23 Oct 2009

Education groups shun national standards launch

8:49 pm on 23 October 2009

The Government launched its national standards policy for primary schools on Friday, but educational groups showed their disapproval by boycotting the event.

The policy measures pupils' achievement in reading writing and maths and schools will have to publicly report within two years how many of their students have reached the new standards.

Prime Minister John Key said implementing the standards in primary schools is one of the most important things the National Government will do.

Mr Key says as many as one in five pupils are being left behind in their education and need to be identified so they could get help. The standards would lift achievement levels and give parents plain reporting on their child's progress.

The Ministry of Education says school boards of trustees will have to show in their annual reports how many students are at, above, below or well below the standards. The measures apply from 2011.

Radio New Zealand's education correspondent reports it wasn't the most auspicious beginning, as principal and teacher groups shunned the launch.

Mr Key downplayed the boycott, saying it was predictable but disappointing.

"This is going to be one of the single most important initiatives we can take to improve the literacy and numeracy of skills of young New Zealanders and therefore the opportunities of our future New Zealanders," he said.

"I think it's critically important that all parts of the education sector embrace it."

But that seems unlikely in the short term, with education groups continuing to express disappointment.

And in a further vote of no-confidence in the standards, one of New Zealand's leading assessment specialists, lauded by the Prime Minister at the launch, expressed serious reservations about the national standards policy.

Mr Key said he had sought the views of John Hattie about how to improve children's education.

But Professor Hattie, who attended the launch, said he is very nervous about the introduction of standards and the policy should come with a self-destruct button.

"I certainly take the view that if we get the implementation of these national standards wrong, the system that we have which is at the top of the world will go backwards."

Professor Hattie says there should be an independent inquiry into the standards after two years and they should be thrown out if they are having a negative effect on children's learning.

Standards unsound, say educational groups

Teacher and principal groups say the new national standards are educationally unsound and believe they will lead to league tables, which rank schools.

The Principals Federation said the release of the national standards information is extremely disappointing.

President Ernie Buutveld said the final version of the standards shows the Government had not taken heed of the concerns of many schools.