Ministry punishes school

Pembroke School pupils pictured with their principal Brent Godfery yesterday. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Pembroke School pupils pictured with their principal Brent Godfery yesterday. Photo by Craig Baxter.
A North Otago primary school has become the first in Otago to be publicly punished for non-compliance with the Ministry of Education's National Standards.

Pembroke School, in Oamaru, was to have hosted a Pacifika Fono (meeting) last Friday.

But the day before, the Board of Trustees chairwoman, Jayne Jopson, was told by the ministry the school's annual charter did not comply with legislative requirements as it did not include National Standards targets.

The ministry wanted to meet the board to change the wording of the charter so it became compliant.

"We were then told if we did not, the ministry could no longer work with Pembroke School because we weren't following the rules," principal Brent Godfery said.

An email to the school board from Otago Southland education curriculum and performance senior adviser Lynn McKinney said the ministry was concerned it would not be appropriate to hold the Pasifika Fono at a school which was refusing to comply with legislative requirements.

Mr Godfery had been working with the ministry's offices in Dunedin and Christchurch since May to organise the fono for eight Oamaru schools with a significant Pacifika roll, which is designed to get Pacific Island parents more proactive in their children's education. One of the issues to be discussed at the fono was National Standards.

Mr Godfery said eight schools - kindergarten through to secondary schools in Oamaru - were to have participated.

The school had since been told the fono would be held in a commercial complex.

An agreement for the ministry to pay the home and school committee to do the catering for the fono as a fundraiser had been rescinded, Mr Godfery said.

"Remember, this is a community event, not a Pembroke School event. Once again, the ministry has decided to put policy in front of student achievement."

Pembroke School is one of a growing number of primary and intermediate schools across the country which have taken a stance against National Standards because they believe they will be harmful to the education of their pupils in the long term.

Mr Godfery said Pembroke School had a significant roll of pupils for whom English was their second language.

"They are meant to be measured and labelled against these English standards.

"This is not fair.

"The issue of not working with our school in the interest of our Pacific students - one of the identified areas of concern - is pathetic.

"This decision has come from Wellington, but I can't get anyone to say who made the decision. The community has been put out by this ridiculous decision," Mr Godfery said.

Ministry of Education curriculum and performance manager, south, Liz Brown said the ministry had been working closely with the Pembroke board to ensure it had a compliantcharter, and had offered tomeet to discuss what support might be required.

"The board has shown a lack of willingness to meet the requirements of National Standards in its charter. To date, the board has not provided the ministry with a compliant charter within the required timeframe.

"It was therefore decided a different venue be found, given the major focus of the fono is on National Standards, and the current position of the board to implementing National Standards," she said.

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