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Policy on the hoof

Written By: - Date published: 10:08 am, June 19th, 2012 - 26 comments
Categories: education, john key, schools - Tags:

John Key wants to debate school league tables. Presumably he thinks that this will do the double whammy of getting middle class parents back on his side in the education debate, and distract from asset sales.

But he’s not checked with his Minister, or the Ministry of Education, or presumably read any of the official advice about how damaging league tables would be.

Ian Leckie of the Educational Institute was excellent on Morning Report this morning. He reiterated all the important points:

  • National Standards are neither National nor Standard – there is no mediating results between schools.
  • They measure only Literacy and Numeracy (and a specific test at that) – schools do much more than that
  • Results on National Standards do not reflect teacher or school quality. Educational achievement has a lot to do with where kids are at when they start school and the amount of support they get from their parents/guardians.

If you want to assess your local schools – supposedly the point of league tables – then, as Ian Leckie suggests, review the ERO school reports on how they’re doing. And go along and look at them yourself, meet the teachers and the head.

If he read the research and official reports, or even talked to the Education Ministry Key would know that league tables may well end up like the decile system. They’ll be a short hand, used by misunderstanding real estate agents, and they won’t actually reflect school quality. They’ll exacerbate white flight and further ghetto-ising of our suburbs as schools in poor areas are seen as bad, because the children don’t do as well there – whether the teachers are good or not. They’ll struggle because their parents are too busy scraping a living in Key’s ‘Brighter Future’ and they don’t have the educational background of middle class parents (and with the scrapping of Adult & Community Education won’t get it either).

But no, Key wants to ‘debate’ the issue, flying some high-level soundbites that sound good, without any deep thinking.

According to Key it will be better if the government compiles the list rather than newspapers (does he not have faith in the literacy and numeracy of journalists?). The research says that contrary to that, governments should be putting pressure on newspapers not to compile lists as it’s not in the interests of the country (what with the lists being so unrepresentative of reality).

But Key doesn’t need facts – he’ll find some other scientist who thinks differently (except he never actually does… Show me the Scientist…)

EDIT: Russell Brown also has an excellent post on this – h/t P’s b

26 comments on “Policy on the hoof”

  1. Bunji 1

    There is a table John Key should be look at though. The $1.5billion (and growing) list of schools that are leaky (thanks 90s National government!)

  2. lyndon 2

    I’d understood various noises around the election to imply they would look at this (going back on the prior assurances they wouldn’t). In the context, “Improve reporting of system-level performance, including investigating school level reporting.” would probably be an example of that. http://www.national.org.nz/PDF_General/Education_in_Schools_policy.pdf
    If they cared about the research they’d’a stopped earlier.

  3. But no, Key wants to ‘debate’ the issue, flying some high-level soundbites that sound good, without any deep thinking.

    I agree, there are growing signs that National doing things on the hoof without reasonable consultation (especially in education) – in fact at times without rudimentary consultation. That’s bad politics. Made worse when they try to push aside important issues that badly need wide consultation and discussion, like Super.

    If National continue like this I don’t see them surviving 2014 without an electoral hammering.

    • Dr Terry 3.1

      Pete, worse than “bad politics”, this is “bad ethics”. Does anyone imagine Key “debating” this? That would be highly unusual for him as one who cares not to “consult” even within his own Party. Key sure has a “thing” about education, he cannot leave it alone without still further assaults upon people who know what they are talking about. Perhaps just about anything serves as a distraction from the blighted asset sales. Key is not clever, but he is bloody crafty.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.2

      Made worse when they try to push aside important issues that badly need wide consultation and discussion, like Super.

      You’re getting to the point that all you seem to do is try to distract from NACT+UF selling off our assets and otherwise screwing our society.

      Super is fine, it needs a few tweaks (A Universal Income would be better) but it’s fully affordable even as it is.

    • Sally Cron 3.3

      Let’s hope! Most of the Ministry are ex teachers who didn’t really succeed in the classroom.

