An Auckland primary school that cancelled its school prizegiving to move away from ranking students against each other has sparked a divisive nationwide debate.

Today, the Herald asked readers what they thought and since then dozens of emails detailing many different reasons for and against prizegiving have surfaced. Opinions are split, with some people applauding the school's stance and others strongly opposed with one commenter calling it "communist thinking".

Silverdale Primary School, on Auckland's Hibiscus Coast, announced the decision to cancel its prizegiving in an October school newsletter.

Principal Cameron Lockie wrote that there were a number of reasons the school had decided that it would no longer have an end-of-year prizegiving, saying there was a counterproductive nature in rewarding children and the ranking and sorting of students as better than others.


"Rewards – like punishments – are unnecessary when these things are present, and are ultimately destructive in any case.

"There is abundant research showing that awards, rewards and other external incentives undermine intrinsic motivation. For the majority of children who don't receive awards, the prizegiving spurs boredom, anger or resentment."

Theresa Yaroshevich applauded Silverdale Primary School for their bravery.

"I have long admired the work of author Alfie Kohn, after reading his book Punished by Rewards. His conclusions are backed by research and so sensible," she said.

"The prizegiving ceremonies have always struck me as awkward and onerous to sit through. I hope [other schools] will take a similar stand and dispense with this outdated practice."

Noel Marks also backed the school saying "it's not rocket science when you read the research".

Gail Nelson also backed the school.

"At a lot of schools it's the same children getting the rewards year after year.


"The children that are really trying feel disheartened they are not recognised for their trying hard."

But Josh Patterson disagreed, he argued the main reason anyone tried to master anything hard or difficult, whether it be sports or academic was for "the prestige or recognition from their peers and society".

"It's called status, people do try and achieve this. Even thugs and criminals strive to be the best."

Glenn Sutton said it was unsurprising "that communist thinking is embedded in the education system".

He called the school's decision "politically correct poppycock".

University student George Gray said the end of year prizegiving had been a motivation to work hard since primary school.

"Now I am in college, my motive now for working hard is getting a good future for myself, my family and my future family."

He argued that he worked hard to achieve his academic goals and "just to be classified as equal with the other person who just mucked around in class and done no work is just pathetic in my opinion".

Keith Lawson said the principal had raised the bar in mediocrity by canning the prizegiving.

"Often today's winner was yesterday's loser who decided to up their compete level to move into or closer to the winner's circle.

"Would think the professional educator could play a vital role in getting a student to show their best and constantly improve. "

Employers sought "the strongest most talented prospect" who could be an asset to the workplace so the prospect of competing to achieve something was important.

Children need to have acknowledgement they are achieving, child psychologist says

Child psychologist Sara Chetwin told Newstalk ZB's Kate Hawkesby that students still needed to be shown they were achieving in some way.

Rewards systems have been known to motivate children to help them set goals.

"So without prizes and rewards at the end of the year, you will probably have to do a little bit of this throughout the year so kids actually know that they are doing things the right way and that they are achieving."

She said research has shown rewards are very effective at motivating kids and helping them set goals.

"There are many reasons why rewards systems are put in place as there are with punishment systems.

"Some kind of reward system and some forms of competition are highly motivating and children really love it and they look forward to it."

However, Chetwin said rewards systems could be damaging when they become "aggressive" and "out of control".

"That's when you see a dark side of prizegiving and certainly I take on board that children might feel a little bit despondent when year after year the same children are getting the same rewards."

Prizegiving a good thing if awards are meaningful, expert says

Prizegiving serves to acknowledge people, celebrate achievement and to farewell leaving students, Massey University associate head of the institute of education, Dr Jenny Poskitt, says.

The awards served a purpose, it was just important that the prizes were meaningful and not arbitrary, she said.

"Some schools have too many prizes, it depends on how meaningful the prizes are."

Prizegiving could also gave an insight into the school's key values as well, she said.

"People have different talents, awarding prizes can prompt people to achieve higher as long as its attainable."

Now 21st Century schools, as part of an international change, were focusing on skills transferable in the workplace.

"These are intangible assets, people who are dependable, passionate for the job."

"The issues are what the celebrating is for. For what, how and who?"