change Principal":
Change Principals will be top principals who are paid an additional allowance of $50,000 a year to go to a struggling school and turn it around.
Around 20 Change Principals will be appointed each year, for up to five years.
At the moment, the incentive is for principals to go to larger schools, where the salary is higher, rather than to schools that are the most challenging.
We are going to change that.

Someone I'd call a definite "Change Principal" was Harvey Rees-Thomas, principal of my old high school HIBS from 1999 - 2001. Mr Rees-Thomas turned the school around after it found itself in a pretty dire financial state, and the continued existence of the school owes much to the board and Mr Rees-Thomas.

At the time most of the students weren't even aware of the problems the school faced, and it was only a few years after leaving HIBS that more of the details of how dire things were became known. There's plenty of stories around, so I won't add to them. But the dire state of the school only makes Mr Rees-Thomas time at HIBS even more remarkable.

To myself and schoolmates at the time, Mr Rees-Thomas made huge improvements to the school's culture and character. He referred to us as men and challenged us to raise our own standards, not just in education but in our attitudes to the school and each other. Even though he was there for three years, he made a lasting impact on the school.

So like the Prime Minister, I think good principals matter - and they can make a huge difference to struggling schools. Mr Rees-Thomas certainly did. To raise New Zealand's quality of education, we need change principals like Mr Rees-Thomas.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Consumer Prices

In this month's North & South mag there's an article on "the high cost of just about everything", taking aim at the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Basically, although the headline inflation rate has been pretty good (i.e. the cost of living overall isn't going up), most New Zealanders feel as if they're worse off because the price of everyday goods (food and housing) are going up sharply.

On the other hand, the price of goods that consumers tend not to buy everyday (mobile phones, flat-screen TVs and cars) has been deflating. Not many of us buy these things daily though, so we tend not to notice that the price is going down (or as the article points out, that we're getting more for our money).

Meanwhile, in the last quarter of 2013 inflation was at 0.1%. David Farrar has a further look at what makes up this figure:
I prefer to look at the long-term series. Here are some comparisons of average annual price increases over the last five years (Dec 08 to Dec 13) compared to the previous five years (Dec 03 to Dec 08).
  • Electricity 3.9% compared to 7.8%
  • Household Energy 3.6% compared to 10.0%
  • Food 1.7% compared to 3.4%
  • Fruit & Vegetables 0.6% compared to 6.4%
  • Rental Housing 1.9% compared to 3.6%
  • Home Ownership 2.9% compared to 8.0%
Labour are very good at claiming they will lower , and housing costs – but their track record speaks for itself.
The household energy figure is most interesting - it goes to show the government owning 100% of the energy SOEs doesn't lead to lower power prices.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

House prices

Interesting interactive graphic from The Economist. Check out the New Zealand line.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Two surveys on democracy

The Electoral Commission released the results of a survey on why non-voters non-vote:
Non-voters said they had other commitments (14 percent), work (9 percent), could not be bothered (14 percent), could not decide who to vote for (11 percent), or felt their vote would not make a difference (8 percent).
The biggest influence on New Zealanders who did not vote was a distrust of politicians.
Distrust of politicians seems to be a familiar theme. However, one point caught me at the end of the article:
The survey was based on interviews with 1097 voters and 272 non-voters.
Now this doesn't invalidate the results of the survey, but it does perhaps point to an issue with getting hold of non-voters - the survey methodology was a random phone survey.

Another survey just published also caught my attention - a SayIt poll showing about three-quarters of respondents want the "one seat" rule under MMP gone.

Perhaps there's a link?

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy New Years!

Here's to a big 2014... an election year, one where the politics geeks get to inflict themselves upon the general populace!

Here's the Governor-General's 2014 New Year Message. They should really broadcast this: