By Dave Goosselink
Today saw the start of a new national programme of standards and testing of pupils - one so controversial, it came with a nationwide letter and brochure drop by the Government, and a blatant counterattack by opponents.
The Government says pupils are being tested against the new national standard, not against each other, but critics say comparisons will inevitably be made.
Many teachers also think the standards still need work, and should themselves have been tested before being introduced. In fact, of 269 Auckland primary school principals, the vast majority feel the whole thing has been rushed.
There was a warm welcome for first day pupils at Bluff Primary School today, but principals are giving the Government's new national standards policy a much cooler reception.
"We've already got national benchmarks and progressions, and that's what I think we're struggling a little bit with because we've already got that in place," says Wendy Ryan, Southland Primary Principals Association president. "We're wondering how that overlays with what we've presently got in schools."
To highlight their opposition to the policy, the primary teachers' union NZEI is travelling the country by bus - from Bluff in the south and Kaitaia in the north - talking with teachers and parents.
"We believe that introducing a system like national standards that's not been tested and not been trialled could be potentially damaging to children's learning," says NZEI national secretary Paul Goulter. "We're going to stand up with our parents and communities and say, 'that's not good enough'."
Christchurch five-year-old Maia Condon is excited about joining the school system, and eager to start learning. But her mother Laoise Condon says she does not know much about the plans for national standards, and is concerned the debate will affect teachers.
"I have to be honest not really, I've heard a little bit about it but I've only just started in the education system now, 'cause my daughter's just started school."
Parents who do know about the policy are concerned about the focus on grading reading, writing and arithmetic.
"I think if your child is interested in more of a creative path and your child is not so good in those areas, you know, they going to be labelled either just a pass or a fail," says Paula McIntyre, Invercargill parent.
"We're unsure about the national standards because we don't know what will happen if our child is maybe fails or passes, where to from there, you know what will that do to our child?" says Denise Singleton, Invercargill parent.
Schools are disappointed about the lack of consultation and the speed with which the policy is being introduced.
The union and principals say they are not asking the Government to drop the national standards policy, just to pull back and give the system an extensive trial, as happened with the new curriculum which also launched in classrooms today.
source: newshub archive