At least 140 primary schools have broken the law by not including national standards targets in their charters – but several others have buckled after being threatened with losing their funding.
Yesterday was the last day for schools to hand in their school charters, which outline achievement targets for the year. Including national standards targets is a legal requirement.
At the 11th hour, Taikura Rudolf Steiner School sent in its charter with "minimal compliance" after being threatened with losing its status as an integrated school. The Government funds the operational cost of integrated schools.
The New Zealand Federation of Rudolf Steiner Waldorf Schools was sent a letter by Education Minister Anne Tolley last month stating: "If the proprietors wish the Steiner schools to remain integrated, I expect the boards to submit their charters ... [with] targets in relation to national standards."
National standards, which set uniform assessment and achievement standards for primary and intermediate pupils, have been controversial since their introduction last year. Critics say they were rushed in and could have damaging impacts on the confidence of pupils who do not meet the standard.
Taikura School assistant principal Anne Evans said the school handed in its charter under "great duress" and sent an accompanying letter expressing distress.
"De-integration is not an option ... this education needs to be available to all who want it, not just those who have the means to buy it."
The philosophy of Steiner schools is for pupils to learn at their own pace and Taikura School does not start until year 2, which means younger children tend not to fare well under national standards.
The school was placed in the moral dilemma of complying with a policy it did not agree with in order to survive, Mrs Evans said.
Although the school was uncertain how it would undertake its obligations as proposed under the school charter, "we will not put our children in situations where they're labelled as failures".
Wellington's Raphael House Steiner School also followed suit and principal and federation spokeswoman Karen Brice-Geard said all eight integrated Steiner schools had also done so.
Mrs Tolley said integrated Steiner schools chose to receive funding rather than be private.
"I made it clear to them that the national curriculum, and national standards, are not optional for schools receiving taxpayer funding."
Children in such schools deserved the "best possible state education" and the ministry had been working alongside the schools to examine how they could implement national standards alongside their special character.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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