The New Zealand Herald

College credits success to refusal to stream


An Auckland high school says its students’ top marks in national tests are partly because it refuses to stream them into top, middle and bottom classes.

Official data out yesterday shows 77 per cent of Year 13 students at decile 8 Western Springs College gained University Entrance (UE) at the end of last year, compared with an average of 66 per cent across all decile 8 to 10 schools.

And 71 per cent of both Maori and Pacific students at Western Springs achieved UE, compared with only 56 per cent of Maori and 55 per cent of Pasifika students across all schools in those top three deciles.

Asked to explain, deputy principal Ruth Roberts said: “One of the most important things is no streaming. We haven’t had it for 30 years.

“We are not prejudging, ‘You are a brilliant child, you are a child that struggles.’ They can shine in some areas and struggle in others.”

Education professor John Hattie last year blamed streaming for New Zealand’s decline in the Programme for Internatio­nal Students Assessment (Pisa). Maths scores dropped by more than any other developed nation’s from 2000 to 2015, and reading and science scores also fell more than most countries’.

Hattie said too many schools took the easy road of shunting weaker students out of the “hard” subjects.

At Western Springs, Roberts said almost all courses led to UE, which is awarded based on Level 3 credits in the National Certificat­e of Educationa­l Achievemen­t in a restricted list of academic subjects, including credits in literacy and numeracy.

She said the above-average results for Maori were partly due to a unique “co-governance” structure, with about 240 of the 320 Maori students enrolled in a Maorilangu­age “school within a school”, Nga Puna o Waiorea.

Its principal Chris Selwyn said the school worked with each student to create an “individual­ised pathway” and to make learning relevant to students’ lives.

Pass rates for Pasifika students — only 7 per cent of the roll — fluctuate because of the small number with no clear trend. — Simon Collins

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