Friday, April 30, 2010

Are you listening Mrs Tolley?

Thank you Iain Taylor for this guest blog. The below are Iain's notes for his thank you speech to the Minister after her presentation to the Auckland Principals Association. Iain is well known for his point of view and is currently principal of Manurewa Intermediate School.

Thank you Minister for having the courage and tenacity to address the APPA… as you can see from the numbers here today what you had to say was keenly awaited…and thank you also for ‘putting to rest’, we hope, our fears of national league tables.

You will already have heard around the country I am sure that it is not national standards we fear at all - we already use a wide range of assessments which are standardized. We already know where a child’s performance sits compared to their peers of similar age or stage and teachers already use a range of measures to inform judgments on where a child fits. What we fear is what will happen to that information.

I am sure I speak for all principals here today, but perhaps particularly for lower decile schools it is “value added” that is far more important and valid than reaching a set achievement standard
.We all know kids arrive at school with a wide range of strengths and of course weaknesses, all the result of differing personalities, differing home backgrounds and experiences, and a host of immeasurable factors that make our kids who they are.

The revised NZ curriculum I believe is fantastic. We really hope testing in the broadest sense does not signal a narrowing of its intent whereby schools only focus on literacy and numeracy.

A broad education is most important.An education which recognises the huge array of children’s strengths and successes and builds on those.

We want our curriculum to actively combine challenging life type experiences with academic rigour and creative opportunity in the personal education of every student. But a curriculum of this ambitious nature cannot be confined to the classroom alone with a focus solely on literacy and numeracy and all that, sometimes, ‘irrelevant testing stuff’.

The distinction of core curricular and extracurricular components is invalid in my opinion. In order to develop students across a spectrum of intelligences we cannot merely focus on literacy and numeracy, we must still do all the other interesting things. We need to integrate experiences on the sports fields, in outdoor education, using technology, through service projects, in scientific experimentation and down at the stream and the beach and in the bush, in the art room, and in musical and dramatic performances.

It is has always been the strength of the NZ school system that an active, challenging curriculum provides students with the opportunity to develop all their intelligences and these then strengthen each other leading to well balanced, perceptive individuals who have the confidence to take risks, to think outside the box and to take action to improve the lives of themselves and others. We all expect our students to be fully and constructively involved in a range of activities on offer in our schools and testing could well put a stop to many of these relevant and motivating experiences that our kids are doing every day, in every Auckland primary school.

The message we want to constantly convey to every Auckland student is to grasp every opportunity available in their school. The worst thing that can happen is for students to leave our schools saying “I wish I had tried that” and we don’t want that to be the case! National testing and any national comparisons or league table scenario could create that sort of environment.

Once again Minister Tolley thank you for your time and interest.

No reira,
tena koutou,
tena koutou,
tena koutou katoa

Iain Taylor
Auckland Primary Principals Association

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Let's hope all principals' groups are telling our minister similar stories but, as you say, is she capable of listening; is her mind closed to the challenges of the future? She shows no respect for the 'voice' of 'her' teachers.