With the announcement of the new Secretary of Education, Gail Townsend, I want to take this opportunity to bid a sad but sincere farewell to everyone who has made my time as HoM for education (6 years and 2 months to be exact) such an enjoyable journey.
During my tenure we have restructured the Ministry twice – once to provide more emphasis on the goals of the Education Master Plan and the second time to accommodate the merger of the Department of National Human Resources Development into our Ministry. This has been challenging for staff but their passion and commitment allowed us to achieve this relatively successfully. NCEA results have grown to such an extent that we now have average pass rates for NCEA above those attained on average in New Zealand schools. Teachers’ salaries have been addressed, particularly the introduction of pay parity across the sector as well
as a 100% increase in management unit allowances. Professional development opportunities for teachers and principals have been strengthened with increased numbers of teachers now having completed Masters and Bachelors’ Degrees. Teacher training in-country was resurrected and incentives provided to entice more Cook Islanders to return from abroad to work for our Ministry. In the language area we have seen the production of more teaching resources in Cook Islands Maori as well the launch of the online Cook Islands Maori Dictionary. Primary school teachers have received considerable support with the teaching of literacy and numeracy and the success of these interventions is now becoming apparent in the national assessment results. Our principals and aspiring principals have been involved in training in New Zealand and we have developed as a centre of excellence, also providing a range of online learning opportunities for students, particularly those in Pa Enua. We also took over responsibility for the Cook Islands National Commission of UNESCO in 2011 and so the list goes on. We are certainly tracking very well against the targets of the Education
Master Plan and therefore I feel confident that I am leaving the Ministry not only in a strong position but also in very safe and capable hands. The challenges have been numerous but the rewards have certainly justified the hard work and I have been privileged to have the opportunity to work with so many professional, committed and dedicated people who so unselfishly give of their time to provide the very best opportunities possible for the students of the Cook Islands. For the past few years we have been acknowledged as the top Ministry and our unqualified audit reports are a testament to the high quality work that so many of you complete. I feel very strongly that I have just been the conductor of the orchestra – it is each and every one of you who have done the hard work and I am extremely grateful to you all for that.
We have achieved the vision set for education when I took on this role and I believe strongly that it is now time for this Ministry to have a fresh approach. I am therefore delighted that Gail Townsend has been appointed as my successor. She brings the energy, drive and passion that is essential to now move education forward to yet another level, although it is very sad for me to let the reins go. Sometimes though, we need to step aside and let others have an opportunity and the time is right for me to do this. Thank you all sincerely for your support, loyalty and friendship over the years. It has been an absolute privilege to work with you all and I wish each and every one of you the very best that life has to offer.