Schools across NZ join forces

Thirty-three Otago and Southland primary schools will be among more than 300 nationwide which will defy the Government's National Standards policy tomorrow in what is expected to be the most visual rebellion so far.

However, Education Minister Anne Tolley has warned principals if they continue to disobey the law, statutory intervention could be an option.

Representatives from the 17 Otago and 16 Southland primary schools are expected to gather outside the Ministry of Education offices in Moray Pl, Dunedin and in Forth St, Invercargill at 10am to hand-deliver their school charters without National Standards targets.

The schools, members of the Boards Taking Action Coalition, have instead set targets using existing and reliable achievement data. Coalition Otago co-spokeswoman and Macandrew Intermediate School board of trustees chairwoman Ernie Mather said there were serious issues with the standards' reliability.

"The coalition's view is that target-setting using the standards is unsafe and unfair to students and their learning.

Any data made publicly available from these standards will be invalid.

"We are choosing instead to set targets for our students using trusted and reliable data, and including clear school expectations in our charters based on what is appropriate and defensible."

Mrs Mather said New Zealand was in the top four countries in the world for pupil achievement.

"What we need is to focus resources on the children we already know are at risk - not sink more money into standards that are fuzzy and unreliable and lead to the labelling of children as failures.

"Schools shouldn't be made to implement unsound educational policy."

Excellent evidence-based pupil-assessment tools already existed and were widely used by schools to help identify children needing additional help.

She believed National Standards were an unnecessary duplication and waste of financial and personnel resources which could be used to help schools with interventions directed at specific pupils.

The number of schools supporting the coalition despite the Government's punitive approach was a clear indication their concerns could not simply be dismissed or ignored, she said.

Members of the coalition are urging Mrs Tolley to reverse the policy and take a more productive and inclusive approach with schools to boost pupil achievement.

Mrs Tolley said the vast majority of schools were implementing the standards and had submitted legal charters with targets against the standards.

"Children are going to suffer as a result of silly political stunts like this. These schools are going to miss out on valuable resources for children who are struggling, and schools are going to have to answer to their communities."

Mrs Tolley said the ministry was addressing the protest.

"We want to work with these schools, but if principals continue to disobey the law then statutory intervention is an option.

"Surely their time would be better served addressing the shocking statistic that up to one in five children are leaving school without the reading, writing and maths skills they need."


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