Apr 19, 2012

Parata should think of her mana

Hekia Parata isn’t one to back down, it goes against her instincts. She’d be smart, however, to take a step back and reverse the decision to close Moerewa School. The Ministry and the Minister’s Office are losing the PR battle and Hekia’s mana is diminishing. Parata refused to front Native Affairs on Monday, however she gladly took a less stringent interview on Te Karere that day. Other than that interview, Parata has attempted to keep her hands clean, but she’s taken a battering in the media rather than appearing above the fray.

The previous Education Minister, Anne Tolley, ordered the school to close its senior unit. As a brief aside, the government is, I’m told, merging and closing rural schools as a cost saving measure. For example, in the Eastern Bay of Plenty (pop 50,000) two primary schools have closed, a merger between an intermediate and high school is scheduled and one primary school has become a year 1-13 kura. An anecdote, yes, but instructive nonetheless.

Anywho, the Ministry is citing alarmingly low pass rates as a justification for closing the senior unit. However, given there are less than 20 students spread across three different achievement levels, even one person failing will bring down the percentage significantly. Before audit, the pass rates were 93%, 83%, 100% and 100% at level 1, 2, 3 and university entrance (UE) respectively.This is well above the national average for Maori. After audit, however, the pass rates were 11%, 33%, 33% and 100% at level 1, 2, 3 and UE respectively. Strangely, NZQA awarded the students UE, the requisite standard to enter university, but did not award level 3 meaning those students cannot go to university. This is a perverse situation.

Of those students that failed, they only failed by a small number of credits. Usually, if a student fails an internal assessment, they’re given a chance to redo the standard. However, in this case, the students that have failed will not get that chance, a chance that all other NCEA students get.

The most appropriate course of action would be for the Ministry to work with the school to improve marking and moderation and then give the students a chance to gain the small number of credits they need. At level 1 all of the students gained the requisite 80 credits overall to pass, but failed to gain the required numeracy (maths) credits. This is common across all schools and is usually rectified internally, but again those students aren't getting the chance.Instead, the students are been thrown to the dogs as a result of the Ministry’s excuse, and it’s an excuse, to shut the school.

On Monday the Moerewa senior unit will open its doors for term 2. This move has the support of the local community, the local board, the school staff and the students. Many in the community believe Tolley’s, and now Parata’s, directive is punishment for the schools vocal opposition against National Standards. In a letter instructing the school to close its senior unit, Tolley noted the school’s refusal to implement National Standards. 

When a small problem like the above arises in a school the Ministry, or in this case NZQA, would usually work alongside the school to smooth over the problem. However, this hasn’t happened. In fact, the low pass rates excuse was only dreamed up under Parata only two weeks ago. Last year the Ministry weren’t even citing a coherent excuse to shut the school. Now neither the Ministry, NZQA or the Minister's Office will enter dialogue with Moerewa School and the community.

This decision smacks of a politics, not policy. Parata should do what’s right, and retain what’s left of her mana in the eyes of Maori, and keep the school open.

Here's the link to the Native Affairs interview (episode 06/06)


  1. "As a brief aside, the government is, I’m told, merging and closing rural schools as a cost saving measure."

    I remember how hard National howled when Labour did exactly the same thing five years ago.

  2. I have had 3 children go through the NCEA system and none of them has ever been offered a second chance at improving their grades for an assessment, or infact the chance of achieving an assessment that they have been marked as a not achieved (there is no FAIL grade in NCEA) A second chance does not happen and for you to assume that it does is just plain wrong!

    1. Anonymous - You're plain wrong - I've had it happen plenty to my child who is in a decile 10 school.

  3. That may be so in the case of your children, but it is not standard practice across schools. It is, key words it is, standard practice that students who do not meet the standard required in many internal assessments are given another chance to do so. That is almost universally true. It's one of the strengths of NCEA that students are given a chance to work on their weaknesses and then be reassessed. Lastly, the fail grade in NCEA is 'not achieved'. If you score a not achieved grade you do not receive the credits, just like with a fail mark. As a graduate of NCEA, I can tell you a not achieved mark is just as plain and stigmatising as a fail mark.

  4. I have to agree with Morgan's above comment about how NCEA works. I am a high school teacher and it is standard practice to offer re-assessment in internals to those that fail (not achieved). A not achieved does not earn you ANY credits toward NCEA.
    I would be very surprised if any other school does not offer reassessment opportunities and think it is more likely that the above anonymous commentor is mistaken.

  5. I don't know where the idea that the school has the support of all the moerewa community. There are several that do not support it. Meetings have been held obviously with those in favour of the school being kept open, but there are many other people in the community that haven't been asked

  6. The Moerewa School senior class has the solid support of the parents who choose to put their children in the class and who want the type of wrap-around, Maori learning environment the school provides. That's what the Education Act is supposed to allow - parental choice. That's what the Government's Maori Education Strategy, "Ka Hikitia" is supposed to deliver through its goal, "Maori children enjoying education success, "as Maori". It's not about a whole community, it's about parents choosing a specific type of education, as is their right, and asking the local school to provide it. In actual fact the Moerewa community submission to the Minister of Education way back in 2003 asked for a community campus and to retain Moerewa students in Moerewa, so the school is responding to the community.

  7. "trangely, NZQA awarded the students UE, the requisite standard to enter university, but did not award level 3 meaning those students cannot go to university."


    NCEA Level 3 is not a requisite for university admission until 2014, there are however certain institutions (your Alma Mater, VUW an example) who have additional screening methods i.e. GES.



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