National against dumping of National’s Standards 

The Government is irresponsibly and recklessly scrapping National Standards without having a detailed nationwide system of progression to replace it with, leaving parents in the dark about their children’s achievement, National Party Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye desperately says.

“Education Minister Chris Hipkins’ decision to no longer compel schools to report annually on a randomly arbitrary figure set by the National Party and given to the Ministry of Education to enforce is bad news for parents and could have negative and far-reaching consequences across the education sector,” Ms Kaye says.

“While Mr Hipkins is saying parents will still get reports, there is no clarity about what exactly will be required of teachers to report on. He’s even said that parents will be able to celebrate the progress of their children. This is an outrage.

“If teachers don’t report against National’s Standards, what are they going to report on? How their students get on with other children? How they manage themselves? How well they collaborate with others? How awesome they are at Art or P.E. or Science or Technology?

“Without this information there will also be huge difficulty targeting funding to schools that the minister likes.

“Mr Hipkins did not need to do this – he should have waited until he had figured out a replacement system. Instead, just as schools are breaking up for the year he has given them every reason to celebrate.

“National has previously supported a shift to progression but only when coupled with the use of data to play school off against school and teacher off against teacher. It’s important for our friends in the media to get every possible chance they can to rank schools using National’s Standards because that’s obviously the best way to improve learning outcomes for children. 

“This Minister is consistently displaying a rash and ideological approach to our education system, which is something we never ever did never ever ever.”

Everything stays the same?

We were all there watching on election night. Watching when a compulsive fibber was re-elected to the premiership and promptly promised to, “work for all New Zealand.” Yet another mistruth. But who’s counting?

One of the twitter conversations I followed on the night but didn’t engage with because I was so furious (at the result, not the conversation) was between a few teachers.

We were discussing how, now that National had the “mandate,” the entire education system was going to be thrust into a state of flux as all manner of weird policies were thrust onto the education system.

This weirdness was exemplified a few days later when a 12-year-old was appointed Undersecretary to Education. What the hell is that? It sounds like one of those double entendre from a Carry On film (“Ooo err Madam Undersecretary…. etc).

With ACT now a joke political party, the term sock puppet pops into my head whenever I hear them. Actually, when I think about it, I have not heard from them since around about the time David Seymour gave his maiden speech to parliament promising to, “lift all New Zealanders out of poverty by reducing their employment conditions, wages and housing opportunities.” I’m paraphrasing, but I think that was the general gist.

Back to our discussion. The idea was that no matter which government was in, or which policy was being implemented, nothing much changed in our day-to-day lives as middle class public servants.

At the time I thought about this and I thought that was possibly fair enough, but the longer time has gone on, the more and more I realise what an utter cop-out this argument is. It’s the argument of the people who voted National but don’t like their policies.

Every single National-led government since I’ve been born – Muldoon, Bolger, Shipley & this current bunch (too young to remember Holyoake) – have implemented policies that have had a huge impact on a vast proportion of the population.

  • Cutting benefits – let’s reduce the income of the poorest people in New Zealand. That won’t have any impact on anyone. I’m sure nobody will resort to crime to cover the money missing from their weekly balance so they can feed their kids.
  • Student loans – let’s make students borrow to pay for their education. That won’t have any impact on the people graduating. I’m certain they will all stay in New Zealand and not go overseas so they don’t have to pay their loans back.
  • National standards – let’s measure every child in New Zealand against a set of arbitrary figures that we promise will not be used to measure schools against each other but then we publish them on a publicly accessible website and say “we don’t like what are doing, but . No… this won’t impact on the teaching profession. Labelling a student “well below” for the entire time they are at primary school will have absolutely no impact on them, their families or their teachers.
  • Novopay – let’s outsource our payroll. That will have very little impact on anyone. At all. Because the people at Talent2 said so.

These are just a few policies. There are many, many more (90 day stand-down period anyone?) that have huge impacts on people’s lives.

Here are the stupidly weird things that are being proposed by this government (and by proposed I mean they are being put out for “consultation” with a committee of rubber stampers before being foisted on a beleaguered profession.

Hekia Parata has started making noises about the decile rating system. She was making these noises before the election. She likes talking about it being “messy” and “misunderstood.” The government want to move to a different funding model they have more control over. How can they achieve this? By linking funding to achievement. Your school will get money based not on the socio-economic standing of the residents within your zone, but the performance of those children against an arbitrary standard.

No. That won’t have any impact on the teaching profession.

How will schools work if this funding model is implemented? Well, if my funding levels required me to have more and more students achieving at the National Standard, then that’s precisely what would happen.

