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Principals unimpressed by statistics

LOUISE BERWICK
Last updated 05:00 25/07/2014
Waverley Park School principal Kerry Hawkins
Fairfax NZ
Waverley Park School principal Kerry Hawkins

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Southland schools are achieving top results according to new data but principals are not giving any credit to national standards.

Data released yesterday by the Ministry of Education breaks down 2013 national standard data by regions, showing Southland increased across the board in mathematics, reading and writing.

But Southern principals were unimpressed by the figures, which they say mean little to them.

Waverley Park School principal Kerry Hawkins said the release of the data was a political game.

"This excites the politicians but nobody else. It's their game. It was never ever really about student achievement; if you want to impact on that, you have got to impact on child poverty."

However, the Government has praised the statistics and Education Minister Hekia Parata said the use of information was paying off as it identified children who were not doing as well as the Government wanted.

"Parents and schools never used to have this sort of very specific information, and now they're using it to make sure that the kids get what they need when they need it."

Hawkins said he was unlikely to even look at the figures, saying they were not a fair representation of the wide range of abilities students had and were capable of achieving.

A child may already be trying their hardest at a topic but were labelled as underachieving, which upset parents and children, he said.

"Ask any parent with two kids. They'll tell you they are different."

His sentiment was echoed by principals throughout the region.

Riverton Primary School principal Pam Fleck said schools in the region had consistently worked hard to raise achievement long before national standards.

"I don't attribute any of it to national standards."

The data was not representative of student achievement and needed to be more robust, she said.

"I don't believe the data is robust when you are comparing school to school."

Data comparison also irked Peter Forde, who is the principal at Sacred Heart School.

He said the increases in student achievement could be because schools were using the data better.

"There is a long way to go with posting data online," he said.

"Until there is proper cross-school moderation, it's still just a figure."

Mataura School principal Susan Dennison said there were major inconsistencies across the country with the data but it did provide some help when children changed schools.

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At Mataura School, where the school population was highly transient, it gave teachers "a small snapshot" of what they were capable of when they arrived.

"It gives us a quicker overview of what they are coming in with."

Fifteen of the 16 regions had increases in achievement against national standards from 2011 to 2013, including gains for Maori students in 14 of the 16 areas.

Otago was the highest-rating province and Northland the lowest. louise.berwick@stl.co.nz

BY THE NUMBERS SOUTHLAND

Reading: 81.2 per cent at or above national standards

Mathematics: 76.3 per cent at or above national standards

Writing: 71.7 per cent at or above national standards

OTAGO

Reading: 83.6 per cent at or above national standards

Mathematics: 78.9 per cent at or above national standards

Writing: 76.4 per cent at or above national standards 

- The Southland Times

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