New Dean of Education and Social Work ready for the challenge

09 January 2018
Mark Barrow, Dean of Education and Social Work
Associate Professor Mark Barrow, Dean of Education and Social Work

Over the past ten years as Associate Dean at the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences (FMHS), Mark Barrow has played a pivotal role in the development of innovative models for the delivery of popular professional programmes such as medicine, nursing and pharmacy.

Starting this year, Mark is leading another professional faculty within the University as Dean of the Faculty of Education and Social Work, where he can bring his valuable learnings and perspective to the table. He will replace Professor Graeme Aitken, who will retire after 40 remarkable years in education.

Mark graduated from the University of Auckland with bachelors and masters degrees in Science, a Diploma in Teaching and went as far as completing his Doctor of Education – the doctorate specifically designed for working professionals. He has taught and held senior appointments in Tangaroa College and Tamaki College, both low-decile schools, and then took on an academic development role at Unitec. He has also held a number of key national positions through the New Zealand Post Primary Teachers’ Association.

As incoming Dean of the Faculty of Education and Social Work, Mark has eagerly agreed to answer questions from some members of the faculty.

Q1: How do you feel about moving into EDSW (Faculty of Education and Social Work) from FMHS (Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences), where you have been based over the past 10 years?

“I’m very excited about it. It feels to me a lot like a return home because I started life as a school teacher. I was a graduate of (what was then) the Auckland Teachers’ College and taught in secondary schools for 13 years. This feels like going back to my roots in education, which is what I know best and what I’ve been doing at FMHS but in quite a different environment.  I’m looking forward to reconnecting back to the compulsory education sector. It feels like coming home and going full circle.

“The interesting thing about this experience is that FMHS is a very highly ‘vocational’ faculty like EDSW. I think what I’ve learned here about how we deliver a professional program is going to be an interesting viewpoint to bring to EDSW. And because this (Associate Dean, FMHS) is my first job in the University, I’ve learned how the University works as an organisation. I know the people and have well established networks. That engagement gives me that sort of a slight advantage in that I’m an outsider coming into the faculty, but an insider within the University.”

Q2: Do you speak te reo? What is your experience with supporting diverse students?

“I come from Mangere Bridge where my family has lived since 1860s on the basis of the fact that my ancestor was given land there as a protection of Auckland at that time. I’ve got Māori heritage from that background. My te reo is minimal, but I have had a long history working with diverse students, including Māori and Pacific.

“When I first started at Tangaroa College in South Auckland, I was a member of the Māori staff group so, under the guidance of people like Rawania Penfold, I was very much involved in making Māori culture a part of staff and school- life. I carried that to Tamaki College, where there was also a large number of Māori students to teach and support.

“At FMHS, I’ve been very involved with Te Kupenga Hauora Māori /Māori Health Department led by Papaarangi Reid and her team, particularly in organising the inter-professional education programme (IPE) for students in health professional programmes. The IPE programme, running for over ten years now, gives students in medicine, nursing, pharmacy and optometry opportunities to learn with, from and about each other and the professions that they are going into.

“The horizontal integration is seen in the health world as extremely important in getting better practice happening in the big wide world. This is an area that I’ve learned a lot about and done quite a lot of research and publications in.”

“It’s vital that we are producing Māori and Pacific social workers and teachers who are going to be out there in schools and communities, in exactly the same way that it is important to be producing doctors, nurses and pharmacists who are Māori and Pacific.”

Q3: What do you think are the biggest challenges in education today and how can EDSW take the lead in addressing those challenges?

“When the Government set up the Kāhui Ako or Communities of Learning (COLs) a few years ago, it provided us with step-change in the way the education sector is organised. There is more of an opportunity now for our faculty to have a greater degree of partnerships with COLs.

“At the ITE end, we have fantastic relationships with schools and groups of schools and the work that Dr Fiona Ell and her team have been doing builds on that. However, as a university, we must also get more hooked in with existing teachers in their education and work with them to do the things that their COLs are trying to address.

“A few of us went and visited one of the COLs a couple of days ago, and I had a chance to see how a group of schools was trying to solve all their problems. I came away thinking about the fact that the University has a lot of resources and evidenced ways of practising that they could bring to the table. These are based on research, and being ranked 20th in world for education shows you they’re very, very high quality research. We can leverage our research and supervision opportunities to work alongside teachers as they strive to improve practice within schools/centres and communities of learning.

“It is a long-term project and something that our faculty has started doing, so being part of that conversation with COLs is really important.”

Q4: What are the opportunities for social work in the faculty/sector?

“There are similar opportunities happening in the social work sector, as in the compulsory sector, with the change in government. One of these has to do with the move towards registration for social workers. I know that many people in the Faculty of Education and Social Work have been influential in that shift and there are all sorts of opportunities for faculty in that.

“Registration means not just having good programmes to prepare entry level social workers but it also means social workers having to maintain a level of professional development. The faculty has a really important role to play in that area. We have lots of really interesting research about collaboration and the changes to the status of the profession, which give us an opportunity to be more involved in rolling that research out into practice.

“The people I’ve talked to in the School of Counselling, Human Services and Social Work share my view of not being quite sure about what Oranga Tamariki [Ministry for Vulnerable Children] means to social work. We’d like to be thinking that Oranga Tamariki means an increase in the status of social work and greater respect for them. I guess being part of that conversation, being in there from the start is a really good place to be.”

Q5: What do you see as the challenges in the development of Māori medium education?

One the big challenges is having a sufficient pool of really well-prepared and qualified teachers to take the positions and to be able to push the boundaries of Māori medium education. It’s also just finding enough people who speak te reo to the level that you need to advance education in those areas – in terms of maths, science, English and the whole curriculum.

The challenge in that area is two-fold, first of all attracting good Māori students into ITE [Initial Teacher Education] and having them in schools as a teacher, but at the same time growing Māori academics who are able to educate the next generation of teachers and researchers.

That is a problem across of whole of the education sector because you want a mix of educationalists who go through to PhD but you want people coming out of practice and going into doctoral programmes and becoming part of the staff.

But there are also lots of opportunities in terms of policy development in ministries, so the schools are in competition for teachers if they are fluent Māori speakers, and they are a very small resource.

Having a strong home for Māori educators in the faculty is a great start but the challenge is how to keep them and keep them coming.

Q6: If you did a pepeha, what would you include about yourself?

“I’m an Aucklander, born and bred.  I’m an orphan – both my parents died ten years ago – which is a big thing in somebody’s life.  I’ve got three brothers whom I am very close to. I have a partner and a 27-year-old daughter who lives in London and doesn’t seem like she’s in a big hurry to come home soon. My partner works at the University as Director of Student Equity. We love fishing, walking and socialising with friends.”

“We have a couple of dogs; a one-year-old, incredibly energetic Jack Russel Terrier and a small malformed Dachshund who’s eight and a big slug, she hardly moves at all. The other major passion in my life is symphonic music. I used to play the cello in the orchestra, but have now dedicated myself to supporting the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra as trustee and by regularly attending concerts.”