The debates on National Standards are about politics, not education
National Standards in schools are becoming a hot topic as of late. The Minister has said that National Standards are to lift student achievement, while her Ministry has publicly stated that they “won’t make the difference” (to a students achievement) as they are merely signposts.
The trouble with recent debates on National Standards is that the issue has become highly politicised and rhetorical, with much of the news coverage focused on ideological debate and mired in claim and counter-claim. Often the focus on children, schools, and the National Curriculum has been lost altogether. Schools like Balmoral School and Island Bay School, who are publicly outspoken against National Standards and have said they will not implement them, better hope they have good ERO reports or else their educational shortcomings will be highlighted. And one wonders, if Balmoral school Board of Trustees is not only refusing to implement National Standards, but is leading the campaign against the standards in their area, why their school’s charter states it is to report to the Board of Trustees on National Standards in the Annual report. One wonders why its strategic goals state that they will “undertake training and development in the use of National Standards so that the school can report to students, parents, the Board, the community and the Ministry of Education”, when they are publicly opposed to the standards.
So far about 240 Boards of Trustees [full list here] have said they will not implement National Standards. Some have rejected them, others have decided not to provide education targets to the Ministry, but are currently writing school reports mentioning National Standards. Education officials have been reported as saying that the Minister may sack rebel boards of trustees and replace them with commissioners if they don’t toe the line.
While the Education Act does provide for that, if the Minister was to take this approach to boards who do not implement National Standards, she’d be breaking the law. To sack a board or appoint a commissioner, the Minister must have “reasonable grounds to believe that there is a risk to the operation of the school, or to the welfare or educational performance of its students”.
I doubt whether any minister, let alone Anne Tolley, could provide any grounds, let alone reasonable grounds that a board is risking the welfare or educational performance of its schools by refusing to implement National Standards.
But it is not just some opponents of National Standards that are making things up, stating that the standards are setting kids up to fail, supporters are also writing letters to Ministers. One of them, from Island Bay School, sent his letter to David Farrar at Kiwiblog who blogged it - you can read it here( or in the comments below). Among the allegations he raised were: that the Board of Trustees had no paperwork in reaching the schools decision on National Standards; that parents were not consulted apart from one open meeting, and implied that the slides used at that meeting were unavailable unless requested via the Official Information Act. Finally the parent called for the Minister to dismiss the schools Board of Trustees.
As earlier mentioned, the board can’t be dismissed simply for ignoring National Standards. Also the school had consulted on more than one occasion. All paperwork is publicly available, including Board minutes, and the slides were publicly available through the Ministry of Education, so no OIA request is needed. Had this parent bothered to show interest and attend a Board of Trustees meeting, or any other meeting, he could have got some answers. But this man doesn’t want answers, he wants to play politics. Instead of writing to the Board of Trustees, he writes to the Minister stating that schools who refuse to implement National Standards are “ not doing their job”, consequently requesting that the Minister act in an unlawful manner in sacking the board.
Labels: National Standards