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One Rule for Some

Written By: - Date published: 10:33 am, January 20th, 2011 - 44 comments
Categories: class, education - Tags: , ,

Auckland Grammar School (that most private of public schools) has decided that NCEA isn’t good enough for them and that it doesn’t meet the needs of its community. When 300 or so Primary Schools said the same about National Standards Minister Tolley threatened Boards of Trustees with the sack and schools have been threatened with extra visits by ERO and a cut in funding for professional development.

Tolley’s response to AGS’s decision to opt out of our National Qualifications system is to not respond instead preferring to be in Europe talking about the success of her Standards system.

One rule for the rich? NCEA simply for the poor? Afraid to offend Auckland’s elite?



44 comments on “One Rule for Some”

  1. Draco T Bastard 1

    And the funny thing is that NCEA is the better system.

    • Lew 1.1

      Actually, this is the bit which isn’t funny. The whole line of argument here draws an equivalence between NCEA and National Standards.

      NCEA is a rigorously-designed, thoroughly-tested and robust educational assessment system with widespread buy in from educators, students, parents, and employers.

      National Standards is populist hack ideology masquerading as policy, designed to fulfill a rashly-made election promise on the cheap, hated by everyone who knows anything about assessment systems, despised by teachers, and the source of considerable confusion for parents.

      The two don’t merit being used in the same breath, let alone compared as equals. Framing matters.


  2. The Baron 2

    So presumably, this decision was made by or approved by the Board of Trustees. Which is directly elected by the school’s community. Which means that your assertion that “it doesn’t meet the needs of the community” seems to be directly contrary to that community’s own decision.

    • fabregas4 2.1

      There is no assertion made that NCEA doesn’t meet the needs of the community in the post. AGS have stated that they offer Cambridge Exams because NCEA does not meet the needs of its community.

    • Draco T Bastard 2.2

      Where did Fabregas4 say that?

      Oh, that’s right, s/he didn’t.

    • Rich 2.3

      This might meet the narrow needs of the minority of privileged boys at AGS, by giving them another distinction from ordinary kids. It doesn’t meet the needs of the wider community which is why it should be blocked.

  3. millsy 3

    Can anyone please tell me why Grammar is still part of the public school system, seeing as its elitist and exclusive status is in direct contradiction with what the concept of a public school system is.

    • higherstandard 3.1

      Because it is a public school and must accept all pupils who are within its zone.

      How is it elitist and exclusive ?

      • the sprout 3.1.1

        housing within the ‘Grammar Zone’ is much more expensive than comparable houses outside the zone, and attract what is referred to as a grammar zone premium.
        i thinks it’s hilarious people pay more to live in that zone considering AGS is in many ways a shit school: repressive, patriarchal, elitist and a producer of emotionally delayed young men.
        an interesting stat is that while AGS has a comparatively high proportion of its students going on to university studies, it also has a comparatively low proportion of students who complete their university studies. why? because it does not produce students who can effectively motivate themselves to study. instead they require extrinsic motivation, or someone threatening them with a stick. AGS teaches them learning is a drag.

        • higherstandard

          You could use that argument for any decile 9 – 10 school.

          Because a school sits in an area where property prices are high there is no reason to to call them repressive, patriarchal, elitist and a producer of emotionally delayed young men(women).

          I’m pretty sure the management and teachers there are a mix of good and bad much as other schools across nz.

          disclaimer – I neither went to, nor have children attending AGS

          • the sprout

            I didn’t assert that the price of housing in the Glamour Zone was responsible for the emotional delays.
            Your reading comprehension skills are somewhat lacking.

        • Draco T Bastard

          Sounds like the school system that existed 30 years ago which got replaced because it was a failure and also persuaded me to never send any kids I had to school.

          • The Baron

            Wow, so I guess those lucky children of yours all just sit at your feet and bask in your brilliance then huh Draco? Such a caring father. Very good of you to deny your children a school experience based on your blind ideology.