  4. Pascal's bookie 4

    Russell Brown has a good post on the whole shambles. Comments too; worth reading:


  5. Kotahi Tane Huna 5

    This is an ideal opportunity to remind everyone what a fiasco National’s Standards are. The Fairfax strawpoll is running at about 50/50 for/against league tables – if that is reflected in the population at large that is great news: the reasons against them are not easily articulated in smiley wavy soundbites.

    A distraction from National’s sale of stolen property, or another front they cannot afford? This government’s incompetence is being exposed on all sides, and they have not the first clue what to do about it.

    First one to cross the floor wins a marginally better chance at re-election.

    • bbfloyd 5.1

      “win a marginally better chance at re-election”…. that would depend on whether the fourth estate is directed to attack them for “inconsistency” , or if they(media) decide their own best interests lie in jumping on the populist bandwagon i would have thought….

      • Kotahi Tane Huna 5.1.1

        I’m not sure opposition to asset sales constitutes a populist bandwagon, given the clearly defined case against them. The media will no doubt have its say – and influence – on the matter.

  6. vto 6

    Its clear to nearly every single Kiwi now that John Key is flailing, that he doesn’t have the skills or talents necessary to run a government, that he has simply been mistaken in thinking that corporate ways can be transferred across, and that all of the above means he is just blimmin’ useless and why the fuck is here really there? To tick off another of his schoolboy bucket list items? What a waste of space.

    And who is letting him wallow? Seems to me that others in the Nats must see al this and are not pulling either him or the organisation up by the bootstraps to do things properly. It is like they are letting Key and the organisation rapidly fail so that it can rebuilt again without the silly smiling man. Who would do that?

    • Dr Terry 6.1

      Key is still getting away with “fooling some of the people some of the time”. We have only to wait that occasion when he finally discovers that you “cannot fool all of the people all of the time”.

      • bbfloyd 6.1.1

        I think that should b “fooling some of the people all of the time”… the average fossilised tory tends to start frothing at the mouth whenever the word “labour” is mentioned…..

        these people would accept any old rubbish, as long as it is coming from the tory party…

    • bad12 6.2

      “The other’s in the National Party are letting Him wallow”, yeah true but while the factionalization of the National Caucus is a given Slippery is safe for now from the knives of the ‘brat pack’ because the ‘newbies’ know that without Slippery as the head salesman of both the country’s assets and National as a credible Government they are DEFINITELY gone in 2014,

      With Slippery leading the rabble, the backbench still see a slim hope, given yet another week of negative news and politics for and from National my pick is for them to be about 43%…

  7. I agree, Ben, considering all the areas that demand the Government’s attention (earthquake reconstruction, ACC, child poverty, unemployment), we see our highest performing sector attacked again with the bizarre suggestion of league tables for primary schools. As you say it could be just another red herring, but if introduced it will threaten our top five ranking educationally:

  8. captain hook 8

    if kweewee and his govt were any good they would be bussing kids to higher decile schools so that the civil society could remain civil.

  9. bbfloyd 9

    But then they would be higher decile schools any more…once the realities of teaching children who come from homes without the sort of support the children who are already at those “higher decile” schools enjoy……

    No fault of the parents of those “lower decile” children…. It takes generations in most cases,to instil an appreciation of what is required to successfully guide ones children through the education process…

  10. BLiP 10


    Yep -John Key bringing up league tables is probably a distraction. It could also be a typically nasty National Ltd™ sryle pay-back to the education sector for daring to unite. Not only was the government forced into a cowering backdown, Parata was also exposed as bumbling bimbo and no one paid nearly enough attention to John Key’s visit to see the Queen. Imagine what might happen if other sectors united, “better put a stop to that, pronto” would be any Tory’s gut instinct.

    And its not just the impending asset sales National Ltd™ want mums and dads to stop worrying about. There’s also:

    – Prime Minister John Key said he was less confident now than at the time of the May 24 Budget that New Zealand would get back into surplus by 2014-15

    – Exporter confidence in their order books for the next 12 months is at the lowest level since the DHL Export Barometer began in 2004.

    Consumer confidence is slipping in the face of the ongoing European debt crisis, even though people are feeling better off

    Only 35 per cent of financiers, local authorities and private investors who put money into infrastructure expect business to pick up in the next three years.

    – Forecasters expect weaker economic activity over the next two years than they did three months ago.

