Schools dig in on stan­dards

Kapi-Mana News - - FRONT PAGE - By KRIS DANDO

Talk of com­mis­sion­ers and sanc­tions do not faze a group of Porirua school prin­ci­pals, who con­tinue to speak out against na­tional stan­dards.

About 200 schools from across New Zealand, and 45 from the Welling­ton re­gion, de­fi­antly sub­mit­ted school char­ters with­out ref­er­ence to na­tional stan­dards be­fore the July 1 cut­off.

It is the first time a gov­ern­ment has im­posed a dead­line, as schools nor­mally have un­til the end of the school year to sub­mit their char­ters.

In Porirua, prin­ci­pals at Ti­tahi Bay North, Holy Fam­ily and Corinna, among oth­ers, have been vo­cal in their re­sis­tance to the stan­dards, which set uni­form tar­gets for pri­mary and in­ter­me­di­ate stu­dents in read­ing, writ­ing and maths.

All three schools put in their char­ters ear­lier this year, with­out ref­er­ence to na­tional stan­dards.

‘‘There are a num­ber of us who have signed up to BTAC [Boards Tak­ing Ac­tion Coali­tion], which has a large num­ber of schools in this re­gion on board,’’ Holy Fam­ily’s Karl Vasau said.

‘‘We don’t like the way the gov­ern­ment is go­ing about im­ple­ment­ing them and send­ing through data in the way they want sends the wrong pic­ture about the ed­u­ca­tion a child is re­ceiv­ing. There’s no way to mea­sure value added and it can lead to a school be­ing mea­sured un­fairly.’’

The ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor union NZEI Te Riu Roa said last week the stan­dards are ‘‘fuzzy, con­fus­ing and hastily-de­vel­oped’’ and the is­sue over the charter’s dead­line is ‘‘heavy-handed’’.

NZEI pres­i­dent Ian Leckie said hun­dreds of schools are com­ply­ing out of fear of hav­ing their boards sacked, but will stick to ‘‘the trusted and ev­i­dence-based as­sess­ment data they have al­ways used’’.

Corinna prin­ci­pal Michele Whit­ing said the Na­tional Stan­dards Sec­tor Ad­vi­sory Group, set up by Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Anne Tol­ley last year, has rec­om­mended a re­view of the stan­dards.

‘‘We want to know is the Min­is­ter go­ing to lis­ten to that ad­vice?’’

She said many of the schools that do com­ply are not likely to be sub­mit­ting ac­cu­rate data, a view backed up by Ti­tahi Bay North prin­ci­pal Steven Cald­well.

‘‘I know of schools who are go­ing to give ‘junk data’ to keep the min­istry happy, but it’s not go­ing to tell us where stu­dents are at. The as­sess­ment I’m do­ing right now is re­li­able and I’m in for a scrap against these stan­dards. I’m not against the con­cept but these are poorly thought out. I don’t want our kids to be la­belled as fail­ures from five [years old], but this is what will hap­pen.’’

Mr Cald­well ad­mit­ted on­go­ing dis­cus­sions with the min­istry over the is­sue had been ‘‘dif­fi­cult’’ and he was happy to be part of the BTAC group. He felt right now there was ‘‘a calm be­fore a storm’’.

Ms Tol­ley says un­der­achieve­ment was be­ing ad­dressed through the stan­dards and most schools she has spo­ken to are in sup­port. The Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion says it has con­sid­ered the char­ters of 1300 schools, and 87 per cent have in­cluded tar­gets based on the stan­dards.

It has been widely re­ported that in­ter­ven­tion is an op­tion if schools do not im­ple­ment them, with com­mis­sion­ers pos­si­bly used to en­sure they are car­ried out. Spe­cial re­views from the Ed­u­ca­tion Re­view Of­fice and loss of ac­cess to teacher train­ing could oc­cur.

All the prin­ci­pals Kapi-Mana News spoke to said, de­spite the de­bate and me­dia at­ten­tion, it is busi­ness as usual, with the suc­cess of their school’s chil­dren at the heart of all they are do­ing. Some may re­view us­ing na­tional stan­dards at year’s end.

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