A Northland school has been told it can no longer teach senior students - partly as a punishment over its anti-National Standards stance.

Moerewa School, which officially teaches from Year 1 to Year 10, has for the past three years provided classes for Years 11, 12 and 13 students at its premises.

The 27 senior students are officially enrolled in an Auckland school - Kia Aroha College - but are taught at Moerewa School via satellite each day and have been producing good results.

Moerewa Board of Trustees recently applied to officially change its year levels to include the senior students, but was declined in a letter signed by Education Minister Anne Tolley.

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In the letter, dated October 4, Ms Tolley said one of the main reasons for her decision was the negative impact the move would have on the roll of the nearby high school, Bay of Islands College.

She also noted Moerewa had not implemented National Standards and therefore "your school's charter is not compliant".

"The Government believes that all young New Zealanders deserve the opportunity to reach their potential and the implementation of National Standards will enable nationally considered assessments and in time higher achievement in literacy and numeracy."

Moerewa is one of a handful of schools refusing to implement the controversial standards. The Ministry of Education has warned schools that refuse to comply will lose professional development and boards could be disestablished and replaced with a commissioner.

Now it appears there are other penalties, too.

Labour's Associate Education spokesman Kelvin Davis says Ms Tolley's decision to close the highly successful programme for Maori students is an "act of spite" because the school's principal has been a vocal critic of National Standards.

"Her decision has nothing to do with Maori achievement, nothing to do with a Maori community's aspiration for its children, but everything to do with a spiteful minister. It's become personal."

Mr Davis said the decision should be reversed immediately.

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A spokesman for the minister yesterday said the declined application had nothing to do with the disregard of National Standards, but other reasons including "the high cost to the Crown of providing specialist teaching spaces for senior students, as well as an additional operational and staffing costs".

Interim NCEA results show a 93 per cent pass rate for the school's Year 11 students, an 83 per cent pass rate for Year 12 and a 100 per cent pass rate for its Year 13 students.

Principal Keri Milne-Ihimaera said the community could not understand why the ministry would not back a successful programme and said it would continue to teach senior students no matter what.

Ms Milne-Ihimaera said the programme was whanau-based, with all high school-aged students taught together in the one environment by a couple of teachers who taught the full curriculum. "Relationships between our students are very strong because it's the same teacher all day, every day. That's how we choose to organise our classroom.

"It really works for Maori kids - it's a really simple difference, but it's a really important difference."

President of the NZ Principals' Federation Peter Simpson said he could not understand why Ms Tolley was closing the senior class, given its success rate. "The minister is repeatedly telling schools that we have to find ways to lift the achievement of Maori students in our schools.

"Here we have the perfect example of a principal who has employed innovation, a culturally appropriate approach and succeeded beyond all expectations, and the minister is shutting the class down.

"I am utterly bewildered by this decision."

NCEA RESULTS
* 93 per cent pass rate for Year 11

* 83 per cent pass rate for Year 12

* 100 per cent pass rate for Year 13