3 Nov 2010

Schools against national standards risk sanctions

4:55 pm on 3 November 2010

Schools that announced their opposition to the Government's national standards in reading, writing and maths on Wednesday are to face special reviews by the Education Review Office and loss of access to teacher training.

The measures are outlined in documents obtained by Radio New Zealand News under the Official Information Act.

More than 225 school boards of trustees have called for a moratorium on the national standards.

The boards, which represent more than 10% of primary and intermediate schools, also say they will defy a request to tell the Ministry of Education in February their targets for the standards.

Documents obtained show where boards of trustees are blocking the standards, the ministry will consider ordering the ERO to review their schools.

The schools could then lose access to government-funded professional development and face interventions such as the appointment of limited statutory managers.

The final step would be to replace the boards with commissioners.

On Wednesday, Education Ministry staff began telephoning the boards to find out why they are opposed. It says the rebel boards do not fully understand the national standards and is calling them to offer advice and support.

But the boards say suggestions that they lack information or are challenged by change are patronising and untrue. They say they have done their homework and the national standards are flawed.

Action 'not taken lightly'

The school boards believe the standards will be damaging for students and a waste of time for school staff and want the Government to halt their implementation and revise them.

The chairman of the board of trustees at Balmoral School in Auckland, Simon Mitchell, says the action has not been taken lightly.

"We have seen no data or information that convinces us that national standards will achieve anything for the kids that attend our schools," he says, "while at the same time we've seen a lot of information that tells us very clearly that national standards will be bad for the kids at our schools."

Boards have been quiet about the standards up to now, Mr Mitchell says, but it has reached a point where they must make decisions.

Acting minister disappointed

Acting Education Minister Tony Ryall says he is disappointed with the boards, but the principal of Wellington's Island Bay School, Perry Rush, told Morning Report that there are real and critical concerns about the standards, which don't properly reflect student achievement.

Mr Rush, who says he expects many more schools to join the boycott, is pleading with the minister to listen to take the concerns seriously.

Still work to do, says ministry

The Ministry of Education says it still has work to do to convince schools that the standards will provide children with the best possible education.

The ministry's national standards manager, Mary Chamberlain, told Morning Report it has the statutory powers to force the schools to implement the standards.

But the ministry would not use those powers lightly, she says, preferring to listen to the schools' concerns and helping them to understand how to use the new standards.