In South Canterbury, about a quarter of primary school students are struggling with their reading and their maths. In writing it's nearly a third.
The figures are slightly better than the national averages, the operative word being slightly.
Conversely, a third here are above the standard expected in reading, about one in five are ahead in maths and slightly fewer than that in writing.
How do we know all this? Through the collection of national standards data by Fairfax Media, of which The Timaru Herald is a part. The Education Ministry will release its own version of the information next week.
And what is available is a statistician's dream, and, seemingly, a principal's nightmare.
So, is the information valuable, or not?
If my children were still at primary school, I'd welcome it. I'd know of course if my child was performing poorly in writing, because the teacher would have told me, but I probably wouldn't know that a third of his classmates were as well. Nor how MY school compared nationally.
And with that information, I'd be able to ask some more informed questions. Questions I wouldn't have been able to ask before. And I might well receive some perfectly good explanations. And I might not.
It's worthwhile information surely to know how many students are struggling, information that schools could use to argue for more resources rather than assume the Government will use the figures as a big stick.
But teachers are wary of governments, especially those dressed in blue.
Opponents of the collation of national standards data do raise some valid concerns.
There are wide variations apparently in how each school interprets and collates the information; national standards are but one measuring tool that can't be used in isolation; and parents will start to compare one school against another which, they say, is simply unfair.
But at least this gives us something by which to see trends, to set targets, to improve students' learning. And yes, drama and art and sports are important, but reading, writing and maths are core subjects.
Lag behind in those at primary school and you could be in trouble later on.
Let's be positive about this data. Find the schools that are excelling and find out why. Then spread the word.
- © Fairfax NZ News