            Will you be banning schools before or after you ban bananas? And will everyone be able to call the reality hotline to learn the word according to Draco? You may need more than one cellphone for all of those people “out of touch with reality” though.

        • The Baron


          This is a direct consequence of the Zoning regulations. Remove the zone, remove the problem.

          Hell, if you did that, then you may also allow schools to specialise, servicing different needs. Instead of trapping everyone with the same generic experience.

          Not everyone learns the same way. Parents and students deserve a choice. Obviously, the school community and their duly elected board and made their choice to try something else out.

          I struggle to see what is wrong here, apart from an overly politicised union ranting on, and a whole pile of lefty fantbois exercising their right to hate the rich.

          • logie97


            In the 60’s there was zoning. 10% of pupils could be drawn from out of zone. If you wanted to get into AGS from out of zone you had to be the son of a New Zealand representative, or high flier or have shown exceptional potential in the academic or sporting fields at intermediate level, or have had family connections.

            Captcha digit

          • fabregas4

            Zoning is in place to protect the right of children to attend their local school. AGS already accepts those outside the zone determined by their ability and willingness to pay an extremely high school donation. Schools are able to specialize right now and to service their communities needs – indeed the new New Zealand Curriculum document encourages it!

            If you go back to the post (always a good idea) you will see that the issue is about how the Minister of Education reacts to similar situations dependent on who it is who is choosing to act against her policy. I agree that Boards should be able to build schools that meet their communities needs – all Boards not just those of the so called elite schools.

            The unions have not been mentioned until you did so. Don’t be a dick.

    • lprent 3.2

      Apart from anything else if they removed AGS from the public system, they’d have to replace it with a public school to cover the same zone. It’d be simpler and more efficient if AGS stopped acting as if it was a private school.

  4. higherstandard 4

    So do you support the BOT of AGS deciding what’s best for their school and pupils or not.

    • fabregas4 4.1

      I do, provided that it is the same for all schools across all policies. That is if NCEA is no good for AGS then National Standards if deemed by BOT’s not to be in the best interests of its children should also be able to be opted out of.

      • higherstandard 4.1.1

        I think that’s very fair.

        Like the justice system it’d be nice if the politics was toned down in the education sector and we had a twenty/thirty year plan which the public OK’d and then the government of the day and the ECE, primary and secondary schools were required to implement.

  5. Rich 5

    There is a simple solution to this, which Labour should have implemented:

    Mandate that outside very special circumstances (such as being mostly educated overseas), students will only be funded as domestic students if they have NCEA qualifications. So if you don’t have such quals, you can’t go to uni, or your parents have to fork out international fees.

    • higherstandard 5.1

      Would you be happy to have such measures introduced for schools that don’t implement National Standards ?

      How does punishing students and families make sense ?

  6. fabregas4 6

    What concerns me is Tolley’s approach to this in contrast to her stance on Nationals Standards. On the one hand she is conspicuously silent when confronted with a school choosing to opt out of the country’s assessment system and on the other she threatens and bully schools who want to … opt out of the country’s assessment system. In both cases, Boards are doing what they think is best for their children (in the case of AGS they want an alternate assessment regime which they believe suit their children better and in the schools against Nationals Standards they want to use their existing assessment frameworks which they … consider suit their children better). Add in that Private Schools aren’t lumped with Nationals Standards and it certainly seems there is one rule for the rich and one for the rest of us. Consistent I know with all National policy but concerning none the same.

    • Craig Glen Eden 6.1

      This is outrageous these unions are just looking after their members ,hell National have a mandate to put National Standards in place after all its the law, if these people dont want to follow the laws of a democratically elected government they should just leave, who do they think they are.

      Oh shit no hang on, this is not the Unions its rich people who want to disregard the law oh well no problems then move along smile and wave telly ho chaps.

