News of an English curriculum writing group, which plans to make Shakespeare’s works compulsory, was broken by RNZ last week, much to the surprise of English teachers.

“No one knew about that writing group until RNZ broke the news; the English association didn’t know about it,” Chris Abercrombie, PPTA Te Wehengarua president said in a subsequent interview with the radio station.

“It’s definitely not representative of teachers, and it’s pretty fringe, and so it’s really concerning ... what other secret writing groups are  there?” he added.

In a statement released yesterday, PPTA have said this is “just the tip of the iceberg”.

"The last two scheduled meetings of the Curriculum Voices group – a group of key stakeholder representatives for guidance and feedback on changes to the national curriculum – have been cancelled with no reason given,” Abercrombie said.

“The Professional Advisory Group to the Minister on NCEA, a representative group of extremely experienced teachers and principals, has been disbanded with new members to be selected by the Minister.”

The PPTA has checked with other subject associations to see if they have been contacted about their curriculum rewrites and they have not – notably including Mathematics, another subject that was under the scope of the Ministerial Advisory Group.

“For a Minister who claims to have great admiration and respect for teachers, choosing not to consult with the head of English subject specialist teachers about such a critical development, speaks volumes,” Abercrombie said.

“If this is how the Minister intends to treat the sector, we are in for some torrid times.”

Abercrombie also said the PPTA understands that the Ministerial Advisory Group, set up by Education Minister Erica Stanford late last year to advise her on Mathematics and English curriculum learning areas, literacy and the draft Common Practice Model, has completed its work.

However, there has been no consultation on the group’s report and it hasn’t been released publicly.

“We are extremely concerned that if the Minister shuts teachers out of the change process, she risks being misled by people who hold views about education that are very much on the fringe and not representative of national or international best practice,” he said.

Abercrombie said the PPTA has serious concerns about the ability of some of the people involved in the report to provide sound advice on national curriculum matters.

“They do not have recent teaching experience and they represent a tiny minority of conservative educationalists who want to take schools back to the last century, rather than equipping them to meet the educational needs of current and future generations,” he said.

“Not releasing the report of her Ministerial Advisory Group risks the Minister being misled about current teaching practices in secondary schools and the strength of the evidence for what is being put in front of her. 

“We call on the Minister to have the courage of her convictions and publicly release the report.”