The Primary Issue: Our report card and your feedback

At the end of our five-day series looking at primary schools, we rate how our education system is working and bring you a selection of our reader and expert feedback from this week.
The Primary Issue series has highlighted the problems facing the primary sector. Photo / iStock
The Primary Issue series has highlighted the problems facing the primary sector. Photo / iStock

Your views

• Are schools failing? Of course not. What National Standards are measuring is the policy settings that see folk moving around the country for poorly paid and changing work, the decline in quality housing and housing affordability, the need for parents to work all hours and every day to pay for essentials and many other things of this kind. We spend a lot of time here simply making school a happy, warm, safe place for our children before we can effectively teach them. That many of our children don't reach these ridiculous standards until Year 4 or 5 or 6 is OK but not for this government. Quite frankly, spending the money wasted on the Standards and the $359 million aside for IES would be better off being given to families and communities in need. But that's politics I guess.

- Paul Barker, Principal, Kaeo Primary School

• I have two boys who are very different. Both had the same start with home-based care from 2. My oldest was self taught and was copying what I wrote down at 3 and has always been ahead of the expected national standards. Able to write a sentence within his first week at school and now 2 years ahead of where he is expected to be in all areas except math, where he is working at the level. My youngest was not even able to hold a pen correctly at 5, didn't know the alphabet and everything has been a struggle for him. He doesn't have a learning disability, he is catching up but it's not a one-size fits all. I'm not trying to compare because all children are at different levels and stages at different ages. Parents need to know what they can do to help their child improve because all parents want to see their child succeed and all this system does is put more pressure on the child to do well when we should be encouraging them.

- Sam Malcolm

• I work from home teaching remedial reading and maths which means I deal with the fallout of the education system on a daily basis. Most of the children I am working with should not need extra help. There is nothing wrong with their intelligence or ability to learn. However, the current teaching methods are simply not working for too many children. I have just turned 60. I know this admission will put me in the dinosaur category, however ... I think that younger teachers are not being taught effective teaching methods that work for a wide range of children.

- Dorinda Duthie

• The overwhelming problem in Auckland [is that] of a divided city: those that have the social capital to succeed, and those that don't. Getting rid of National Standards gets rid of the ugly data. Using the intelligence from the National Standards to invest more heavily in education in places like South Auckland is more useful policy-making. Why don't we do it?

- Bernardine Vester

• How can National Standards work when:

a) They are not a teaching programme but an expensive exercise in meaningless data collection and ...

b) Teachers seem to spend all their time assessing and reassessing and going to workshops on assessing and very little time actually teaching.

As far as my three children are concerned, I haven't learnt anything from national standard reporting that I didn't already know about my children's learning. I already knew 2 were coping and one was below. I don't need weeks of testing to tell me that.

- Lee Hansen

• In February this year my son started a decile 9 school as a new entrant. Within the first week of starting school all children are assessed on their knowledge. One of these assessments was oral language. The result comes as an "oral language age", for example 4 yrs 11 months. Recently I went to an open evening at the school and went to a talk about the junior school. They said this year's intake have had their worst ever oral language marks, with one child being assessed as low as 3 yrs 4 mths. I have read previously that oral language is the most important thing a child needs when they start school to do well in literacy. This does not make it easy then for the new entrant teachers.

- Julie Porter

• We have four children at primary school. Our three girls are passing national standards but our 8-year-old boy is not and will not. His recent report in all areas was not meeting national standard and has the reading age of a 6.5-year-old. He is on a new government accelerated writing programme to boost the standard up at school, which maybe means the standard is quite low at his school. He doesn't get much extra help at school as deemed not that bad so doesn't qualify for teacher aide so we pay for a tutor to help him. He was also kept back a year so it didn't look like he was that behind others kids his age. It is frustrating that there is no extra help for kids for different learning problems and teachers do not know how to teach these different kids. Maybe they should put the funding into teaching the teachers how to teach all kids. We have heard from most of his teachers so far that they didn't learn how to teach "different" kids at teachers college and there is no attempt at trying to learn some new ways.

- April Gredig

• I have two children at primary school. I think it is really quite simple. I have seen the emphasis at primary school shift from reading, writing and maths to other subjects driven by a more holistic nationwide agenda. There is only so much time a school has available to teach and it appears they are being told those core subjects need to be balanced with a range of others. Therefore our kids suffer the consequences in terms of how well they can read, write and do maths. I know plenty of families that are spending a lot of extra time and money on bringing their primary aged kids back up to a standard they are happy with. Primary schools need the national support to refocus on the core topics.

- Lucy Brake

• The solution to this whole issue of student progress, and one that shamefully hasn't even been mentioned in your articles, is very simple to understand yet difficult to administer. CLASS SIZE! My child never had fewer than 32 other students in her class, and several years had 35! How in the world can teachers meet the many varied needs of their students when they have 32 or more students to deal with? I can tell you that they aren't teaching students, they're managing kids. There's your story ... and the answer.

- Gary Bruckner

- NZ Herald

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