  7. the sprout 7

    i’m not sure AGS is really serving their students well by only graduating them with a qualification that is not nationally recognized.
    Cambridge might sound snooty-posh, but it is not a nationally recognized qualification.
    perhaps like MFAT and the SIS, other employers will consider being an AGS Old Boy as qualification enough.

  8. Tim 8

    This move by Auckland Grammar is typical of their general attitude towards state education.

    What is unfortunate is that we have all brought into the marketing ploy that it so obviously is. Their students’ failure to be successful is because of the teaching that goes on within the school – a bad sportsman blames the game and not their performance.

    Auckland Grammar is struggling to stay relevant and trying to compete with King’s and St. Kent’s – who they see as their major opposition. What is disappointing is that they want to choose a system to measure their students that was designed for third world countries with English as second language speakers. Anyone in the education system knows that Cambridge is actually a lot easier to prepare students for – that is because it is about having your students memorise a lot of information and then regurgitate this in one exam. It is great if you want to produce lemmings that cannot think critically, but can remember a date in history or a quote (information so easily accesible on the internet that it is surely pointless memorising it). NCEA only recently was lauded internationally for its forward looking focus and the way in which it encouraged critical thinking.

    The other interesting thing is that everyone assumes it is an internal system – which is bollocks. Most courses have 50% of their credits assessed through external examination. What’s more is the reserach which has linked success at tertiary education being directly linked to success through NCEA. Proving that NCEA actually prepares students better for university than any other qualification offered in New Zealand.

    I think public funding should not be made available for a school that is so obviously intent on undermining the national education qualification. Make no mistake – AGS is going out of it’s way to make NCEA seem like the easy option – which it is not. I would challenge anyone that thinks it is to complete NCEA Level 3 and see how well they go. Most of this ‘noise’ about the system comes from people who really have no idea about the system and just want what they had at school – unfortunately if I was to give my students a School Certificate paper they would find it so easy it would be a waste of time.

  9. logie97 9

    Just sell the school off.
    Let them compete with the other fee paying schools in the city.
    They make no contribution to the state system, and in fact bag it often.

    No let them find their own funding is what I say.

  10. Irascible 10

    AGS has, at least, been consistent the administration has been opposed to NCEA and the use of internal assessment components to study since the debate on these issues began in the 1990s. The decision to reject NCEA for all except those the Admin consider “weak, failing students” is merely a reflection of the inadequate research the school has used to make its decision to go with the Cambridge examination programme.
    If Tolley had any gumption she would call the Principal into her office, inform him that he is a civil servant and that he is instructed to provide the State recognised national secondary school qualifications to ALL students enrolled. That any external examination shall be regarded as an optional extra with no national recognition being given… in much the same way as entrants in the US spelling bee contest is regarded.
    AGS has also fought against zoning for years – in fact it’s self drawn zone had / has no real connection to the geography of Auckland or the area in which te school is located. Another indication of the bellicose manner in which te school operates.

  11. clandestino 11

    Usually I would agree. However, when it comes to education, I know from very personal experience NCEA is not a great system, especially for boys. Having been educated overseas for a period of time in my early teens, coming back to NZ was a real culture shock as I found my peers just didn’t care about their marks such as I had experienced in a more expectational environment.
    To be fair, it was the first year of NCEA, but I recognised the basic problems were there. Of process driven teachers rather than subject matter driven, of substantial leeway on standards and focus on ‘student oriented learning’ rather than assessment requiring the cognitive act of learning material. This may vary from school to school but the overwhelming truth was, it just wasn’t as difficult or challenging!

    Thus I tend to believe perhaps schools should be able to decide and experiment with their own systems in their attempts to ingrain a culture of ambition and (dare I say it) competitiveness in education, as opposed to this very ‘open-minded’ yet ultimately poorer culture of ‘meh’.

