"Legal" Temporarily Trumps "Ethical" in National Standards Standoff

I attended a meeting this evening that consisted of a good number of Southland's primary principals and board of trustee chairs. It was a sombre meeting as many board chairs shared the horror and frustration of the last week.

Despite a stated obligation to negotiate with boards that had not included National Standards in their Charters, the Ministry had decided to short circuit the process and demand that all schools that were currently noncompliant had to do so in a matter of days. Those schools that actually managed to get Ministry officials to front up and talk to them found that they could not get satisfactory answers to most questions and that the majority of the answers provided were heavily scripted.

Boards that were strongly committed to meeting the needs of their children and could find no educational advantage in the Standards have decided to include them in their charter and comply. Not to do so would came at a cost most boards were not be prepared to pay. The situation was described by one passionate board member as follows:

Imagine if the government of the day decided that reintroducing corporal punishment will make a noticeable difference to raising achievement in our schools. Boards that refused to follow this requirement were told they had to comply even though they had strong ethical concerns. If they didn't comply then the board would be sacked and a commissioner would be appointed (at the school's cost) who would then introduce corporal punishment into the school. The idea of an outsider, with no appreciation of their children's backgrounds or needs, instigating corporal punishment on their children would be too horrific. If anyone was to inflict this on their children it would have to be themselves, at least they could manage the potential severity of the requirement to the lowest level possible.

While physical punishment may seem a little extreme to use as an analogy, for many who see the potential damage that a narrowing of the curriculum and labeling 5 year olds as below the standard could do, it does seem appropriate.

Another board member said to the Ministry bureaucrat who they were confronted with, "so we have a choice between what we ethically and morally believe as right and what is legal?" They were given a clear understanding that their choice needed to be the legal one. NZEI and the NZPF are advising schools that they should now follow the legal requirement but also have it recorded that they were doing so under duress.

However this is no backdown for noncompliant schools when compliance has meant due process has been ignored, no attempt has been made to address genuine concerns and threats to remove boards previously assessed as highly competent have occurred. The issue is political the methods of control are draconian and putting the welfare of children first and maintaining community control of our schools is the sensible option at this point. The battle is not over and compliance under duress is not the way to progress educational change in this country.

National Standards have been developed out of a lie and their ongoing existence is supported by even more lies. Every level of this house of cards is based on fabrications and misinformation and collapse is imminent.


bsprout said…
We certainly are, Robert, this battle has become a little like the Maori wars when the British charged a Pa after a prolonged battle, thinking that they had achieved a victory, only to find the Pa empty and the enemy regrouped and ready for battle on an other site.
Kylie said…
I'm on the fence on this one only because I'm not in the education sector and don't know the behind the scenes assessing. I have 2 boys with Asperger's and have never placed any importance on their reports because for me, milestones are different when social skills are lacking. Both boys were reading at 2 and their vocabulary has always amazed people but their reports don't reflect that very well. They are deemed 'gifted' but do not conform to standard teaching methods therefore are below standard in a lot but would do maths problems for their ECE teachers and write chapter books at home but will not write in a classroom, I doubt any 'standards' will accommodate children with ASD diagnosis. My first 'neuro-typical' is set to start school in a month so I will read her report with interest. As they say though, 'Mother knows best'
robertguyton said…
National says, "Anne Tolley knows best Kylie"
Sitting on the fence, now that can lead to all sorts of complicatons.
On on Dave's side of that fence.
bsprout said…
Kylie, I teach currently teach special needs children and all achieve amazingly within their unique abilities and perceptions of the world. little of this is recognized by National Standards. It is the same for all children that many of their special attributes will be devalued. A young Pacifika boy who is a gifted speaker, a natural leader, great at art and music and a natural sportsman could be a failure at National Standards. All the advisors that used to inspire teachers to do amazing things in art, music, drama and PE (that would make school an interesting and diverse environment) have been sacked. School is all about Maths reading and writing now .
Kylie said…
I am moving to your side of the fence, their father is on a Board of Trustees and I have actively stayed away from the subject because of possible 'discussions' (I don't watch the news around Waitangi Day for that reason either). He has made comments that if you don't accept it you can be removed so that definitely supports the 'Anne Tolley knows best ideals' (blackmail)and that opposes my views on transparency so I'm not really willing to consider the 'standards' on their 'merits' because of the way they have been implemented. I am personally suffering anti transparency attacks myself at present and laud you for your tenacity and hope it doesn't affect you personally.
bsprout said…
Thanks, Kylie. I think what I especially find frustrating is that this government won't address the issues but attack the people presenting them. The fact that I am a Green and in a teachers union immediately devalues anything I may contribute. The fact that I have taught for 30 years and have been involved in professional leadership (I was a writer for the NZ curriculum and recently involved in rewriting the IEP document for the Ministry) is immediately discounted. We now have someone with a background in Real Estate dictating to our profession.

Trevor Mallard asked Anne Tolley to explain to parliament what one of the standards meant in plain english and she replied "I do not have to explain the standards, my job is to resource and implement them".

Sadly with the profession sidelined it will be parents like yourself who now need to make their voices heard to effect change. If National aren't voted out it is community action that will be needed.

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