Council wades in on schools’ Nat Standards debate
National Standards in schools was brought into sharp focus last week by Porirua City councillors who supported a motion requesting more discussion over the controversial issue.
A deputation before last Wednesday’s meeting of the full council saw Porirua principals Karl Vasau (Holy Family) and Michele Whiting (Corinna) make a plea for councillors to support the motion put forward by councillors Litea Ah Hoi and Wayne Poutoa.
It called for Education Minister Anne Tolley to talk further with schools over implementing the standards, which will measure students from next year.
Ms Whiting said six schools in Porirua were part of a 280-strong nationwide group that had no confidence in the ‘‘target-setting’’ that the national standards require, although there were ‘‘ many more’’ schools locally that were staying quiet at this stage.
‘‘ We are already planning and reporting [how children are faring in class]. It does not make sense to be spending millions of dollars on something that will label students as failures. There needs to be a more positive policy towards improving education and raising achievement levels for Maori and Pacific Island children,’’ she said.
While Ken Douglas had a concern that this was an ‘‘industrial issue’’ between two groups. He was one of 10 councillors, including mayor Nick Leggett, who supported the motion. Tim Sheppard and Euon Murrell voted against it.
Mr Sheppard said it was a ‘‘ core central Government issue’’ that PCC should not be involved in, while Mr Murrell said ‘‘you have to start somewhere’’ when it comes to improving literacy and numeracy rates at primary level.
‘‘National Standards will endeavour to raise these rates. Whatever changes you make, there will always be people who object and I think its naive to think this government will not be talking to schools.’’
Ms Ah Hoi, in reply to Mr Sheppard, said the precedent had in fact been set, when PCC waded into the smacking debate in 2006. This was about more than politics, she said.
‘‘We need to be putting politics aside, this is about our children. The motion is asking this council to help continue the discussion. This is not about a boycott but better communication with the ministry. We know the past system is not working but National Standards are not going to work for our kids.’’
Mr Poutoa, believed truancy levels would ‘‘skyrocket’’ under national standards.
New Zealand Educational Institute president Frances Nelson congratulated PCC on its stance, responding to ‘‘deep community concerns’’. She hoped it would lead to other councils taking similar action.
‘‘This is the first time we have seen a local body stand up on behalf of its community, to send the Government a clear message that it needs to engage with the school sector over the growing disquiet about National Standards.’’
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