Minister claims Far North school 'letting students down'

By Yvonne Tahana

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

The Minister of Education, Hekia Parata, says Moerewa School is letting students down - not least by failing to notice work copied "word for word" from Wikipedia in NCEA assessments.

Principal Keri Milne-Ihimaera says she and whanau members "absolutely" stand by staff, despite a critical Qualifications Authority audit of NCEA marks.

Ms Parata's call comes as the Far North school prepares a powhiri for senior students today for the start of the second term and to celebrate their achievements, despite the edict that students cannot be taught there.

The school has been advised its satellite agreement - where 17 students are enrolled with Auckland School Kia Aroha College but taught in Moerewa - has to end.

NZQA has issued a notice of intent to Kia Aroha that it will not be allowed to assess NCEA work from Moerewa School, although the college has until May 11 to respond.

The authority's audit looked at 366 of 436 reported results from 25 students last year. It found the grades awarded were not all at the national standard for 105 of the marked results (28.7 per cent). In almost all cases, the school's "achieved grade" was lowered to "not achieved".

Other concerns identified included:

-NZQA said students had access to exemplar material, and the same exemplars without any change were used to assess the students.

-More sophisticated student work being generated followed by more simplistic and error-prone work.

-Some work was word-for-word identical to text on Wikipedia.

-Some work was written by another person, later identified as another student.

Ms Parata said she was "extremely disappointed to hear about the powhiri" as the students' "education and futures are at stake".

"I really feel for the learners but the truth of the matter is Moerewa School has let these students and their whanau down.

"As the NZQA audit found, work was copied from Wikipedia, exemplars were not altered and some of the work was completed by other students.

"That will not be tolerated from any school. Our learners deserve better."

Ms Milne-Ihimaera said the school did not condone copying from Wikipedia but the concern related to a small amount of work. She maintained staff could have turned the situation around quickly but were not given the opportunity.

"We've had no opportunity to work with NZQA or work with the ministry. You can't get too much more of a sledgehammer than those two."

A community meeting to discuss other options for the senior students is scheduled for 6pm today at the school.

Ms Milne-Ihimaera accepted that the satellite arrangement was at an end. Asked if students would be taught from tomorrow, she said: "I'm not sure what will happen on Tuesday yet, we're still working out some solutions within our community."

- NZ Herald

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