$26m to win over parents on tests
By JOHN HARTEVELT - The Dominion Post
Last updated 05:00 28/01/2010

Education Minister Anne Tolley will spearhead a $26 million charm offensive to ease the introduction of national standards in primary and intermediate schools next week.

She will face a hostile reception as she tours the country, with at least 80 schools vowing to break the law and boycott the policy.

"The minister has yet to put up one iota of proof that the political action that she wants to take with standards will help one child in New Zealand," Tai Tokerau Principals' Association president Pat Newman said yesterday.

Prime Minister John Key has stripped Mrs Tolley of the tertiary education portfolio to give her more time to win parents, teachers and schools over on the standards.

The standards kick in when most primary schools return from the summer break on Tuesday. They will measure every child aged five to 12 at, above, below or well below national standards in literacy and numeracy.

Yesterday, Mrs Tolley admitted she "didn't work that closely with boards of trustees last year".

She plans to hold community meetings on the standards.

"There are hundreds of thousands of parents out there who really don't understand what the standards are all about," she said.

"There is a lot of misinformation out there ... [So] we're looking at a whole variety of ways that we can get information out in to the community."

The Government and ministry plan to spend $26m explaining the system and training teachers, principals and boards on how it works. The information campaign will enlist support from National's electorate MPs and include fact-sheets for parents and online resources for teachers.

Already, 1000 teachers have taken an introductory online programme and further training will be offered through universities, a private online training company and the School Trustees Associations.

Mrs Tolley said school boards that did not co-operate could be sacked, but only as "an absolute last resort".

Island Bay School principal Perry Rush said there was a strong feeling that principals and researchers had been "talked at, rather than to". "Now it sounds like she's going to jump behind the wheel of the standards truck and drive it round the country."

Mr Newman said about 80 schools in his organisation had voted unanimously late last year to boycott the standards.

"When a minister has to threaten a community with sacking them when they are genuine people concerned about their education, then something is wrong," he said.

Frances Nelson, president of the primary teachers' union, the New Zealand Educational Institute, said the campaign risked becoming propaganda.

"If you're going out to talk to people about it genuinely, you need to be prepared if they say they don't like it or they don't want it, to actually respond to that."

NZEI would run its own national campaign on the standards.

School Trustees Association president Lorraine Kerr said boards had a responsibility to enact the standards.

"To do otherwise is breaking the law."

From here.