In the US where this policy has been in place for a while we have results fraud going on and special needs (or ESOL) students being excluded from even being assessed against standards in the first place (First rule of statistics: always boost your statistics by removing statistics that wreck your statistics).

People need security. If you are going to take their security away they start making stupid decisions. If my pay is going to be partly decided by the performance of the students in my class, then some decisions I might start to make could possibly be in the best interests of me. If my school is going to be funded partly on the basis of the performance of students against the National Standards then perhaps those students are going to perform awesomely against the standard.

As someone pointed out the other day, the year they bring in “value added” performance pay will be the year we have a massive spike in our National Standard results.

For whatever reason, well over 45% of people who turned out to vote that day in September decided to re-elect a lying money trader (is there any other kind?) to the premiership. If you are going down that route, then you need to expect the policies you are going to get are in line with those of a lying money trader.

Those from an industry that contributed the Global Financial Crisis should never have any control over any decision-making processes at any level of government.

Just sayin’

Mr B.



New standards announced for politicians

After an exhaustive inquiry following the release of Dirty Politics during the 2014 election campaign, the office of the Speaker has released some new national standards for politicians.

The Right Honourable David Carter, Speaker of the New Zealand Parliament, today released a raft of new standards that he says politicians will have to meet if they wish to stay in parliament. Contained within the release are a list of behaviours politicians will now be measured against. The measurements will be made through a range of tests to be carried out by carefully trained individuals with results then being immediately released to the media so politicians can be ranked on the basis of these arbitrary scores.

A “how to” list for new politicians has been released to the media and as we are a blog and full of many, many hard-hitting newly labelled journalists, we can now print that list for you because, after all, modern journalism is all about the cut and paste.

Behaviours: (to be shown within the first 6 months of commencing the new parliamentary term)

  1. Lying: with the electorate so strongly voting for a coalition led by liars it’s important that any new politician exhibits this behaviour as soon as possible. There are many ways to lie. Take a leaf out of the Prime Minister’s book, for example, and either forget everything that ever happens to you or, as he more often does, start with a slight mis-truth and then either get nearer to or further away from the truth depending on the questions being asked by your media chums.
    • Measurement (metaphorical): extremely flammable trousers, extended proboscises.
  2. Nepotism: with so many jobs in the office of any incoming politicians it’s important to remember the best place to find people to fill these vacancies is within your own family.
    • Measurement (actual): one family member – 5 points; two family members – 15 points; three or more family members – 25 points and a select committee posting.
  3. Conflicts of Interest: as many politicians come to parliament having engaged in a vast range of business activities. It’s important for new politicians to protect and even enhance their interests whilst in parliament (who knows when you might be voted out – particularly if you’re a list MP or used to be in the Shipley government). If, for example, you have vast interests in an irrigation company, it is considered extremely wise to ingratiate yourself with the Minister for Primary Industries. Better yet, become the Minister for Primary Industries. The closer you can be to the decision-making process, the more likely you are to have a positive influence on decisions being made that could impact upon your business and the un-taxed income of your family.
    • Measurement (metaphorical): fingers in pies.
  4. Bullying: having set the standard for all politicians over the last term, National Party leadership team John Key and Steven Joyce have made names for themselves through their ability to sidestep a range of thorny issues by calling the person disagreeing with them an idiot, a fruit loop, loopy, a dork, an egg, and egg-burger, a nerd, a dufus, a dingus, a knob, a muppet, a halfwit, a nincompoop, an imbecile, a simpleton, a clod, or a dullard. Or a moron. If you can call someone enough names enough times during a debate in parliament, or during a press conference following the release of a damning report of some kind, it is believed that you will be praised throughout the right-wing blogosphere. Get them on side and you will either become hugely successful for a short number of years because of a terminatory nick-name or be ruined. Or both.
    • Measurement (actual): how many times you can use the phrase, “Shut up, you dick” during a parliamentary debate.

The new national standards for politicians will be in place across the course of the current parliament.

Some thoughts on National’s Standards

Regular readers of this column will be well aware of my feelings towards National Standards, charter schools and other such data-driven middle management nonsense being imposed upon the public education sector by the various financial experts, economists, business and farming leaders heading our largest parliamentary party.

Of course, I’m not saying these people are utterly unskilled in what they do. You don’t make $50 million or accumulate vast tax-free property portfolios by being an imbecile. All I am saying is that making $50 million does not make you an expert in pedagogical delivery. Sure it makes you an expert in making money and if making money is what you want from your small children, reforming the education sector is probably the sort of thing you should go for.

