Hundreds of Auckland primary school principals have added their voices to calls for a trial of new national standards before they are put in place next year - but the Prime Minister says he will not budge on the policy.

The Auckland Primary Principals' Association yesterday released a survey asking principals if they supported delaying the standards to allow them to be tested.

Of 269 who responded, 250 wanted a delay and just 18 did not support a trial.

The new system will test primary students against benchmarks in reading, writing and maths. It also requires a clear reporting system for parents.

An increasing number of educationalists have now asked for a delay, including teacher unions, academics and principals.

The association president, Marilyn Gwilliam, has written to Education Minister Anne Tolley urging her to reconsider.

Mrs Gwilliam said there was a "strong belief" the standards were flawed and many principals wanted a boycott.

Mrs Tolley has rejected calls for a delay and said that, in extreme cases, she will sack the boards of any schools which refuse to implement the standards next year.

Prime Minister John Key yesterday backed her stance but said he would prefer it if it did not get to the point of boycotts. "We want to work constructively with principals and teachers to see the successful rollout of national standards."

However, he said there was no chance of a trial period first.

"We've sat back for decades now with 20 per cent of young New Zealanders leaving school with inadequate literacy and numeracy skills."

The Government had two options - either to address the problem or do what other governments had done and fail to step up.

"I personally believe that unless you measure, monitor and report something you won't effect the change that you need," he said.

Mrs Gwilliam said the 269 principals who responded to the survey represented 70 per cent of the association's membership. There was "widespread dissatisfaction" and frustration at the minister's refusal to back down on the issue of a trial.

She said the standards should be externally evaluated.

Auckland University education professor John Hattie has suggested a trial of 150 to 200 schools to allow the standards to be tested.

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