«SECONDARY EDUCATION IN THE NETHERLANDS : AGENDA FOR 2010 “The Pupil Captivated, the School Unfettered” CONTENTS 1. Foreword and structure 2. ...»
Towards this end, a project is currently underway that is aimed at reducing the pressure from regulations. The national government creates the conditions, provides facilities and, if necessary, conducts promotional activities. How the school gives shape to and organises classroom teaching is a matter for the school to decide.
This line of autonomy for the school, deregulation by the national government and accountability means that less is organised in detail with respect to what happens in the schools and where national government resources are spent. This will create a large degree of diversity between schools. The vertical supervision of the school by the national government continues to be important in order to verify whether the public interest is being served well.
On behalf of the national government, the Education Inspectorate monitors and continues to monitor the quality of the education in the school and reports on this to the school board. The results are published on the Inspectorate’s web site and are thus available to everyone. Each year the Inspectorate reports on the strengths and weaknesses that it distils from the inspections in the Education Annual Report at system level.
Monitoring the legitimacy of the school's acquisition and spending of resources is the responsibility of the public auditor. He reports to the school board and also reviews the Annual Accounts. In principle, these documents are also open to review by the public. OCW/CFI monitor the quality of the Annual Accounts by reviewing them in light of the relevant regulations.
The pupil captivated, the school unfettered
By monitoring the quality and the legitimacy, the national government can, after interventions by the inspectors and with the increased monitoring of the actions that the school undertakes in order to remove shortcomings, finally intervene and take measures when abuses are discovered.
I intend to bring about a more integrated inspection of the school. I want to achieve greater coherence between the various inspection activities conducted by the Inspectorate, the auditor and CFI in order to bring about an integrated monitoring system.
In addition to this vertical monitoring, the horizontal accounting within the school itself gains in importance: within the school organisation discussions must be held on the goals of the school, the choices that the school makes to achieve these goals, the use of (human) resources and the results that the school achieves. The involvement of the community surrounding the school also becomes more important as a result.
Significance of the task and role of the national government for the sector Choosing to follow the line of autonomy, deregulation and accountability means that the sector as a whole will have to be managed in a different manner.
The national government formulates – related in part to agreements reached at the European level – ambitions, goals and results for the achievements of secondary education as a whole. This takes place as much as possible in consultation with the sector. Examples of this are agreements on the number of early school-leavers and the examination outcomes of the sector.
With regard to the management of the secondary education sector, I want to adhere to the model in which a number of system indicators are named. These system indicators clarify how the system performs with respect to accessibility, quality, effectiveness, legitimacy and continuity. At the moment that the performance of the sector starts to decline or when the ambition is to improve the achievements, then specific policy can be developed in order to improve the performance.
Developments in society, in politics and in Europe influence or broaden these goals: recent examples include the increased attention for safety in the school and the wish to control the school costs for parents.
If for the realisation of these goals and results we intend to refrain from establishing regulations and requirements wherever possible, then we will need a new administrative instrument to fill the gap. I would like to be able to reach agreements with the secondary education sector with respect to goals and results. Sometimes these agreements concern the level of the administration for schools and sometimes they pertain to the management of the schools. If the sector organises itself in such a way that, in conjunction with and with co-ordination between both levels, agreements can be reached that are relevant in the schools where the realisation occurs, then an important building block will have been put in place to give deregulation a sustainable structure.
4.2. The school: open in good governance The social commission for each school is the same: to educate young people so that they earn a suitable diploma at the highest possible level and, at the same time, to prepare them to function in society by promoting active citizenship, by imparting standards and values, by developing social competencies and to bring about an understanding of Dutch society. A commission that requires a partnership with parents.
This social commission has its own significance for each school. A school translates this commission into concrete terms for its own situation and thus formulates its own ambitions and objectives. In the process, the school includes the agreements made at the national level between the national government and the representative of the sector. Along with the school's policy freedom comes an increase in its social responsibility. As a result, the importance of its actively looking for incentives to safeguard the quality of the education it provides also increases. Many
The pupil captivated, the school unfettered
schools, as a social undertaking, seek active reflection, support and legitimisation for their objectives and ambitions inside and outside the school. They often do this as a part of current collaborative relationships (e.g. local governments, Regional Training Centres, trade and industry, cultural, welfare and care organisations). Within the frameworks of the national government, the school deploys people and resources to realise its objectives.
Accountable to internal and external partners The school gives a full account of its objectives, its choices pertaining to the use of instruments, the people and resources used to achieve these goals, and the results achieved. This is because, along with the responsibility of the school to use the freedom it has to provide good education, the school is accountable to the government, and especially to the people involved in and around the school: the pupils, the parents, the staff and the surrounding community. The ideal situation is having the school as a learning organisation: being accountable for the results achieved should primarily lead to further improvements in the school. The school also relies in this respect on a sufficient system of quality assurance at the school level.