So this week our million-dollar men and women released the latest National Standards data. I have pointed out before that data can be a wonderful way to measure something you need to reform, but it can also be used to point out: a) how stupidly unsuccessful your reforms actually are, and b) see what I said for point a).

How statistically insignificant the “increase” in the new National Standards data is I cannot say. Given more time and more statistical inclination I could possibly find out, but I won’t. Instead, here is a link to a story from Television New Zealand earlier in the week should give you an idea about what this government requires from we educationalists to create these statistically significant increases.

Many other stories on the standards release made mention of the performance of Northland, the West Coast and Gisborne. Stuff also pointing out Otago kids topped the tables. Huzzah for them! For a government that said National Standards data would never be used to rank schools and regions into league tables, they sure like ranking schools and regions into league tables.

Since the government love their rankings so very, very much, I went out of my way to make some of my own. I’ve put all the data into one table which I have then, quite helpfully sorted. Twice.


Table 1: National Standards achievement data against GDP growth and unemployment rates – by region (sorted by reading achievement rates)

Sorted by Reading


Table 2: National Standards achievement data against GDP growth and unemployment rates – by region (sorted by unemployment rate)

Sorted by Unemployment


And presto! Those table are pretty similar. Who’d’ve thunked it???? Of course, tighty righties reading this will point to Manawatu-Whanganui’s huge unemployment rate of 8% and their mid-table National Standards ranking (table 1) and say something like, “but look, that one is different so your argument is a load of effluent run-off.” Possibly, but that would be a load of effluent run-off.

And therein lies the issue. Poor socioeconomic prospects – few jobs, little prospect of future jobs – is directly linked to your chances of doing well in school.

Ignore poverty and you ignore the root cause of the issues you are trying to address. Mind you, the same people who ignore poverty are sniffing their ignore noses in the direction of global warming.

But then the educational reform movement is not actually about lifting achievement or outcomes for our poorest kids. If it was you’d see some kind of regional development strategy or something. At the moment the government seems more focused on getting a four-lane motorway built so they can get to their Omaha baches three minutes quicker on Labour Weekend.

Actually, that’s not fair. I think Bill English’s bach is in Dipton. Or a trust.

Ranking is a dangerous game. What will happen when the National’s Standards start to fall? Actually… come to think of it… I very much doubt the achievement results will fall under this government and their wonderful way with behind the scenes statistical manipulation or, if you prefer, which they sometimes do, up-front data misrepresentation through falsehoods.

Enjoy your data.

Mr B


Ministry of Education told school to manipulate standards data – Labour: TVNZ – 23 July.

Otago children top the tables: Stuff – 25 July.

National Standards data (2013): Education Counts website.

Regional Gross Domestic Product: Year ended March 2013 (pdf): Statistics New Zealand.

Joint MSD/MBIE Quarterly Regional Labour Market Reports – At a glance: Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

National Standards are awesome: Parata

Hello everyone!

I am the Minister of Education and I am more stoked than an illegal Christchurch log-burner. How exciting is a day like today when we can release a vast amount of information to our good friends in the mainstream media.

There are some important things to remember when you read stories about the release of this years National Standards information.

Firstly, over 400,000 children were put through their paces by thousands more teachers around the country. It’s a testament to the hard work of the visionaries we are in this government that we have data despite the fact that so very many teachers don’t believe in standards of this nature because they know this system of assessment harks back to a time when education prepared students for work in the factories and farms of the much-loved Victorian era rather than the high-tech future we are actually heading towards.

Secondly, the fact that we have seen statistically insignificant increases in students who are meetings our beloved standards, doesn’t mean that the system is faltering. Far from it. No, what it means is that teachers are becoming more familiar with the standards when they are assessing students more successfully against them. We are not using the word stagnation here. It’s important to remember that stagnation will only ever happen under a Labour government.

Thirdly, some people might look at the figures from Northland or Gisborne and think that perhaps socioeconomic issues are coming into play here. This is a load of rubbish. I know for a fact that some students weren’t able to make it to school on the day that the standards were assessed. Or maybe they weren’t able to be assessed because the teachers weren’t trying hard enough. Or maybe there were some other reasons that I haven’t made up yet. I’d like to state here and now that intergenerational poverty has absolutely no impact on student achievement whatsoever. I know this is a fact because I’ve just written it in a sentence.

Unless we lose the election the month after next because we end up being Nigel Nomates, which I very much doubt will happen because we have some very strong and talented coalition options, then National Standards are here to stay.

So there.

Hek x