26 Jun 2010

Principals warn standards boycott may spread

10:26 pm on 26 June 2010

School principals expect more of their regional associations will take action against the Government's national standards in reading, writing and maths.

They say they are encouraged by the Auckland Primary Principals Association, which has recommended its members do not attend national standards training.

The association says the standards are flawed and the training is confusing.

Canterbury Primary Principals Association president Denise Torrey says her members have a similar view.

Principals in Northland, Rotorua, Manawatu and Invercargill also say Auckland's view is widely shared.

Education Minister Anne Tolley says schools are "grandstanding" and educators should talk to her and the Ministry of Education instead of taking action. She describes a boycott as "really stupid."

Teachers vital - professor

A professor who advised the Goverment on national standards in reading, writing and maths, says they are doomed to fail unless teachers can be convinced of their usefulness.

Professor John Hattie from Auckland University says national standards will be most useful if they focus on children's progress, and should never be used as public league tables to rank schools against each other.

"I sincerely hope that we don't get into the silly situation where we're inventing another way to help real estate agents sell houses, as opposed to trying to improve the quality of schooling."

He says children of similar ability are likely to achieve the same, no matter which school they attend.

Standards useful tool - principal

However a Wellington principal says schools that boycott the Government's national standards are missing out on a useful tool that benefits teachers and children.

Otari School principal Clifford Wicks says teachers at his school are finding the standards useful for pinpointing how individual students are doing.

While there is a wide range of opinion among his colleagues, he says most schools are just getting on with it, despite the tight timeframe.

Mr Wicks says he would be concerned if the results came to be seen as some kind of ranking system or league tables for schools.

However, he says the sector will have to address that if and when it happens, and meanwhile, it would be a shame if schools did not take advantage of the tool.