Did the boards consult parents

A number of commenters have pointed out that the boards which have said they will not co-operate with the Ministry, did not consult any of the parents to whom they are accountable over their decisions. One parent sent me this letter they also sent to the Minister:

Two of my children attend Island Bay primary school, in southern Wellington.

The Board of Trustees recently provided a newsletter to parents advising that Island Bay school would not be complying with the requirements of the policy.  This appears to represent a change in position by the newly-elected Board, and replaces an earlier resolution (reproduced on the Principal’s Federation website opposing National Standards) in which the then Board decided to comply with the requirements of the policy, while formally resolving that it did not support the policy.

The newsletter to parents states that the Board has resolved to write to you and to the Secretary of Education directly informing you of the position.  They may not, however, have informed you of the poor process used in reaching the decision.  We requested copies of Board papers considered in reaching the Board’s decision, and were informed that there were none.  There was also no ex ante consultation with parents.  The school advertised an open meeting at which it was stated that the Principal would articulate his (well known) views on National Standards: in fact, this meeting proved to be simply a vehicle for the Principal to explain the Board’s decision.  We asked for a copy of the presentation slides used at this meeting and were refused –  almost certainly a breach of the Official Information Act.

As a parent and as a taxpayer, I support the Government’s apparent desire to lift the performance of our education system and, as part of that, to provide parents and taxpayers with better information on the performance of our schools.  I am relatively indifferent at present on the specifics of National Standards themselves, and regret that the National Party stepped away from, for example, the approach to education reform taken in its 2005 manifesto.

But the critical point now is that government policy, backed not only by a clear electoral mandate but also by legislation, must be, and be seen to be, implemented.  The Island Bay Board of Trustees, and their employee the Principal, are simply refusing to do that.  State schools are Crown entities.  Most parents have little effective choice but to use state schools.  We therefore expect that you and your ministry ensure that those charged with the management and governance of those Crown entities, which deliver formal education to our children, do their job.  I fully respect the right of individual members of the Board of Trustees, and of staff, to disagree with the policy and its application.  But they have an obligation –  not just a moral obligation, but nothing less than that – to implement it.  If they, as a matter of conscience, decide that they cannot implement it they must, as matter of moral obligation, resign.  But if they won’t, you have a responsibility to dismiss them.  You act for parents, for children, for taxpayers, and for the rule of law.  I therefore urge you to make clear to the Island Bay Board of Trustees that they must either quickly comply or face dismissal.  If there are no sanctions, the policy itself risks failing before it has ever been given a serious trial.

It is worth noting that very few schools are actually refusing to implement national standards. The 10% have merely said they will not tell the Ministry what their targets are.

I don’t think the Govt should sack non complying boards – that is what Simon Mitchell and co want – to be martyrs. I would just freeze discretionary funding. No access to capital funding for buildings or computers. Bottom of the priority list for connection to fibre etc etc.

Meanwhile Phil Goff has come out and shown he does not understand the issue. The Herald reports:

Labour leader Phil Goff said the system the Government was trying to ram into place wouldn’t succeed.

“Schools should be required to use the world-leading assessment tools already in place, not be required to use this untested, unclear and confusing system National is trying to impose on them,” he said.

Goff does not seem to understand that national standards is not a replacement for the world-leading assessment tools already in place. No school using them is being told or even encouraged to stop.

All national standards involve, are two additional steps.

  1. You take the results of these assessment tools, and moderate them against the national standards to place a student in one of (off memory) four categories.
  2. You report their position against the national standards – not instead of all the other info, but on top of

That’s it.

The unions, and Labour, just don’t want parents to have this additional info. Here are some comments made yesterday by parents:

As a parent of 4 “children” having gone through mixture of schooling – public, USA, private and tertiary. Our son (my step-son) went through the public school system. When he got to year 6, we discovered he was way behind and could barely write a sentence. All his reports to this point had stated that although he was low on the scale, he was still in the range of normal for his age – using their scale which was sent home with the report. His teachers had never expressed any problems at any of the parent teacher interviews my husband went to, till his teacher in Year 6 took the told us there was a real problem. His teacher for 3 years running prior to this was the Vice Principal of the school.

Sadly, it was too late by then, Early identification allows for early intervention.

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