Hun­ter­ville School head mak­ing a move

Feilding-Rangitikei Herald - - Taihape - ALIS­TER BROWNE

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.

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