Schools 'must release data'

Education minister Hekia Parata has told Manawatu principals they must release their national standards data if asked for it.

Mrs Parata spoke to 120 of the region's principals at a principals' federation conference held at the Awapuni Racecourse function centre in Palmerston North yesterday.

She discussed the challenges facing New Zealand's education system, the need for improvement in students and the controversial national standards.

The Education Ministry is working on a report based on National Standards data - which includes numeracy and literacy - from schools. The tables, which are due out on September 30, would rank schools based on the results .

"One thing I can do is raise achievement," she said.

"I absolutely appreciate everything that you have done. We can't just keep doing all the same things. We have a national challenge, and standing still is falling behind. We cannot sit on these mythical laurels."

Mrs Parata said the way to raise achievement and improve childrens' education was through national standards data.

"We need all of our learners to be successful. Our learners and their parents need to know what's going on. I need to know where we're best at investing. We've got a system we can be proud of but no it's not OK where it is now. It needs to get better."

Lytton Street School principal Geoff Lovegrove asked Mrs Parata whether a school had to release its data to media. "It's hard for the board to know what to say," he said.

"Why the need for us as schools to supply it under the [Official Information Act]?"

Mrs Parata said all schools were required to release their data.

"New Zealand is an open and transparent democracy. They [schools] are required to release this information. You are public entities. [We will] not provide an analysis of schools data this year but a narration."

She said it would be releasing each school's data but it would not be producing a league table.

"We're just representing it [the data]. But the world, chicken lickens, hasn't fallen apart. It's not out to damage schools. I'm not bagging you."

The Manawatu Standard has requested national standards data from 64 schools and five of those have refused to hand over the information for reasons including the belief it was the Ministry's job to distribute the statistics, or that because they were a small school the data would be skewed.

Manawatu Standard