Just over a quarter of teachers have limited or no understanding of how national standards work, despite the new system being introduced in all primary and intermediate schools at the beginning of the year.

And one in five schools aren't yet prepared enough to use or implement the standards.

These findings are in the first of three Education Review Office reports into the system which has divided the education sector.

National standards are benchmarks in maths, reading and writing for primary and intermediateschool children.

Schools are required to report those results to parents in two reports a year.

To see how well prepared school leaders, teachers and trustees were to work with the standards, the ERO spent terms one and two assessing 228 schools.

It found only 19 per cent were "well prepared", and said that in most of those cases there was a strong professional leadership and a "business as usual" mentality.

Sixty-one per cent were preparing to make the standards part of their curriculum, and the remaining 20 per cent were not ready to implement or use the mandatory standards.

The ERO found reasons ranged from poor leadership and high staff turnover through to governance issues and opposition to the standards.

The ERO also looked at how well school staff understood the system.

It found school leaders had the best understanding of national standards - 38 per cent understood it well and 50 per cent had some understanding.

In 12 per cent of the cases where there was limited or no understanding, this was having a negative effect on the schools' preparation to work with the new system.

Nearly 15 per cent of teachers understood national standards well, and 58 per cent had some understanding. Twenty-four per cent had only a limited understanding and 3 per cent had no understanding at all.

Boards of trustees had the least understanding but the data was collected around election time, which may have contributed to that result.

Education Minister Anne Tolley said the report clearly showed the vast majority of schools were working hard to implement the standards in a professional and positive way.

"I would expect the figures to be even better now, given that many of the schools were evaluated towards the beginning of the first term when the standards had only just been introduced," said Mrs Tolley.

But the education sector union NZEI said Mrs Tolley's claims about schools making good progress was "political gloss, not reality".

President Frances Nelson said many schools had undertaken professional training since the review and, as a result, the landscape had changed significantly.

"That picture is changing as more and more schools see the flawed reality of implementing standards that are not tested, have major design flaws and have been implemented with haste and without support from the sector."

Hundreds of schools have boycotted training after calling the standards flawed and unworkable.

The NZEI wants the Government to take a closer look at parts of the report which showed more than 25 per cent had limited or no understanding of the standards and half of all principals had only some understanding.

"That is hardly a ringing endorsement," said Ms Nelson.

But Mrs Tolley said: "The ministry will be following up with those schools needing support to work constructively with the National Standards."