Tamariki School could get statutory manager

A Christchurch school's board of trustees that refuses to implement the Government's controversial national standards risks having its powers pared back by the Ministry of Education.

Tamariki School, a small special character school in Woolston, received a letter this week stating that the Ministry of Education was recommending to the minister, Hekia Parata, that a limited statutory manager be appointed.

The school launched a fundraising campaign in April to fight the ministry against national standards - a policy it sees as compromising its special character. It was one of 25 schools found refusing any kind of national standards reporting in a list compiled by the Education Review Office (ERO) last year.

Tamariki School board chairwoman Dee Gibbons confirmed the letter said the ministry was recommending that a limited statutory manager work with the 41-pupil school.

While its national standards stance had never been given as a direct reason, it was one of many areas it was working with the ministry on.

A limited statutory manager is someone assigned by the ministry, at the school's expense, to work on aspects of the school board's governance role because of risks to the operation of the school, or the welfare or educational performance of the pupils.

Parts of the board's responsibilities are temporarily removed and vested solely in the ministry representative.

A Ministry of Education spokesman said an ERO report on Tamariki School found learning was at risk and additional support in financial management and student achievement was needed.

"On the basis of that report, the Ministry is considering recommending a limited statutory manager be appointed to ensure students are able to learn and achieve." But he denied the intervention was triggered by the school's stance on national standards.

Principals' Federation president Phil Harding said it was a concern if schools were receiving ministry backlash for refusing to comply with national standards, especially if effective boards of trustees were stood down for Government policy reasons.

"Any school that tried to stand up to this policy has been given a very clear message that it's not acceptable. I know from some conversations that it has happened.

"It's when it is done to an effective board and effective principal because of the position they are taking that we get twitchy and unhappy."

Meanwhile, teacher unions have launched a campaign to boycott the trial of a computerised national standards assessment tool.

Progress and Consistency Tool, which the teacher unions believe the Government is gearing to make mandatory for all schools by 2015.

It could be used to introduce performance pay that could see teachers paid according to their pupils' achievement levels.

By ceasing their involvement, schools had the ability to slow down the development of national standards, Harding said.

STANDARDS ROWWhat are National Standards?

According to the Ministry of Education, national standards in reading, writing, and maths show what all New Zealand children are expected to be able to do by the end of each stage during Years 1-8, as part of what they learn at school.

From 2010, schools were required to report to families in writing at least twice a year on their child's progress and achievement in reading, writing and mathematics, in relation to national standards.

The Press