27 Mar 2010

Sharples changed view on national standards

5:21 pm on 27 March 2010

The Associate Education Minister concedes he has changed his view on the Government's flagship policy on national standards for schools.

The benchmarks for literacy and numeracy are being rolled out in primary and secondary schools, but Maori-medium schools have been allowed an extra year before they have to implement the policy.

Emails obtained by Radio New Zealand News show Pita Sharples told a member of his staff that many Maori schools "do not believe in the standards, and neither do I".

Dr Sharples voiced concerns earlier this year about the impact league tables might have on schools like kura kaupapa, but said he was reflecting worries that had been expressed to him by kura and Maori teachers in mainstream schools.

However, Radio New Zealand's political staff say his comments in the email to his media advisor indicated he was fundamentally opposed to the policy.

Dr Sharples told Morning Report that, since January, he has considered the issue and is comfortable with national standards themselves. However, he says he will always be worried about the use of league tables.

"At that time that was what I believed in, because I was real dead scared of the league tables, how one school gets compared with another, and I still believe that's a possibility," he says.

"I did not want there to be good schools and bad schools, and that's why I really opposed it."

Labour Party education spokesperson Trevor Mallard says Dr Sharples' natural inclinations on standards are not kneejerk, but are based on research and understanding.

"There's also some big issues he's been worried about in the past around labelling of Maori children as failures, which will happen under this [system]."

Kura kaupapa organisation opposes national standards

The head of the national body for kura kaupapa Maori says his group opposes national standards.

Rawiri Wright says there is no evidence the standards will benefit the 64 kura and they could damage the schools by narrowing their teaching.

But Mr Wright says the Runanga Nui O Nga Kura Kaupapa Maori O Aoteroa understands Dr Sharples' position, and that he needs to do his job according to his role.

Mr Wright says the runanga discuss its position on the standards this weekend, and will no doubt be talking to Dr Sharples in time