Schools 'not secret societies, information is public'

JONATHAN CARSON
Last updated 14:20 28/09/2012

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Schools are not "secret societies" and what happens within the classroom is public information, Education Minister Hekia Parata says.

Her call for schools to be open to scrutiny comes as the Government releases its full set of national standards results from about 2000 primary and intermediate schools across the country today.

The data will be published on the Education Ministry's Education Counts website alongside schools' annual and Education Review Office reports.

The Waikato Times and Stuff.co.nzreleased an incomplete set of national standards data on their new school report website on Saturday.

Ms Parata was in Hamilton yesterday meeting with about 40 principals and school staff to address concerns about national standards, performance-based pay and the "shambolic" Novopay payroll system.

The public release of national standards results remains a "contentious" issue for Waikato principals, chiefly because the information is unmoderated and inconsistent between schools, and it allows parents to make "misleading" comparisons.

However, Ms Parata said principals needed to realise that what happened within schools should not be shrouded in secrecy.

"Schools are Crown entities at law.

"They are publicly funded to deliver the public responsibility of delivering education, the information related to that is public information.

"They are not a secret society. What they do there should be known, first and foremost to their own school community, but our interest as a government is to understand across the system what the status is and that's what national standards gives us at a system level."

Deanwell School principal Pat Poland, who hosted the meeting with Ms Parata, said he could see no benefits in making the information public.

"International research shows it's counter-productive," he said. "The national standards, if they're used properly by the ministry to help schools improve, I don't have any problem with that, but the publication of the data is misinforming parents and it's not helpful for parents."

However, Ms Parata said there was a five-year plan to improve the data and how schools reported on the standards.

"The point of national standards isn't to once a year publish it, it's in the classroom as the assessments are done, understanding what that's telling [schools] and changing what's needed to be changed to get a better outcome."

The trends identified in the national standards results show boys are trailing girls and Maori and Pasifika students are over-represented among those who are below expected levels.

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About three-quarters of students are at or above standards for reading and maths, and slightly less in writing.

The incomplete results for close to 100 Waikato schools showed that they were slightly behind the national average for reading, writing and maths across the board.

- Waikato Times

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