Education Minister Anne Tolley yesterday told teachers she would be "appalled" if they told parents their children were failing National Standards.

The face-off came in front of 500 early childhood teachers, primary school teachers and principals at the New Zealand Educational Institute's conference in Rotorua. She told them the standards were here to stay.

Kay Hume, a Year One teacher at decile 5 Puni School, south of Pukekohe, said working with the new standards had been heartbreaking. The revised benchmarks were "drawing an unrealistic line of achievement".

The conference heard that just one child in Miss Hume's class of 21 was close to meeting the required standards in reading.

"You are setting up our children to fail," she told Mrs Tolley.

Last term she started showing parents how their children were faring against the National Standards in reading.

"They asked, 'Is my child a failure?' I said, 'According to National Standards, yes, but according to me they are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing'."

Miss Hume asked Mrs Tolley: "Will you listen to the experiences of the sector this year and call a halt to the implementation of National Standards while these fundamental flaws are addressed ?"

Mrs Tolley replied: "The answer is no, we will not stop, and I'm appalled that any teacher would say to any parent that their child is a failure."

By this point, the NZEI delegates had already passed a resolution saying the National Standards in reading, writing and mathematics had been implemented in haste and needed to be completely revised.

As Mrs Tolley told the gathering how the Government planned to spend $1.4 billion on education over the next four years and National Standards were being well received wherever she went, members silently held up protest cards in unison.

Another delegate told Mrs Tolley research showed that having early childhood centres fully staffed with qualified teachers was critical in ensuring quality education.

Changes to early childhood education will see the removal of top subsidy rates for centres where more than 80 per cent of teachers are qualified.

Mrs Tolley disputed the research and pointed out several successful "parent-led services" without qualified teachers, to a collective groan.

NZEI president Frances Nelson said Mrs Tolley failed to acknowledge the breakdown between herself and the education sector.

"We're very angry that she continues to completely ignore the questions, the concerns and advice of practitioners," Ms Nelson said.

National Standards will be fully implemented by the end of 2012.