By: Zoe Hunter
The Labour-led government’s plans to scrap National Standards for primary schools have pleased one Rotorua principal who says children are “not the place to put KPIs”.
New Education Minister Chris Hipkins this week announced National Standards, which set out levels of literacy and numeracy for Years 1 to 8, would be abolished and schools would be free to choose their own ways of assessing children’s progress.
But primary schools would still have to report to parents on individual children’s progress against the eight levels of curriculum, which most children covered during their 13 years at school.
President of the Rotorua Principals’ Association and Rotokawa School principal Briar Stewart was pleased to see the National Standards go.
Mrs Stewart said children were so individual in their pace of learning and to be told they were not meeting the National Standard at such a young age was disheartening.
“Many parents keep their kids’ reports and to have something like that said about you or their child can be quite damaging. What is written does last.”
Mrs Stewart said abolishing the National Standards meant schools could positively assess each student and their progress.
“The benefits of National Standards were just not there,” she said. “Children are not the place to put KPIs.”
Otonga Primary School principal Linda Woon was in favour of National Standards, but the system needed a few tweaks.
“When we are assessing we need to know what we are assessing against, especially if the children are at or above [the National Standard]” she said.
Mrs Woon said parents generally knew if their child was way below the standard, but the difficulty was for the children who were sitting “just below”.
However, Mrs Woon said annual reporting of the National Standard was “over the top”.
“Our curriculum is organised in eight levels and each level is two years’ long. Really the standards should just reflect what the curriculum level looks like when you have achieved it,” she said.
“We should only be reporting against those standards at the end of each level.”
Lynmore School deputy principal Michael Cunliffe said the school supported student growth but did not want to further comment until the new government’s educational plans were finalised.
“We are all about supporting student growth with or without National Standards and we will continue to try to communicate with our parents about the students’ progress and achievements.”
Tauranga National Party MP Simon Bridges said scrapping National Standards was going to be bad for parents and schoolchildren.
“What worries me is the unanswered questions. How are parents going to know how their children are doing at school with National Standards gone,” he said.
“It was a way people could see in plain language how their child was going so they could make changes if they were behind, or help them to keep going.”
Tauranga’s Labour MP Jan Tinetti said getting rid of National Standards meant schools could now focus more on teaching and learning across the curriculum, rather than having a big emphasis on National Standards assessment.
“National Standards narrowed the curriculum and teaching focus limiting the ability to focus on developing creative thinking and the learners’ strengths,” she said.
Mrs Tinetti said schools could report progress across the curriculum, including competencies and values.
“Success looks incredibly different for all individuals and assessment should be developed to enable this success to be celebrated for all.”
Mrs Tinetti said teachers had robust knowledge of how children were achieving and progressing and had the tools to help schools with assessment.
“A conversation needs to be held with the sector to determine how their professional expertise can be best utilised and also how we can show progress of the child as a whole.”
Education Minister Chris Hipkins also signalled a review of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement in secondary schools aimed partly at encouraging students not to enter NCEA for three consecutive years.
Source: Rotorua Daily Post