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National adopts B'ness Roundtable education plan

Hon Trevor Mallard
Minister of Education

31 August 2005 Media Statement

National adopts Business Roundtable education plan

National's plans for schools will require national testing of children and is a policy that is straight out of the Business Roundtable's handbook on education, Education Minister Trevor Mallard said today.

"New Zealand schools already have strong assessment systems which parents can access to see how their children are doing against their classmates, other schools, and nationally throughout the year. I'd like Bill English to tell us which schools are not already sharing these results with parents.

"The introduction of new national standards can only be done by introducing national testing," Trevor Mallard said.

"Under National's plan, children would have to be tested at exactly the same time and they will have to have exactly the same tests - along the lines of a School Certificate for seven year-olds.

"The Education Forum - the education wing of the Business Roundtable - in a 2004 "Policy Directions for New Zealand education" spells out this exact policy. There can be absolutely no doubt - despite the protests of Business Roundtable member Don Brash - that National is simply running the agenda of this radical right-wing organisation.

"New Zealanders should be worried for their children should National ever come to power.

"National testing was scrapped in Scotland and Wales and is being softened in England in favour of teacher assessment, which is what we have in New Zealand. National testing was found to be damaging children and not improving their education. A survey of parents in England found that two thirds of 11-year-olds were stressed out preparing for the tests, with 9 percent suffering anxiety attacks.

"Another British study by Demos showed national testing only measured recall, rather than actual understanding of the subjects being tested. Studies have also found that teachers experienced work overload and stress, and that national testing contributed to teachers leaving the profession.

"National should get with the times and stop trying to pull schools and children back into the dark ages. New Zealand already has a world-leading and successful assessment system for children which teachers are applauding - the Assessment Tools for Teaching and Learning (AsTTle).

"Parents can already access assessment results so they know how their child is doing in literacy and numeracy - against the rest of their class, against similar schools and against national results.

"These assessments - now available online - also give teachers incredibly rich information about a child's knowledge, pinpointing problem areas so teachers can adjust their lessons to target the gaps," Trevor Mallard said.

"Finally, New Zealand children are already amongst the top in the OECD for literacy, numeracy and problem solving, and there are strong literacy and numeracy programmes already working in schools, as this work has been a top priority for our government," Trevor Mallard said.

* For the source of National's education policy See Reform Directions: Schools in Policy Directions for New Zealand Education, by Norman LaRocque of the Business Roundtable, October 2004


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