150,000 pupils 'failing at school'

Up to 150,000 pupils are failing at school and thousands of teachers may not have the professional skills needed to lead classrooms, a parliamentary report suggests.

Its findings were released yesterday after a two-year inquiry into the schooling system by the education and science select committee.

The report urges the Education Ministry to investigate how bullying affects pupils' academic performance, amid an apparent increase in disruptive behaviour at schools. It also claims the ministry is not ensuring children who are kicked out of school continue to get an education.

Thousands of children drop out without basic literacy and numeracy skills each year, or with no formal qualifications. The gulf between the brightest and worst pupils is big, compared to other countries.

The inquiry was sparked by a 2005 Education Review Office report suggesting that one in five pupils was failing.

The committee could not quantify the number of under-achieving pupils, but said it was about 10 to 20 per cent of the 750,000 national school population.

The report makes a swath of recommendations to lift the performance of at-risk pupils and ensure New Zealand sustains an internationally competitive economy.

They include:

Withholding registration for teachers who cannot consistently raise pupils' achievement after two years in classrooms.

Making teacher training schools guarantee that graduates are capable of managing pupils.

Ensuring pupils expelled for misconduct are immediately re-enrolled with other education providers.

Providing more alternative education options for children who do not suit mainstream schooling.

Setting up health and support services on-site at schools.

Education Minister Chris Carter said he needed to consider the report, but many of its recommendations had been implemented.

The Post Primary Teachers Association labelled the report "cosmically irrelevant" and said it practically ignored the critical issue of resourcing.

"It's the same tired old stuff," union president Robin Duff said.

"Teachers are told they need to do certain things and they do the best they can with what they have, then they get slapped over the wrist and told they have to do more."

Teachers Council director Peter Lind said the report did not signal major problems with the quality of teachers. Though they were a critical part of the education system, it was unfair to single out teachers when research showed the main factors influencing a child's schooling success were their background and home environment.

Criteria by which provisional teachers were assessed for full registration after two years already included how well they promoted learning and engaged pupils. The criteria were currently being reviewed, as was the quality of initial teacher education.


The Dominion Post