    – The quarterly survey’s index slipped 2.5 points to 99.9, the first time it has been in negative territory since the immediate aftermath of the February earthquake last year and before that March 2009 when the economy was contracting.

    – Confidence among exporters has slumped over the past year in the face of a strengthening kiwi dollar, a deteriorating global economic situation and rising fuel and raw material costs.

    – New Zealand consumer confidence dimmed in the second quarter of the year as people were content about the present, but increasingly gloomy about the future.

    – Departing Fletchers CEO, Jonathan Ling, told journalists at a media briefing this morning that general economic recovery is more like four or five years away.

    The John Key led National Ltd™ “rolling maul” of economic initiatives has come down to taxing paper-boys, putting the boot into teachers, sterilising beneficiaries, and selling New Zealand’s electricity companies in a collapsing economy. No surprise, then, that John Key is left with little option but to make policy on the hoof – he’s most likely not distracting New Zealanders but, rather, himself from having to face up to the fact that he doesn’t have a fucking clue what he’s doing.

    • Draco T Bastard 10.1

      But he does have a clue as to what he’s doing – he’s giving all our wealth to the already rich, mostly foreigners.

  11. ianmac 11

    Russell Brown has written an excellent report on League Tables/Key/National Standards called :
    “Moving from frustration to disgust.” I bet our PM doesn’t read it else his boyish grin would freeze over.

  12. tracey 12

    geoff gave him a hard time but struck a chord when he suggested that key was back to sucking up to parents … more tyre kicking from key speaking on a portfolio he doesnt manage and knows piss all about…

  13. Georgy 13

    I’ve got an idea. lets have a debate on League tables. Lets start with the positive:
    [4] etc

    Now for the negative
    [1] League tables produce misleading and inaccurate information
    [2] they do not lead to better schools
    [3] they promote social segregation
    [4] they favour the privileged
    [5] they compound the effects of disadvantage
    [6] they do not measure the ‘value added’ by the school
    [7] test and assessment data/results are influenced by a variety of factors, not all of which are within the control of schools or teachers
    [8] they do not distinguish the school contribution to the test results from that of other factors such as family background and resources.
    [9] league tables can camouflage underachievement among mediocre schools with favoured intakes
    [10] a school could perform badly in comparison with other schools despite high quality teaching and resources because it serves a less-privileged community
    [11] Comparisons of school results also lead to inaccurate assessments of school quality because the tests are narrowly based.
    [12] therefore comparisons of school literacy and numeracy assessment outcomes are misleading when interpreted as measures of school performance
    [13] higher performing schools become more popular they can adopt selective enrolment practices to further improve their performance
    [14] there is no possible way to control the variables in testing/assessment procedures. Therefore the data available to parents is not ‘true’ ie apples are not being compared with apples.
    [15] League table data do not show a childs ability in critical thinking, problem solving, creativity or their progress
    [16] League tables are based on high stakes testing where info comes from a very narrow range of sources creating a lottery of significant, serious, negative and unintended outcomes
    [17] Parents will base a wide range of assumptions on one single bit of info – a number – about a school

    • vto 13.1

      ha ha, good one georgy, but unfortunately this National government does not deal in facts or reasoned logic. It deals solely in ideology, like all extremists and nutbars. You just have to have faith. You need to believe. You must bow down to the God of right wing ideology – that great religion that brought us the great depression, the gfc, the finance company collapses, the 1987 sharemarket crash, the constant and rising level of unemployment, rising power prices, foreign landlords, cuts for public schools and increases for private schools.

      The Church of the National Party – nothing more and nothing less.

  14. North 14

    What the hell is John Key on ?

    Announcing significant education measures…….without a word to Minister Paratasite.

    She acknowledges that and reckons she’s “not at all surprised” that she wasn’t told or asked about it beforehand. Well that’s a worry in itself surely. Did he tell the inner-circle or was it his little invention after a hearty steak and kidney pudding dinner, followed by a call to his bro’ in Downing Street “LOL” ?

    This is freaky and shades of Muldoon when he was losing it in ’84 before the skinful of gin

  15. vto 15

    Next thing Key will pronounce himself a Bishop.

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