    • Vicky32 11.1

      My son and his male friends had no problems with NCEA, Clandestino! (My son did his last year at high school, and Level 3 NCEA) in 2005.)
      All of them, my son and his friends (male and female) succeeded with NCEA, went to Uni and by now, all have graduated and are working in their chosen fields, in my son’s case, he’s a cardiothoracic nurse.
      I know the argument that boys don’t do well with internal assessment, but it’s nonsense. They do as well as girls do, provided they’re prepared to actually do the work (as girls do) and above all, from my p.o.v., as a former girl, stop disrupting the class because they’re bored/annoyed! I get very cross with men who say “oh boys don’t do well with the female model of sitting and listening” – it’s simply as excuse for boys who don’t want to exercise self-discipline! Boys are no likelier to be kinaesthetic learners than girls are. Kinaesthetic learners are actually very rare. Special pleading for boys? As an educator, I don’t accept it – it’s just laziness, bullying and gender exceptionalism.
      (Mind you, these boys and girls were the maths/science nerds. )

      • Vicky32 11.1.1

        PS – Clandestino, the above is not a diatribe against you! I see that your points are different – that NCEA is not rigorous enough…

        • clandestino

          Don’t worry Vicky I’m not that easily offended I hope!

          That’s great that you’re son had no problems. I didn’t have any either, and that is what I am saying is wrong with it. I came from a school where maths was expected at a very high level and science was similarly encouraged (for example I went from doing advanced chemistry in 4th form overseas to just ‘science’ in 5th form NCEA – which was shithouse and put me off I’m sorry to say). This kind of thing just isn’t expected here, it isn’t pushed. We used to compare grades in my previous school, it was ‘cool’ to get 95% or be in Algebra ‘2’ instead of Geometry.
          My personal feeling is NCEA contributes to the general apathy. Lacking a (generally) cultural drive, we beat around the bush with a second rate grading system. The difference between a ‘Merit’ and ‘Excellence’ can come across as arbitrary. The teachers see it as clear as we put them through a graduate education where over-complicated theory ‘proves’ the worth of NCEA.
          Why not have everything done in a term/semester contribute to grades? It would provide an incentive to actually do the work if lots of little pieces gave you a good base before exams etc.
          This was what I had for the first years of High School, and yes (shock, horror) it was an American school….

  12. Vicky32 12

    “producer of emotionally delayed young men(women).”
    Do they even have any girls there? All I kept hearing on the radio is that the Principal said that “NCEA is not good for boys”

    • prism 12.1

      My impression about the NCEA not being good for boys comment was that he meant too many boys were sliding through the year, doing whatever they needed to get good ‘grades’ (he mentioned copying others’ work and probably going onto the internet, and apparently you can pay someone else to write up something suitable). He runs a boys school so knows their ways, girls could also be up to skiving tricks I am sure.

      The stringent exam conditions prevent this sort of rort and they have to buckle down and stuff their brains then, even if they haven’t worked well during the year. So the exam forces the individual to learn though of course they have to check for programmable calculators, devices etc.

      • clandestino 12.1.1

        Yes you can do all those things to get through NCEA. It’s very easy to drift through, do a bit of cramming for externals, and do very poor work to get ‘Achieveds’ in internals.
        Contrast this with systems I prefer where they make no difference between external and internal assessment, but where everything contributes, and you find kids (and boys) compete against each other, themselves, and the system to do well. At least, that is my experience.

  13. logie97 13

    Clandestino – NCEA has moved on considerably since you took them. However, there was a body of schools that argued against their implementation from the start, sought alternatives and have invested so much in their externals that they couldn’t possibly back down now.

    There is enough prejudice out there working against NCEA that it will take a generation to finally accept their validity. And it would be great to be a fly on the wall when Morris is discussing NCEA with his BOT – they are bound to come away no better informed.

    Strangely, I took from Morris’s comments that NCEA created a lot of work for… his teachers and they are the ones who have baulked. AGS never wanted to move away from exams. When I was there we had exams every term and exams leading up to the external exams – constant cramming of facts in preparation.

