National standards specialist Professor John Hattie has been appointed to a new group to give Education Minister Anne Tolley independent advice on the implementation of national standards.

Mrs Tolley announced the group yesterday just before coming under pressure during question time in Parliament over how aspects of the policy work.

Tonight, Mrs Tolley will front up to parents in Tauranga in one of the series of meetings run by local MPs and ordered by Prime Minister John Key to explain the national standards.

National standards in reading, writing and maths have been set in primary and intermediate schools and parents will be told twice a year how their child is going compared with the standard for the relevant age group.

Professor Hattie, of Auckland University, helped to advise National on its national standards policy but criticised the plans for its implementation.

He will join a group of five to give what Mrs Tolley called "free and frank advice on assessment practices in schools and on any refinements that could enhance the effectiveness of the standards".

The Prime Minister called Professor Hattie to the Beehive recently to discuss his concerns with the implementation of the standards, which are opposed by the NZ Educational Institute teachers union and the Principals' Federation.

Yesterday, Mrs Tolley came under pressure from Labour education spokesman Trevor Mallard, who repeatedly asked her to explain how "inter-school moderation" worked.

Mrs Tolley had said earlier that she knew how it worked, and Speaker Lockwood Smith instructed her to answer Mr Mallard's question.

After objecting to having to answer the question, she gave a lengthy definition.

Mr Mallard said after question time: "She can't possibly understand it because it hasn't been developed."

He said inter-school moderation was about making sure there was consistency of judgments between teachers in schools, between schools in the same location and between locations.

Unless there was consistency, there was no national standard.

Mrs Tolley said her new advisory group is additional to a three-year monitoring and evaluation project under the Ministry of Education.

The group will be chaired by public policy specialist Emeritus Professor Gary Hawke and includes Canadian standards specialist Dr Avis Glaze, Professor Tom Nicholson of Massey University and Dr Tony Trinick of Auckland University.

PLEASE EXPLAIN

"The national standards, at their heart, are to address inter-school moderation. Currently a large number of assessment tools are used by schools, and no one standard applies across them. That is what national standards are. So the existing assessment tools will remain in place, and the national standards will go right across all those tools, so that it will not matter which school a child goes to, or which assessment tool a particular school uses, because there will be a standard that is national. That is the essence of national standards, so the inter-school moderation is exactly that."

Minister Anne Tolley's explanation of inter-school moderation.