Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Fight looms as Parata touts move on school ratings

Education Minister Hekia Parata. Photo / Michelle Hyslop
Education Minister Hekia Parata. Photo / Michelle Hyslop

New Education Minister Hekia Parata and the primary teachers' union, the NZEI, could be on an early collision course over league tables comparing schools.

Not only has the minister rejected the union's calls to prevent the compilation of tables using national standards reporting data, she may get the Ministry of Education to compile official league tables.

She indicated they could compare schools in the same decile grouping [one to 10], as happens in Australia.

"We invest billions of dollars in the education sector and New Zealanders are entitled to know what value we are getting for that money," the minister said yesterday.

"That means having accurate information available."

Parents placed a lot of trust in principals and teachers, she said.

"And that trust should be returned by letting parents know accurate information about what's happening."

She said making information available is part of the democratic tradition in New Zealand and was one she wanted to see continue.

Hekia Parata talked favourably about the Australian website Myschool [Myschool.edu.au], which compares statistically similar schools in reading, writing, spelling, grammar and punctuation, and numeracy against national testing, and also records a school's progress in lifting achievement.

Asked if she would consider getting the Ministry of Education to set up a similar website to the one in Australia, she said: "I would consider that, yes".

Establishing national standards for primary schools was one of National's flagship policies in its first term.

Data about student achievement is due to be sent from the schools to the Ministry of Education by May 31.

NZEI president Ian Leckie said this week that schools were deeply concerned that information could be made public - it will be subject to Official Information Act requests - and aggregated into crude league tables that would unfairly label students, schools and their communities.

He said they were not moderated and there was huge variation in the ways schools were implementing them. "It would be a case of junk information in and junk information out," Mr Leckie said.

Any national standards-based league table would simply reflect the school decile and serve to name and shame some of the very schools that were working hardest to raise student achievement.

He wanted an assurance that the date would be "protected" from publication.

"Otherwise the Government will find that come May 31, schools will be reluctant to hand their student achievement data over."

- NZ Herald

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