While nearly every other political party is vowing to abolish National Standards, the National party is proposing to bolster them with an initiative called ‘National Standards Plus’.

Education was at the heart of National’s campaign launch this weekend, with a $379 million commitment to providing school students with stronger maths, technology and languages skills, as well as updating National Standards to give parents and teachers better information about how students are performing and where they need more support.

National’s education package hinges on four main priorities:

  • Provide every primary school student the opportunity to learn a second language;
  • Improve the maths skills of primary school students by upskilling teachers, providing additional classroom resources like digital apps, and delivering intensive support for students who need it;
  • Create Digital Academies and Digital Internships to give year 12 and 13 students practical, work-based learning opportunities that are a springboard into careers in the IT sector;
  • Extend National Standards to provide much more detailed information about how our kids are progressing right throughout the year – information that can be accessed immediately online by children and their parents.

“National Standards provides a valuable snap-shot of how your child has performed across the year,” said Prime Minister Bill English, “National Standards Plus will build on this by allowing you to track your child’s progress in more detail, online, as it happens.”

Education Minister Nikki Kaye says the $45 million National Standards Plus initiative will provide more information beyond the current ‘below’, ‘at’ and ‘above’ measurements for parents and children to access immediately online.

“National Standards Plus will allow parents to track their child’s progress as it happens, in much more detail. So although a child may stay within a particular rating across a number of years, parents will be able to see whether their child is catching up or falling behind,” she says.

Kaye says by moving reporting online, National Standards Plus will help teachers by streamlining paperwork and reducing workloads.

“The new system will also help teachers to further tailor learning by delivering faster, more detailed information about where a child is succeeding and where they might have room for improvement.”

National Standards Plus will initially be rolled out to reading, writing, and maths in 2019, but will be extended to digital technology and wellbeing measures over time.

However, NZEI Te Riu Roa has described the new initiative as “an obsession with data gone mad”.

“No parent wants their child’s teacher sitting entering data for hours when they need to be face to face with kids,” says NZEI president Lynda Stuart. “Teachers already do high quality assessment and many schools provide electronic portfolios so that parents can see the rich variety of work the children undertake.”

In terms of National’s other education commitments, Kaye says they will establish Digital Internships and Digital Academies, to give year 12 and 13 students practical, work-based learning opportunities that are a springboard into the IT sector.

“Digital academies will be similar to Trades Academies, and offer specialised, IT-focused learning which also allows 1000 students a year to gain relevant NCEA credits.

“Digital internships will see work placements, mentoring and tailored learning provided by industry partners for 500 year 12 and 13 students a year, building a pathway between skills gained in the classroom and jobs in the IT industry.”

The digital learning package is expected to cost $48 million over four years.

A further $126 million over four years has been pegged to improve student achievement in maths at primary school. This will include provision of 1,200 fully funded places a year for teachers to upskill in teaching maths to primary students, as well as intensive support for students who need it.

The primary school second language initiative will cost $160 million over four years to provide schools and Communities of Learning with more expert language teachers, language specialists and online resources. It will be up to school boards to decide which languages will be taught in each school, but they will be required to offer at least one second language to their students.

Head of AUT’s School of Language and Culture Associate Professor Sharon Harvey says the proposal has the potential to transform language learning in New Zealand. She says a lot needs to be considered to ensure the money is effectively spent, including the selection of languages.

However, New Zealand Principals’ Federation (NZPF) president Whetu Cormick says the focus should be on special education and teaching shortages, rather than ensuring children learn a second language.

“Teaching foreign languages, like Korean and Mandarin would be a great aspiration once we have addressed the issues of actually having teachers in front of the class in the first place, and sorted the mess that is our current special education funding,” he said.
“For the Prime Minister to suggest that more national standards, foreign languages in primary schools and specialist digital technology teachers are the most important priorities, shows a man completely out of touch with the realities facing schools today,” said Cormick.


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