For several years in succession, the Education Inspectorate has noticed that too few schools have a sufficient quality assurance system. This is not acceptable for an independent school. Good governance relies on it. Quality assurance is a veritable flywheel for a school's development and innovation. The last annual report of the Inspectorate revealed that schools that have a good quality assurance system score well on a number of important elements, such as dropout rates and safety. I will continue to actively support the development of quality systems via concrete projects. Via the inspections, I will ensure there is an acceleration in the pace of improvements at schools.
Good board of education Thus, each school sets up a closed system of checks and balances that continually guarantees quality improvements. A sufficient system is characterised by a separation between administration, management and oversight on that administration and management. A professional board distinguishes administration from daily management. The board oversees and delegates the daily management to the management. The board determines the objective and strategy of the organisation, reviews the policy and the quality of the organisation in light of the objectives, is responsible for acting as the employer, is the body many parties are accountable to and itself is accountable to third parties. Within its organisation, the management provides transparency as to how the available people and resources are used to realise the goals and makes it clear what results have been achieved. This all concerns a process of internal, horizontal accountability.
I do not intend to initiate any extra laws and regulations in order to strengthen this accountability.
This would run the risk that the freedom provided to the school will disappear again into an unnecessary increase in bureaucracy. For the way accountability is provided, there are now a number of legally embedded procedures that suffice. School prospectus, school plan, budget, annual accounts and the report from the board all provide good tools for parents, staff and pupils to influence the school. The complaints procedure also fulfils this role. Procedures and form regulations also appear to be less important than the attitude that people take. But it is essential that the board and management are willing to continue to talk with their internal and external partners and attach consequences to the accountability results: accountability thus leads to actions in the school aimed at improvement. It is a question of good governance. The schools determine for themselves how they do this.
The position of the staff, parents and pupils Via the participation in decision-making, the school consults openly and clearly with the pupil, the parents and the staff about its policy choices. The complexity of the modern school appears to be a barrier to admission to and the effectiveness of participation councils. I want to improve and boost participation in decision-making.
The pupil captivated, the school unfettered
My role in this is to make it possible to choose for application of the Works Councils Act in addition to choosing the Participation in Education Act (WMO). I will also include in the WMO that, in addition to the parents' right of consent to the level and the spending of the voluntary parental contribution, consultations will be held on the choices that schools make with respect to school costs and on the measures that schools take in order to control these costs.
I also want consultations to be held in the participation councils on the goals of the school, on the deployment of people and resources to realise these goals and on the results achieved. The law is currently sufficient to allow this. This primarily pertains to the performance and the quality of the parent/pupil participation in decision-making. Here there is an important role for the schools themselves and the parent organisations to play. I expect them to come up with concrete and innovative proposals for this that can be realised via the innovation budget.
The position of parents needs an extra stimulus, in view of the social commission of the school.
The school and parents should reach agreements with each other, and these agreements should not only be clear, but also be fulfilled. In addition to the formal participation in decision-making, it seems that there are more creative, more direct and more appealing forms for organising the involvement of parents and pupils. Examples of this are panels, samplings and forms of selfevaluation. These often lead to better or additional results. Here too it is the task of the schools and the parents to give substance to this.
4.3. Limiting bureaucracy: shared responsibility It is the joint responsibility of government, school boards and schools themselves to limit unnecessary bureaucracy. The administration philosophy according to which OCW no longer regulates secondary education, but enables schools to regulate secondary education themselves, implies that (detailed) central regulations will be limited as much as possible and that legislative bills introduced by OCW will be aimed at providing greater freedom to professionals. This contributes to my aim – as recorded in the project plan titled OCW Ontregelt [OCW deregulates], presented to the Lower House of Parliament – to reduce the pressure from regulations for institutions by one-fourth. This will also include regulations from other departments. In the Education Council’s Recommendation on this, the Lower House will receive a separate OCW-wide policy response this autumn.
The freedom provided should be palatable and useable for everyone. There is a risk that freedom granted at the central level will only be taken away again by regulations set at the school board or school levels. I call on school boards and schools to prevent this freedom from disappearing at the end of the line. It is the responsibility of school boards to enable schools to use this greater freedom in reality. It is then the responsibility of the school management to use resources in such a way that they optimally benefit the primary teaching process.
4.4. Need for an organised education sector In the previous sections, I have already stated that the changing administrative relationship between the school and the national government also sets new requirements for the organisation of the sector. To begin, if I speak about the 'secondary education sector’, it encompasses the organisation of the entire school: the school board, management, staff and pupils. The increased responsibility of the schools, in this wider sense, calls for a solid organisation and position of the sector. The impetus for this is that the organisation is less fragmented and divided than is now the case; that there is a clear representation and voice, and that the sector sets agendas and provides incentive. In other words, I have in mind a new, decisive body that represents all of secondary education as an organised sector. It will have to be a legal entity with which agreements can be reached on secondary education. It will have to have a clear decision-making structure and a mandate from schools.
From my role, I envisage the following for the organised sector:
• I want to reach agreements with the organised sector that have significance in the schools concerning the achievements of secondary education.