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Alarming report shows need for urgent action

Hon Anne Tolley
Minister of Education
Minister Responsible for ERO

16 December 2009
Media Statement

Alarming report shows need for urgent action

Education Minister Anne Tolley says immediate action is needed to help New Zealand’s youngest students, following the release of an alarming report by the Education Review Office (ERO).

An ERO evaluation into reading and writing in the crucial Years 1 and 2 at primary schools found that almost two-thirds of school leaders - principals and senior managers - aren’t properly monitoring how well young children are achieving or progressing, and that three-quarters of principals don’t set expectations of high achievement levels.

The report also found that while 70 per cent of teachers are doing well, 30 per cent are not teaching reading and writing effectively and set low expectations for students.

“This is a major wake-up call for everyone involved in education,” says Mrs Tolley.

“Parents and communities will be extremely concerned with the findings of this report, which goes some way to explaining why one in five children are leaving school without the basic skills they need.

“It shows that many principals have no way of assessing if young children are falling behind and need more support in their reading and writing. Many of these students find it very difficult to catch up.

“That is why it is vitally important that National Standards are introduced in primary schools next year. Schools will be required to assess, monitor and report in plain language on each child’s progress in reading, writing and maths. The Standards, or benchmarks, will allow us to identify those children that need extra help, and will provide a valuable tool for improving teaching.

“It is also extremely worrying that the report finds some school leaders are ignoring achievement information that does not show positive results, or do not give the information to boards of trustees and school communities.

“Parents want the information, and boards of trustees need the information. Boards are investing millions of dollars of community and taxpayer money into literacy programmes, and yet are not being told how effective they are.

“The current system is obviously not working, while up to 20 per cent of students are being allowed to fail. We can’t let this continue any longer.

“Lots of good work is being done by teachers and principals in New Zealand, but this ERO report shows that we need to do better. National Standards will enable us to lift achievement levels for all students.

“I will be discussing the report, and how we ensure our young students get the best possible start to their education, with the Ministry, the New Zealand School Trustees Association, NZEI and the Principals’ Federation as soon as possible.”

ERO evaluated 212 primary schools in Terms 1 and 2, 2009. A full copy of the report’s findings and recommendations can be found at


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