Hunterville School head making a move
If you want to wind up Stephen Lewis, there are just two magic words: National standards.
But there are two other words that’ll cheer him up no end: Tomorrow’s Schools.
After 23 years at the helm of Hunterville School, Lewis is moving on to a job with the Education Ministry in Palmerston North.
A teacher since 1981 - a time he remembers clearly because it was also the year of the Springbok tour - the experience the 58-yearold has accumulated well informs the views he now holds on landmark education issues like national standards and Tomorrow’s Schools.
He freely admits he could talk all day about the effect national standards have had on the country’s education - none of them good.
National standards, he insists, pit schools against each other and with their emphasis on the likes of league tables ignore vital variables such as the economic circumstances kids come from.
So, as he puts it, ‘‘the flash private schools get to pick the cream of the crop so they’ll look good’’.
You might say they’re ‘‘doomed to success’’ while state schools like Hunterville Primary get on with shaping all the young who come their way from the community in which they thrive, he said.
If you want to measure success, then consider this, he says: In all his years at the school, only two kids were excluded.
Tomorrow’s School’s - introduced in the late 1980s when Prime Minister David Lange was also education minister - put power where it belongs: with the schools and the parents of the kids who attend them.
Before, schools had little autonomy, as key things like budgets and teachers were imposed on them by external authority. After, all that changed, said Lewis.
‘‘I think the biggest thing was that schools could appoint the teachers they wanted.’’
Lewis said parental support and the stability of key staff ‘‘made’’ his job at Hunterville.
Among the five longest-serving staff he first told of his decision to go were, perhaps, the usual suspects, but plus caretaker Harry Matson.
Those are the kind of relationships you build in communities like Hunterville, he suggests.
At times an ‘‘all-consuming’’ job, he’ll miss the ‘‘really fantastic’’ kids though, Lewis said.
Hunterville School head Stephen Lewis is on the move.