If Hekia Parata made a half decent point yesterday, it was that the money they have spent on National Standards has at last given us some specifics on who is doing well and who isn't.

The fact that 25 per cent of pupils aren't meeting those standards in numeracy and literacy is cause for concern - if not alarm - but back to that in a moment.

The important part not to forget is that as parents we want to know what's what and how our kids are doing.

National Standards is invaluable in that it places a level of responsibility on the system, it places it on the school and it places it on the teachers.


It does what should have been done decades ago but wasn't because the unions who run the system can't stand accountability and always argue that whatever is wrong is only fixed by more money.

To counter balance that, schools have ridiculous amounts of social pressure placed on them and they have an ever-increasing amount of baggage wandering through their gates with the broad expectation that they can tidy it all up.

That's before you get to the bit where, by and large, teachers are grossly under paid - but only the good ones, but it is that way because the unions insist all teachers get paid the same - which is madness.

But back to the standards - 25 per cent falling short is an outrage. We are better than that, and we've always been better than that. It's not a lack of money or resources, education has billions tipped into it each year. If you took every kid that was struggling and give them a specialist, you'd address the issue, but no one argues that is remotely realistic.

This is hopefully where another of the Government's ideas will come into force in the ensuing years. Super teachers and super principals is a stroke of genius. It's where top talent is spread about a series of schools to make a difference, and having seen it work at the variety of schools I've been involved with, I hold out great hope.

We have a major employment problem in this country because of this very issue. Kids who entered the system behind and never caught up, who got spat out into the real world only to have little if anything to offer.

The good news is this problem is not insurmountable. I would argue with effort it's not even that hard. Good people and good attitude can fix most things. There is no reason this can't be the same. The beauty of national standards is, at least it is laid bare as to how big this problem is.

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