Cambridge exams

Starts out as controversial, eventually becomes mainstream


Cartoon -SonovaMin

Charter Schools are now well on their way to being accepted as mainstream. Branded as controversial at first and attacked and hounded by Education unions they have been embraced by Maori leaders as a?circuit breaker in closing the educational achievement gap between Maori and non-Maori students.

Education reporter Kirsty Johnson’s latest article provides more evidence of how educational changes that are at first hailed as controversial, can over time become accepted and mainstream. Interestingly the changes she is describing were at first strongly opposed and criticised by the PPTA who now not only embrace the changes but fiercely defend them.

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Typical PPTA response to competition

We all know how the Education unions have responded to Charter Schools, a blanket rejection no matter what. They have gone out of their way to damage and ultimately close down Charter Schools New Zealand-wide. There is no room in their world view for competition or a different way of doing things. There is only one way of doing things and heaven help anyone who wants to do something outside the box.

This attitude of ?”it is our way or the highway” is continuing but their target this time is new. Before I show you the article let me first give you a business analogy.



Business (A) has a monopoly on an average product that is purchased New Zealand-wide. In order to continue to sell this average product the business has to meet certain targets.

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The hypocrisy of teacher unions

The PPTA President Kate Gainsford has called on Anne Tolley to sack the board of Auckland Grammar School for phasing out NCEA and daring to offer an alternative.

Education Minister Anne Tolley has been urged to sack the board of Auckland Grammar School after its “brazen attack on the credibility of the NCEA”.

In a leaked letter obtained by The Dominion Post, secondary teachers’ union president Kate Gainsford accuses Mrs Tolley of a “timid” response and spells out five steps she should take now that Auckland Grammar has declared its intention to ditch NCEA in year 11, except for maths and English exams for weaker pupils.

Ms Gainsford, president of the Post-Primary Teachers’ Association, tells Mrs Tolley in the letter that she should make a clear statement in support of NCEA, publicly criticise Auckland Grammar and order it to use NCEA, sack the board of trustees if it refuses to comply, make NCEA a legal requirement, and halt taxpayer funds for exam systems which compete with NCEA ? such as the University of Cambridge system that Auckland Grammar prefers.

“Your refusal to be interviewed on the matter, and merely releasing a written statement that you have full confidence in the NCEA, was in our view a very timid response to a very direct attack,” her letter states.

I wonder perhaps if Kate Gainsford also wants the boards of all the schools who refused to implement National Standards late last year sacked as well?

There is of course a difference between the two cases, but not one that helps Kate Gainsford. Auckland Grammar is actually offering a superior qualification system, one that it has been using for some considerable time. It s position also isn’t a political one, it is fact and evidence based and educational. The NZEI and Prinicpals Associartion led protest against National Standards never offered an alternative, simply a refusal to implement government policy.

NCEA is but one method of legally acceptable standards and testing, Cambridge is another, Auckland Grammar School is simply following the doirections of its parents and offering a superior education measurement system. It isn’t refusing point blank like the National Standards protestors were.

If Kate Gainsford had even a modicum of?humility?she would withdraw and apologise. She won’t of course because it is purely a political point she is trying to make and a chance to bash rich parents at a rich school.