First year of National Standards effectively a trial: Key

Prime Minister John Key used a visit to a school with a "special friend", Australian leader Julia Gillard, to acknowledge National Standards had not gone as smoothly as planned.

He was at Glen Taylor School, in Glendowie - where he first launched the flagship National Standards policy - when he said the first year had effectively been a "trial".

There had been "teething problems" around the moderation between schools, he said.

Put simply, that means different schools are interpreting the the standards differently.

It is a subject close to the heart of Julia Gillard.

As former education minister, she fought the teacher unions - and won - over the establishment of the MySchool website. It gives Australian parents hard data on the relative performance of schools using national testing.

Even National's standards on numeracy and literacy for primary schools does not go that far.

Mr Key mentioned the National Standards during the powhiri for Ms Gillard and acknowledged it was taking time to adjust.

Later he told reporters there had been difficulty around moderation and that had recently been acknowledged to teacher unions.

"It's one of the reasons why the first year for all intents and purposes was a trial - because that data wasn't released publicly."

But there was no backing away from the policy.

Like any any system, such as NCEA, it would take some time to bed down "but we think the long-term gains will be that all New Zealanders have a greater opportunity to enjoy a better education", he said.

It was a very Kiwi welcome for the Australian PM, with children from a ukulele group accompanying children in the choir on Hoki Mai for the waiata.

Mr Key told the school he had chosen them to bring "my special friend Julia" and "New Zealand's special friend" because they had done incredibly well in lifting their performance.

Ms Gillard spoke after the powhiri before opting for audience participation.

She asked the choir and ukulele club what they wanted to do when they left school.

The first boy with his hand up thought she meant after school yesterday, and said "go home and sleep".

The answer she was looking for was slightly more aspirational - architect, engineer, teacher - and half a dozen wanted to be prime minister of New Zealand.

"Don't encourage them too early," Mr Key said.

"I'm just settling into the job."

After visiting room one with Mr Key, signing the plaster cast of a girl who broke her leg running on the concrete at the Parnell baths, and playing with the school's pet tortoise, Alegra, Ms Gillard presented the school with a pile of books, including one titled Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, which summed up the bilateral atmospherics rather nicely.


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