Schools rally against National Standards

Thirty-one primary and intermediate school boards of trustees in Otago and Southland have joined a group of nearly 300 boards nationwide which are "overwhelmingly committed" to defying compliance with the Ministry of Education's National Standards.

Last year, the group known as Boards Taking Action Coalition (BTAC) announced it would defer compliance with National Standards target setting.

School boards came under heavy pressure last November when they announced they would refuse to meet a January 31 deadline for lodging their school charters containing National Standards targets.

However, a survey of the schools in the coalition this week showed 95% of the schools have continued to refuse to comply with the ministry's directive, BTAC spokesman Perry Rush said.

"These schools say they have no confidence in the National Standards. Many are instead using trusted data to set achievement targets for their students."

A year on from the Government's "imposition" of National Standards in primary schools, many school communities had little faith in the rushed and flawed standards, he said.

Balaclava School principal and New Zealand Principals' Federation executive member Sally Direen said her board was one of 15 in Otago which had joined the coalition in a bid to add weight to its call on the Minister of Education, Anne Tolley, to show leadership in resolving their concerns.

There are about 120 boards of trustees in Otago at present.

Mrs Direen said the board and staff at her school were very proud of its high standards and proven achievement record, and had worked diligently to successfully implement the New Zealand Curriculum.

However, the National Standards as they were presently configured were not standards, she said.

There was a huge variation in judgements across the country because the standards were not well formulated.

Rather, they were targets children might or might not meet at specific ages, she said.

This was a major issue for education in New Zealand, because there was a huge gap between the standards and "real" pupil achievement.

"This means parents may get a report that claims their child is below standard when in fact they are not.

"I have taught for a long time and know many of my past students who have gone on to be very successful citizens who would have been labelled as failures against these National Standards.

"We talk about success here, not failure.

"We are concerned about the one-size-fits-all premise against which National Standards measure children."

Mrs Direen believed children were individuals who came into school at different stages, and developed and progressed at different rates.

"Until these concerns about National Standards are addressed, we will not set targets against them.

"We will, however, continue to use reliable assessment data to set our targets and to ensure all our children experience a high quality education."

Mrs Tolley said it was yet another petty protest and it was disappointing the group was not focusing on lifting the reading, writing and mathematics skills of children.

A sector advisory group made up of principals and education experts had been discussing concerns and had already made good progress, she said.

Boards Taking Action Coalition (BTAC) members in Otago:
• Balaclava School, Dunedin
• Bradford School, Dunedin
• College Street School, Dunedin
• Cromwell School, Cromwell
• Grants Braes School, Dunedin
• Green Island School, Dunedin
• Macandrew Intermediate School, Dunedin
• Musselburgh School, Dunedin
• North East Valley Normal School, Dunedin
• Pembroke School, Oamaru
• Sara Cohen School, Dunedin
• Tahuna Normal Intermediate School, Dunedin
• Waihola District School, Waihola
• Waitati School, Waitati
• Wanaka Primary School, Wanaka

Boards Taking Action Coalition (BTAC) members in Southland:
• Ascot Community School, Invercargill
• Bluff Community School, Invercargill
• Donovan Primary School, Invercargill
• East Gore School, Gore
• Fernworth Primary School, Invercargill
• Garston School, Garston
• Isla Bank School, Otautau
• Lumsden School, Lumsden
• New River Primary School, Invercargill
• Otautau School, Otautau
• Riversdale, Riversdale
• St Patrick's School, Invercargill
• Salford School, Invercargill
• Tisbury School, Invercargill
• Waverley Park School, Invercargill
• West Gore School, Gore





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