225 schools veto national standards

JOHN HARTEVELT
Last updated 05:00 03/11/2010
STANDARD SIEGE: The Government's flagship education policy, national standards were set up as benchmarks for children aged 5 to 12 in reading, writing and maths.
Fairfax
STANDARD SIEGE: The Government's flagship education policy, national standards were set up as benchmarks for children aged 5 to 12 in reading, writing and maths.
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More than 225 school boards are withdrawing co-operation today over the national standards.

The Government has immediately labelled the boycott a "political action" led by a Labour Party member who stood to replace Helen Clark as Mt Albert MP.

Simon Mitchell, chairman of Balmoral School board of trustees in Auckland, said the standards were contrary to educational research and schools did not need or want them.

"We're basically saying that we're not going to do it next year," Mr Mitchell said.

"We're meant to do certain things next year and we're going to defer those and we're not going to provide the data that the ministry says we need to."

Mr Mitchell made a pitch to be Labour's candidate at the Mt Albert by-election last year. He has also spoken out against the National-led Government's 90-day probation employment bill.

"I'm not pretending I don't have a Labour Party background, but I'm also a parent and a chair of a board of trustees at a decile 9 school in Auckland.

"And I don't think there is any way that you can read the data and the research and not come to the conclusion that the national standards are not going to deliver to our kids what is being expected."

The national standards were implemented in all primary and intermediate schools this year. In the Government's flagship education policy, the standards were set up as benchmarks for children aged 5 to 12 in reading, writing and maths.

Mr Mitchell said the 225 schools withdrawing co-operation were spread around the country.

Among them were 29 from the Wellington region and 21 from Canterbury.

They would refuse to set targets against the standards for next year, as required by the Education Ministry. Instead, they would continue using their own data, which was more reliable.

Island Bay School board of trustees chairwoman Jane Forrest said the standards were "fundamentally flawed, confusing and unworkable" and the schools had no confidence in them.

A series of working groups to consider possible changes to the standards has been announced by the Government. It has also asked the Education Ministry to do an continuing three-year review.

The first report of the review, which was issued last month, found a third of principals felt the standards were of "minimal or no value" in communicating with families.

Acting Education Minister Tony Ryall said it was "very disappointing" that some children's education could suffer as a result of the action.

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"There is strong community support for national standards and it's disappointing some boards of trustees want to be part of a union agenda.

This is a political action by what appears to be less than 10 per cent of schools, which will upset parents and communities. Children should not be used in a political argument with the Government."

The Government had been reasonable, patient and accommodating over the policy, he said.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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