The battle for standards

The Herald reports:

Education Minister Anne Tolley says she will sack the boards of primary schools which allow teachers to boycott national standards, saying they would be refusing to obey the law.

Tensions over the new standards in literacy and numeracy are increasing.

Teachers’ and principals’ unions are lobbying school boards to support them in their call for a trial period before the standards are introduced nationwide.

The unions have also threatened boycotts and industrial action, and last week wrote to principals urging them to ask school boards to voice the same concerns.

Mrs Tolley has ruled out a trial, and said that in “extreme” cases of a boycott she would dissolve the board involved – because the trustees would be refusing to obey the law – and replace it with a commissioner.

“If despite having that pointed out to them, they absolutely refused, do have the power to dissolve the board and put in a commissioner,” she said.

“In the end, would have to do that. I don’t think it would come to that, but if it went to the nth degree I would do it.

You just cannot have schools disobeying the law.”

Absolutely. If people do not like the national standards, they should vote for a Labour that will scrap them. But National won the 2008 election with a explicit commitment to introduce the standards, and voters not unions should get to decide the law.

Mrs Tolley said the Ministry of Education would give as much support as possible to boards stuck in a standoff with teachers.

But she would not be backing down on her decision to introduce standards nationwide from next year.

The minister said she had already made many changes in response to concerns from the unions but each time, they had returned with more and she believed their arguments were now purely philosophical.

“That’s why I’m putting my foot down … If there are changes needed, we will make them.

“I’m not saying is it from day one. But we have to get started because this is about kids failing in the system. I’ll do whatever it takes to make this work.”

As Anne has said, there has been masses of consultation and even compromise. But some no doubt seek delay just for the sake of delay.

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