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Stop using education as political football, principals urge politicians

Stop using education as political football, principals urge politicians
Longbeach Schools Leo Thomas showing off his maths skills to National’s education spokesperson, Erica Stanford. SUPPLIED

Principals are calling on politicians to stop using children's education as a political football every election cycle.

Allenton School principal Andrew Leverton said political parties shouldn't use education as a "political football ... to score points off, trying to appease parents by suggesting things aren't happening in schools”, like reading, writing, and maths.

His comments were echoed by Ashburton College principal, Ross Preece, and Mount Hutt College principal, Jack Saxon, who both felt education faced significant change every election cycle.

National’s education spokesperson Erica Stanford said the party was seeking consistency in education, during a visit to Mid Canterbury schools this week.

The party's education policy “isn’t a major departure from what we are doing already”, Stanford said.

“Everything we have announced is already best practice in most of our schools and we just want to make it consistent across the country.

“I don’t think that anything we have put out so far can be described as a massive change.

“I’ve been very cautious not to flip the table and cause too much change for teachers.”

National’s policy included using the work already done by the Labour Government’s curriculum refresh, but “filling the holes”, she said.

There are plenty of similarities between National and Labour in terms of education policy, including a common practice model, she said.

The common practice model aims to ensure all young people receive the same literacy and numeracy teaching, regardless of the school they attend.

“What is in the common practice model is where we disagree," Stanford said.

“And I’d say to the sector, even they disagree quite often to what should be in a common practice model.

“It’s good to have a contest of ideas, but making sure, broadly, we are not having huge change every electoral cycle.

The local principals also raised concerns about a return to national standards and national testing if National is elected.

National wanted consistent assessments across the country, Stanford said.

“That’s not to stop schools doing the assessment they are already doing, but we want a twice-yearly light-touch progression monitoring check-in so we get a picture of where the nations at and where to direct resources.

“There are some schools that do incredible assessments, but it is variable across the country.”

Stanford visited Longbeach and Rakaia schools with National’s Rangitata candidate James Meager.

Longbeach has introduced structured literacy and mathematics with impressive results, Stanford said.

“The principal said they are at 92% at curriculum for maths which is outstanding, it’s phenomenally good given the national average is 41%.

“It was a great model school for me to look at and see why things are working so well there,” Stanford said.

By Jonathan Leask