Labour suggests law change over primary standards

The Labour Party is suggesting a law change to solve a problem that has set primary school principals against Education Minister Anne Tolley.

The principals are threatening to withhold students' results from national standard tests unless they are given an assurance the information won't be made public and used to rank schools against each other.

From next year, the progress of primary school children in maths, reading and writing will be measured against government-set standards.

Radio New Zealand reported today that Principals Federation president Ernie Buutveld had said if there were no safeguards in place, schools might refuse to send the information to a central database where it could be used to rank schools.

Education Minister Anne Tolley said she could not give an assurance that the results would not be made public, and schools that withheld the information would probably be acting outside the law.

Labour's education spokesman, Trevor Mallard, said he would tomorrow meet principals and the primary teachers' union, the NZEI, to discuss possible solutions to the impasse.

"Anne Tolley has created a stand-off between herself and schools over her insistence on obtaining information that could be used to form league tables of schools that would pitch wealthy schools against those from low decile areas," he said.

"We want to work constructively on this issue, as having a stand-off between the Minister of Education and schools will not benefit either teachers or students."

Mr Mallard said the Ombudsman recently appeared before a parliamentary select committee and confirmed that a minor law change could prevent data being compiled in a way that would lead to league tables.

"The law change would prevent the release for publication of school level data," Mr Mallard said.

"Parents would get information showing their child's progress, principals would get information to assist with teacher professional development and there would be clear nationwide measures of progress to hold ministers to account."

- NZPA

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