17 Jun 2013

Govt facing new revolt over national standards

10:29 pm on 17 June 2013

Primary and intermediate school teachers and principals are boycotting the trial of a national standards computer system the Government wants to make mandatory from 2015.

The Principals Federation, the Association of Intermediate and Middle Schools, the Catholic Primary Principals' Association and the Educational Institute are opposing the $6 million Progress and Consistency Tool (PACT).

PACT helps teachers decide if children meet standards in reading, writing and maths, and will report the results to principals, boards and the Ministry of Education.

However, the groups opposed say it will undermine teacher professionalism and feed league tables of school results.

A spokesperson for the Principals Federation said on Monday that teachers and principals do not trust the Government with the new system. Paul Drummond, the principal of Tahunanui School in Nelson, believes the Government could use it for school league tables and teacher performance pay.

"There's not a lot of faith or trust in the direction in which this Government is taking education. I think PACT now is seen as perhaps the Trojan Horse that's going to take the national standards policy into a new regime of competition and performance pay. Things that we believe will not be good for children in our country."

Northland principals say they have no faith in the security of the software after the Novopay disaster. The payroll system has been plagued by errors since its introduction in August 2012, with underpayments, overpayments or no payments at all to some school staff.

Northland Principals Association president Pat Newman says comparing the knowledge of one five-year-old with another's is essentially pointless and raises privacy issues. Mr Newman said parents should be asking who owns the information about their children, who has a right to see it and and how that data will be protected.

Victoria University senior education lecturer Michael Johnston helped develop PACT and said it would not harm schools. However, he believed making the tool compulsory in 2015 had fuelled teachers' fears.

The Ministry of Education said the system was developed due to concerns about consistency with national standards.