Outrage at treatment of school

Outrage has flared across the New Zealand education sector at the Ministry of Education's punishment of Pembroke School, and some believe the punitive measures will only intensify for the school board and others who challenge National Standards.

The Oamaru primary school became the first in Otago to be publicly punished for non-compliance with the Ministry of Education's National Standards.

It was to host a Pasifika Fono (meeting) last Friday but, the day before, the board of trustees 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 told the school the fono would be held in a commercial complex, and an agreement for the ministry to pay the home and school committee to do the catering for the fono as a fundraiser was rescinded.

Labour education spokeswoman Sue Moroney said Pembroke School was not the only school in New Zealand to have been punished for non-compliance. Some had been denied access to professional development because they had not toed the line, she said.

"It's just another example of this Government putting their politics and ideology ahead of the interests of our children's education.

"The Government says putting a focus on Pasifika education is a top priority, and yet here they are playing politics.

"It's outrageous."

New Zealand Educational Institute president Ian Leckie agreed. He said the action was disgraceful because it not only punished Pembroke School, but the entire community.

"This school and the community were trying to come together to do something positive for Pasifika children - something which would have far more meaning in terms of lifting student achievement than National Standards.

"The school board has decided not to implement National Standards for good reason.

"Like hundreds of other schools around the country, it would rather stick with proven ways of assessing student progress rather than being forced to use hastily designed, untried and untested National Standards, particularly on children who have English as a second language."

Mr Leckie said the extraordinary punitive action against Pembroke School was likely to be a sign of things to come.

"It's fair to say, I think, this has been a totally inappropriate response to a well-planned event.

"I would hope they would review their actions and not respond like this in the future."

New Zealand Principals' Federation president Peter Simpson said the response was "fairly petty and small-minded".

"It's a continuation of the Education Minister [Anne Tolley] using her ministry to bully schools into submission.

"This is a classic case."

Mrs Tolley was concise with her view of the situation.

"This principal has made it very clear he is happy to break the law.

"I'd rather the people involved in this political protest concentrated on how to lift the achievement levels of the one in five children who are leaving school without the reading, writing and maths skills that they need."

Principal Brent Godfery said he received a "flood" of support from parents and other schools yesterday.

The fono was held on Monday night at the Galleon Complex in Oamaru and about 100 invited parents, teachers and principals from the Pacific Island community attended.

john.lewis@odt.co.nz

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