School reports as we know them are on the way out, as schools “liberated” from national standards use online and other methods to involve parents in their children’s learning.

More than 100 schools have signed up for a new online system, Linc-Ed, which allows teachers, parents and children themselves to update the children’s learning goals and progress at any time during the year.

Co-founder Paul Sibson, a former Christchurch primary school principal, says about 30 per cent of schools using the system have opted to keep reporting how children are doing against national standards. Only the words have been changed to “expectations” for each child’s year level.

But 70 per cent of the schools have opted to abandon national standards and move to a new version of Linc-Ed showing children’s progress in each subject against the levels of the curriculum.

Linc-Ed enables parents to keep up with their children’s schooling in real time on their mobile phones. Photo / Doug Sherring

The new Labour Government has abolished the requirement for schools to report against national standards and has removed all historical data from the Education Counts website which showed the numbers of children above, at, below and well below standards nationally and in every school.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins has said schools can still choose to keep using national standards. But the new president of the Auckland Primary Principals’ Association, Helen Varney, emailed the association’s 420 schools this week and found none still using the standards.

“I have not come across a single school that is keeping them,” she said.

Varney, from Target Rd School in Glenfield, said traditional six-monthly school reports to parents were three or four weeks out of date by the time principals checked each teacher’s comments and added their own comments.

“There is a move away from written reports,” she said.

Helen Varney still uses little cars in a “reading rocket” (pictured behind her) to track students’ reading, but says she doesn’t need national standards. Photo / Simon Collins

Her school encourages students to set their own learning goals, then measure progress through a system called Structure of the Observed Learning Outcome (SOLO).

NZ Principals Federation president Whetu Cormick also said no principal had told him they were keeping national standards, and he does not expect the Government to develop formal “progressions” to replace them.

“National standards don’t need to be replaced. They are not going to be,” he said. “So the focus is back to our broad, rich, world-class curriculum.”

NZ Educational Institute president Lynda Stuart said the removal of national standards was “liberating” teachers to teach holistically across the whole curriculum, rather than focusing on the three subjects the standards measured: reading, writing and maths.

However School Trustees Association president Lorraine Kerr said some boards were unsure what to do.

“We have a number of schools who are saying, ‘Now what do we do? No one is telling us,'” she said.

Bay of Plenty school trustees regional chair Rebecca Wichmann, said her school Te Puke Intermediate was consulting teachers and parents before deciding on a reporting system.

“There are a lot who still want to know where their child is nationally against all children, but there are some parents who just want to hear about their own child and whether or not they are making positive movement,” she said.

The principal of another Te Puke school, Craig Haggo at Pongakawa School, told parents this week that he will keep using national standards “as part of what we do at least at the moment”.

“Pongakawa continues to be one of the top performing Bay schools and I have no doubt in the top 10 per cent for New Zealand. Unfortunately, it is now impossible to measure exactly where we sit as the website which allows this has been closed,” he wrote.

Kent Wilson of Westminster Christian School on Auckland’s North Shore said he would keep using national standards for reading, writing and maths because they were “clear benchmarks”.

“Our parents want to know where their children are at,” he said. “You can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.”

Questions to ask your child’s school

  1. Tell me about my child’s progress across the curriculum?
  2. Then tell me: is that going to get them the sort of achievement that they need to be successful?

Source: Barbara Ala’alatoa, Sylvia Park School

Source: NZ Herald

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