The Dom Post editorial:
It is hard to escape the conclusion that the head teachers’ trade union, the Principals Federation, desperately hopes the Government will make martyrs of 225 school boards of trustees by sacking them in response to their withdrawal this week of co-operation over national standards.
If the Government is contemplating such a reaction, it must reconsider.
Far better to point out that this small group is simply philosophically opposed to the National-led Government, comprises just 10 per cent of primary and intermediate schools, and is driven by only a handful of people, including two who hope to become Labour MPs.
That should be at least two.
Inspired by education academic John Hattie, the Government, from the prime minister down, is anxious to change the fortunes of those who reach secondary school with poor literacy and numeracy skills.
It was in an effort to fix that disgraceful situation that National vowed during the 2008 election campaign to introduce benchmarks in reading, writing and maths.
But because it did not consult the unions in devising the standards, teachers have long threatened to frustrate their implementation. Now some schools have acted on those threats.
Actually the standards themselves are a red herring. The unions have made very clear to the Minister that if she amended the OIA to exempt school assessment data from public access, then all their opposition would drop – as in they would work within the system to improve national standards.
The calls for trials, for reconsideration etc are pure delaying tactics. I would wager millions of dollars that they would at the end of any trial have exactly the same position as before – unless the OIA is changed to exclude assessment data.
Yet principals are public servants, obliged to follow the law. Further, their anti-national-standards campaign has a whiff of sexism about it. Anne Tolley is the first female education minister, and the federation campaign to denigrate her every move has not been pretty.
Thuggish is the term I would use.
Critics try to denigrate national standards by dismissing them as merely aspirational. But that is precisely what they should be. And in assisting their offspring to aim for them, parents must know what their children are good at, where they need help, and what they as parents can do. It is not too much to ask that those standing in the front of the class get with the programme. They fail those they profess to care about when they do not.
The unions do not accept that anyone but them has the right to set education policy.