    • prism 13.1

      logie97 – The principal seemed mostly concerned about one year’s cohort – I think Year 11. I think NCEA was to be available for others.

  14. DeepRed 14

    Even the country’s chief employer lobbyist believes Grammar’s Cambridge policy is all about cynical marketing ploys.

    Business NZ chief executive Phil O’Reilly suggested the Auckland Grammar move – and reports that other Auckland schools might follow suit – was a ploy to attract lucrative fee-paying international pupils.

    “I’m a bit cynical about the elite schools doing what they are doing,” he said.

    Because many pupils from high-performing schools like Auckland Grammar went straight on to tertiary study, it was those grades that employers focused on.

    Employers were increasingly comfortable with NCEA, of which he was largely a supporter. “It’s a chance for a young person to show their competency in whatever they are competent at.”

    He said it was disappointing if Auckland Grammar was shunning NCEA in some years.

    And let’s not forget the inanity of the ‘Grammar Nazis’. In hindsight they were probably Paul Henrys in training.

    Dezoning was about parental choice in theory, but in practice it was more like school choice. Poor kids from decile 1 suburbs were typically told, “sorry, we don’t want your types dragging down our league tables.”

    And the inconsistency between Grammar’s NCEA revolt and the National Standards revolt can only suggest that the latter is a veiled union-crushing agenda.

    It’s all symptomatic of a wider malaise where social Darwinist materialism is the prevailing opiate of the masses. An opiate that counts Paul Henry and Michael Laws among its missionaries.

  15. seeker 15

    @logie97 “Strangely, I took from Morris’s comments that NCEA created a lot of work for… his teachers and they are the ones who have baulked.”

    NCEAs require far more work from teachers ( internal assessment AND exams) than a ‘teaching towards exams only’ approach. AGS has let New Zealand Education down and has virtually placed itself outside our very robust and internationally recognised NCEA system.. As the flagship school for the Cambridge Exam, and to distinguish itself from other state schools, AGS should now be known as Auckland Crammer. Revolting is not a good look though.

  16. Irascible 16

    Ironically, we may have a repeat of the Cambridge High fiasco over AGS Cambridge decision fiasco. Once an investigation takes place the AGS decision may prove as flawed as the corruption of the NCEA processes used by Cambridge and which were used by AGS as a vindication of Morris’ unfounded, unresearched assertion that NCEA didn’t help “his boys” cram for results.

  17. Irascible 17

    And now Tolley expresses full confidence in Morris and no real confidence in the NZ Education system or qualification system. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10701287 Really makes one believe that the Education portfolio is in rational hands doesn’t it?

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    I had an opinion piece published in the Waikato Times about a controversial proposal to build a new gas-fired power station. It’s not on their website yet, so here it is: If you think the public would get a say ...
    GreensBy Gareth Hughes
    2 weeks ago
  • MSD and their investment approach
    The Government talks about investment but there is no investment. It is not investment if it isn’t over the whole of life and if there is no new money  — Shamubeel Eaqub   Investment sounds like adequate resourcing but this ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie
    2 weeks ago
  • Certainty needed for community services
    A couple of months ago I was at a seminar where three community organisations were presenting. Two of the three presenters were waiting to find out if their organisation would get a contract renewed with MSD. Not knowing if their ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie
    2 weeks ago
  • Domestic Violence – some advice for the media
    For the purpose of this piece, I’m going to use Domestic Violence (DV) as a proxy for intimate partner violence. DV is not isolated to physical abuse in a relationship between people with the same power. DV is a pattern of ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie
    2 weeks ago
  • Leroy’s New Paw Prints
    Leroy, an Auckland great dane recently received a new 3D printed bionic leg after cancer was discovered. I think this is a fantastic story and highlights the real potential of additive manufacturing, or 3D printing Leroy’s prosthetic was printed in titanium and was ...
    GreensBy Gareth Hughes
    2 weeks ago