Principals slam National’s education policy

Comments come after research shows primary schools are already teaching numeracy and literacy for 45 minutes a day respectively.

A survey of 150 Auckland principals released by the Auckland Primary Principals’ Association (APPA) showed primary schools in Tāmaki are teaching literacy and numeracy for at least 45 minutes a day respectively, prompting educators to call National’s ‘Teaching the basics brilliantly’ policy out-of-touch, ineffective and “deliberately misleading”.  

National’s education policy, ‘Teaching the basics brilliantly’ was released ahead of the election and has been criticised as a return to National Standards. Introduced in 2010 by a National government and abolished in 2017 by Labour, National Standards was criticised for its overemphasis on assessment, creating extra reporting responsibilities for teachers to the detriment of teaching time.  

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In an echo of National-Standards-past, ‘Teaching the basics brilliantly’ would create a minimum teaching mandate of an hour of writing and maths respectively for all primary and intermediate schools. National would also create “clear requirements” for each year-level in reading, writing, maths and science alongside twice-yearly standardised assessment and reporting.  

In a press release, the APPA stated that “mandating minimum teaching time [proposals] lack an understanding of the real issues facing education and offer nothing of substance to address the real crises facing schools.” 

APPA cites their recent survey of 150 Auckland principals, where all respondents reported teaching at least 45 minutes of English and Maths a day respectively, with further teaching of literacy and numeracy skills in other areas like visual art and science.  

“The survey results highlight what schools really need is a government that can tackle issues of learning support, quality professional development for all teachers and solutions to address teacher shortages.” 

APPA continued, stating “imposing new testing regimes, mandating teaching time and banning phones do not get to the heart of what really matters in effecting real change.” 

Spokespeople for the Aotearoa Education Collective – a group of education experts and leaders commenting on education issues in the lead-up to election – agreed.  

Principal Lynda Stuart is a spokesperson for the Aotearoa Education Collective.

“I was always underwhelmed by the proposal for mandated teaching hours and I’m not surprised that the survey shows schools are already focusing on the basics of reading, writing and maths,” said Peter O’Connor, Professor of Education at the University of Auckland. 

Lynda Stuart, Principal of May Road School added that National’s policy suggested schools weren’t already focused on teaching literacy and numeracy skills. Stuart called the implications of National’s education policy “clearly wrong and deliberately misleading”.  

Naomii Seah

Naomii Seah is a writer and journalist from Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand. She enjoys crochet, painting, and a coffee or two at the beach. Her work can be found at The Spinoff, The Pantograph Punch, Stuff, and of course, School News NZ.
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