Friday, 15 December 2017

Thank you Chris Hipkins!! Goodbye National Standards. But....

Minister of Education, Chris Hipkins.
Sourced from
Labour campaigned on it.

New Zealand First campaigned on it.

The Green Party campaigned on it.

Last Monday, the Minister of Education, Chris Hipkins, finally announced it.

From 2018, Primary schools will no longer have to report on National Standards to parents or the Ministry of Education from the new year.  Education Minister Chris Hipkins said reporting would shift from the standards to reporting on children's progress. Reports would be written in "plain English", he said.  Read more here:  Government confirms primary schools to scrap National Standards (NZ Herald 11/12/17).

He also said parents and teachers had lost confidence in the "narrow policy" that he called "nothing more than a compliance exercise" and a "major distraction to schools".  (Government scraps National Standards, Newshub, 12/12/17)

I'm stoked that National Standards will not be compulsory, Chris Hipkins.  Thank you very much.

I've been campaigning against them since the legislation was enacted under urgency in December 2008.  I've joined Facebook groups, commented on numerous forums, written blogs opposing National Standards, attended protests, lobbied politicians, informed colleagues, friends, family, parents of students and the general public of the futile and stigmatising nature of National Standards.  I became a co-admin of Save Our Schools New Zealand and upped my involvement in NZEI.

Personally, over the years, while I have met the requirements of my job description as a teacher in regards to National Standards, I've mostly ignored them.  Here's how:
  • the original National Standards document I received is still unopened in the plastic it arrived in.
  • that document is buried in my storage locker with 99% of what I own - that's how little I value it.
  • I actively ignored National Standards as a teacher and minimalised my involvement in doing anything involving them.
  • I minimalised my discussion of the National Standards with students and talked to them about where they sat according to age norms and the curriculum and the progress they were making from a certain point to that point. 
  • I taught with good practice to encourage the love of learning, not the need to need an 'aspirational' standard that did not meet with how we know children learn.
  • I avoided putting anything on display or in the student's books that referred to the Standards.
Then I decided I needed to do more:
  • I joined the Labour party and began having the conversations with various politicians from not only Labour, but the Greens and NZ First, to push the need to see National Standards gone.
  • I assisted with campaigning in the 2014 election.
  • at the end of 2015 I decided I really could not stomach National Standards anymore.  After a whole term of testing instead of teaching and writing labourious reports to the Standards and crying over the 'Well Below' children and consuming far too much chocolate and bourbon, I called it quits.  I decided not to teach again under a National government.
  • I began my Masters of Education focusing on Global Education Policy.  Just the dissertation to go.
  • I protested Hekia Parata, the former Minister of Education, at the largest education conference in New Zealand, ULearn.  Out of hundreds of messages and personal conversations and likes, only two people called me disrespectful and disagreed with my protest.  Over a year later, I'm still getting people thanking me for taking my lone protest to the middle of ULearn during the Minister's speech, right in her line of sight.
  • 2017 was all about my goal to #ChangeTheGovt - this involved becoming even more involved in the Labour party and managing the Taranaki-King Country Labour campaign and assisting in the campaign thoughout the Waikato as well as supporting the campaigns in the Rangitikei, New Plymouth and Te Tai Hauauru electorates.

So imagine my excitement that night that Winston Peters announced that New Zealand First would be going into coalition with Labour and that the Greens also had a supply and agreement document with Labour.  All three parties would not let National Standards continue.  No more National Standards!

So once again, Chris Hipkins, thank you very much for saying that National Standards will not be a requirement in 2018.

However, what I'm not pleased about is that you will still allow schools to "choose" to use them as a tool.  

Schools who still want to use National Standards to report a child’s progress to parents can continue to do so – despite the Government saying they’d scrap them.  Education Minister Chris Hipkins has confirmed National Standards would no longer exist, but any school that wanted to use them as a tool to report progress wouldn’t be forced to stop doing so.  “We’re going to require schools to report child progress against the curriculum.  What tools they use to do that is up to them.”  From National Standards will no long exist but schools can still use them - Chris Hipkins (Stuff, 14/11/17)

That just makes a mockery of your announcement.  When my principal heard this he was dismayed.  He thinks you have stumbled at the final hurdle and given BOTs the opportunity to continue this folly, overriding the teaching staff and principals.  

This is a man who was hanging out for a change of government prior to the election because he knows National Standards has not done his students or staff any favours over the years.

I'm also rather concerned by this line:  "We will take the next few months to work with the sector, students, parents, whanau and iwi to develop a new approach for understanding progress across the curricula that will meet their needs, and contribute to the education system supporting the success of all students."  (NZ Herald, 11/12/17 - as linked above).

During the election campaign, Mr Hipkins repeatedly said that there would be no replacement because we have a world leading curriculum which should inspire learning and be the baseline for assessment.  I am therefore concerned about the need to 'replace' National Standards.  I believe that Mr Hipkins is very sincere when he says he will work with the sector and relevant interest groups.  However, I believe he has forgotten why Finland had a successful education system and how it got it: by copying the world leading child centred education system New Zealand had prior to the formation of Tomorrow's Schools.

I've made the decision to step back into full time teaching in 2018.  I did this on the basis of having a Labour led coalition that was disposing of National Standards and returning our New Zealand Curriculum to the front and centre of our education landscape.

I will be watching this very carefully.   I will be advocating for my students, colleagues and the system.  I am not going to accept any neoliberal programme over the top of our world leading curriculum.  

Thank you Rod Emmerson for saying it how it really is!!
So Mr Hipkins, let's get that National Standards legislation repealed once and for all.  Let's ensure the New Zealand Curriculum is front and centre.  And let's ditch National Standards into the history books (aka rubbish bin).  Completely.  Nothing less will be acceptable.