An academic’s prediction the media would publish league tables for primary schools has come true.
University of Waikato education professor Dr Martin Thrupp made his prediction at a meeting in Kelston which opposed education reforms.
“The media, and print media in particular, stand to gain from the publication of league tables. Based on overseas experience, it will create an annual spectacle that will sell a lot of papers,” said Dr Thrupp.
He said the Government was not directly creating league tables, but schools would be required to publish national standards data, which could be used to create league tables.
Since his criticisms, the two major New Zealand newspaper outlets have published national standards data on primary schools.
The Ministry of Education has also published the national standards data on its website.
Education Minister Hekia Parata admits the data is incomplete.
Of the 2087 schools required to submit standards data, 188 have not yet submitted or have submitted incomplete data.
According to Stuff.co.nz, the minister says that this year schools were not required to publish data consistently.
“They have chosen different formats, and comparisons between them are very unreliable,” says Parata.
However, she says the information gained from the national standards data is powerful for identifying and providing support for all learners.
Dr Thrupp says he expects the release of national standards data will be harmful to many schools and children.
He says children with special needs, with English as a second language, from troubled backgrounds or who have been underachieving, could be turned away from schools.
He says schools may find ways to discourage enrolment of children who would be a liability to national standards scores.
“They include the way that schools draw up school zones, the discussions they have with prospective parents and the extent to which they make provision for such children.”
Schools will be pressured to focus on teaching reading, writing and maths to the exclusion of subjects which do not have national standards, says Dr Thrupp.
“They are not in PE, art, drama, social studies, environmental education and a host of other things that are taught in primary schools.
“Curriculum narrowing is not just a problem with highly creative children, or those with particular abilities in other areas, but also most kids will find school more tedious with a narrowing curriculum.”
Dr Thrupp says some students will be given more attention than others, depending on what will make a difference to the school’s published data.
“What we’re likely to see is intensive work with some students and things like booster classes.
“But if your child is not in a group that will make a difference for the school . . . then they are not going to get as much attention.”
He recently organised an open letter to Parata opposing league tables on primary schools. The letter was signed by more than 100 education academics.
Green Party spokesperson Saffron Toms says the Greens have been working hard in Parliament against publication of national standards data and other education reforms.
“We are rolling out a series of experiments, which in most cases have been seen to fail overseas, and we are subjecting this educational experiment to our most vulnerable learners.”
Media commentator Martyn Bradbury, the MC of the Kelston meeting, says he thinks the Government will go out of its way to avoid another fight with the education sector after the furore over larger classroom sizes.
The meeting passed a resolution saying: “We believe this Government is more interested in profit and privatisation than promoting and extending our proven educational success.”