Tomorrow’s Schools Yesterday.

Rigged policy and a shocking abuse of power.

So we’re finally getting an overhaul of a failed neoliberal education policy (“2018: System review ofTomorrow’s Schools – 2018 Tomorrow’s SchoolsTaskforce Report”).

It was rigged policy anyway.

“The Government sought a response to the [Picot Task Force] report both from the general public and from educationalists. The Associate Minister of Education and other colleagues joined me in conducting a series of inquiries throughout the country. More than 20,000 responses to the report have been studied.

“The need for reform was generally accepted.”

  • David Lange, “Tomorrows’ Schools: The Reform of Education Administration in New Zealand”, August 1988.

That was a lie.

Following the 1988 Picot Report a nationwide consultation process was carried out. But the report of that process was ignored. The Tomorrow’s Schools policy had already been written before the consultations were complete, analysed and reported. 20,000 responses indeed. It was sham consultation.

In 1986/87 I had engaged a communications company to measure attitudes and opinions in a range of community and government sectors about a sometimes controversial programme I was running.  A senior consultant whom I shall call “Peter”did the work and I was impressed by his professionalism. I later engaged him to tutor me through the principles and practices of his profession, and to teach me as much as he could over a long weekend. We discovered that in a previous life as an intelligence analyst I had employed those same principles and practices as part of the military intelligence process. We got a lot done in a single long weekend. He was very good.

We became friends.

The Picot Task Force report “Administering for Excellence” was published in April 1988. New government policy was published as “Tomorrow’sSchools” in August 1988. There was so much neoliberal policy reformation going on at the time that I did not take much notice.

Until Peter turned up on my doorstep; agitated, depressed, and extremely frightened.

His company had been engaged by Government to advise and participate in the consultation or inquiry process following the Picot Report. Peter was the lead consultant on that contract. The cause of his extreme anxiety was that he had the evidence that the inquiry process had been totally ignored, that he had expressed his concerns about that, that it was thought he might turn whistle-blower, and that the Government had thrown the full weight of the State at him to frighten him into silence. It worked. The Government and his company also tried to recover any evidence he might still have had in his possession.

He ran to me, as the one person he thought he could trust, other than his wife. That was partly because I’m Maori, and partly because I was known to be a critic of government policy making, and not easily intimidated. He actually said he didn’t know any Pakeha he could trust to support him against the government machine. I supported him through an alarming abuse of state power over the next weeks and months.

His company had summarily dismissed him, repossessed his company car, and tried to retrieve any evidence he might have kept. He was fitted up with false criminal accusations and was confronted, searched and interrogated by the Police Fraud Squad over a period of weeks. His wife was also subjected to that attention. Either his company or the Government had hired a former policeman turned private detective to investigate him. It seemed to me that was intended to further intimidate him.

The private detective eventually turned up on my doorstep. I invited him in and he tried to interrogate me about Peter. Instead, he got severely grilled about why he was intimidating my friend. He did not enjoy the experience.

Eventually the intimidation and harassment subsided without any charges being laid but it was a terrifying experience for Peter and for his wife for the month or two that it lasted. And it achieved its purpose. They moved away and started a new life out of the limelight.

And for the next thirty years we lived with a policy based purely on predetermined ideology. I served on school boards of trustees under that policy.

And Peter quietly disappeared from sight.