Labour to ease hated education measure

CLASSROOM CONCERNS: Labour's education spokeswoman Sue Moroney talks to  Timaru primary school principals about the party's education policies.
CLASSROOM CONCERNS: Labour's education spokeswoman Sue Moroney talks to Timaru primary school principals about the party's education policies.

Timaru principals say they will consider dropping national standards if Labour wins the election.

Labour's education spokeswoman Sue Moroney was in Timaru yesterday talking to primary school principals about her party's education policies, including the plan to make national standards optional.

National standards for children aged five to 12 in reading, writing and maths were introduced in schools last year.

The standards have been criticised by most Timaru principals from the start.

Five principals attended the meeting with Ms Moroney and Labour's Rangitata candidate Julian Blanchard to voice their concerns and ask questions about Labour's plans.

Ms Moroney said under Labour, schools would not be forced to implement the standards.

"We're keeping the parts of it that we think have some merit," she said.

Schools would be required to report, in plain language, on a child's performance against the New Zealand curriculum, but could opt to use the standards as one of their assessment tools.

Timaru principals told the Herald they would drop the standards if they had the choice.

Gleniti School principal Paul Gill said he would do that for several reasons.

"National standards don't tell the whole story about children and schools. They are focused too narrowly only on the three Rs and threaten to limit the very richly diverse New Zealand curriculum of which we are all proud.

"National standards are set at an unrealistic level for most children ... [and] the Minister's [Anne Tolley's] expectation that all schools will have a `national standards annual charter target' contradicts a school's ability to self-manage."

Beaconsfield School principal Wayne Facer said he would remove the standards from his school unless some legislation remained around it, as it would then be a matter for the board.

Bluestone School principal Ian Poulter said it would be up to the board to consider dropping the standards.

"From a personal point of view, national standards are not proving to benefit student achievement and therefore there would be some concerns that need to be addressed," Mr Poulter said.

Oceanview Heights School principal Jenny Langley also said it would be a decision for the board.

"My initial reaction is that their proposed approach acknowledges that all children learn at different rates and in different ways, and that this would allow schools to determine where each child is at in their individual academic development process," she said.

Mr Blanchard criticised Rangitata MP Jo Goodhew's lack of action over national standards, saying people in the education sector were frustrated that Mrs Goodhew was not listening to their views.

"She should know about this issue. She should know how unpopular it is," he said.

Mrs Goodhew said she had visited every school in her electorate and forwarded questions onto Mrs Tolley's office. She had organised for Mrs Tolley to meet principals last year.

"I believe that I have been out there seeking feedback and accepting feedback ... but I've also had good feedback about national standards, not only from schools, but also from parents."

When asked what concerns she had heard of, Mrs Goodhew said: "In the early stages there were concerns about professional development ... I just deal with [the concerns] at the time, I don't keep a list of them.

"I know that this has been a process that many wished had been trialled but I believe that getting on with it and making a difference was the way to go."

The Timaru Herald