Media Releases

Do not return to standardised testing, do not run education like a business

20 Sep 2023

Educational success comes from investing in the connection between teachers and learners through smaller class sizes, not running the education system like competing supermarkets trading on the open market or imposing standardised testing.

The connection between teachers and learners is precious – and our tamariki will succeed when their teachers and educators have enough time to spend with their students and bring out the best in them, says Liam Rutherford, a teacher and past-president of NZEI Te Riu Roa.

“Standardised testing and league tables have failed before so there is no reason they would magically start working. The ACT policy is designed to set schools and ākonga up to fail.

“Such an approach to testing cannot provide a comprehensive measure of educational achievement and can disadvantage already disadvantaged students, increasing educational inequity. At worst, and especially when coupled with 'league tables', it can lead to a narrowing of the curriculum and 'teaching to test'.”

A survey done in Australia shows the impact this type of policy might have. The 2019 survey on the Australian National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) tests, a key data set that sits behind the Australian 'My School' platform, found that the standardised testing regime had led to a narrowing of teaching strategies and had a detrimental effect on student health and wellbeing, as well as on staff morale.

Instead of investing in education, ACT’s policies are asking schools and early learning centres to do more, with less. Education funding per student in New Zealand is 27.8% lower than Canada, 22.4% lower than Australia, 26.4% lower than the UK and 24.9% lower than the OECD average.

Ripeka Lessels, an area school principal and National Executive representative for NZEI Te Riu Roa says that ACT’s policy release distracts from the real challenges that education is facing today.

“Imagine what additional teachers to support smaller class sizes in schools, teacher aides in every classroom and increased support for our principals to help everyone in our schools to thrive, would look like? These changes are what we need to see for all tamariki to succeed in education,” says Ms Lessels.

Ms Lessels said that large classroom ratios had a detrimental effect on students and teachers, which is why NZEI Te Riu Roa have been advocating for reducing ratios for many years now.

“Smaller class sizes allow teachers to meet the individual needs of ākonga and build trusting relationships with them. Recent international research on the relationship between attendance and class size found that ‘class size reductions significantly reduce the frequency of chronic absence.”

“This election we need to vote for the education system we need to see, and I cannot see any answers in the policies ACT have released today,” says Ms Lessels.

Virginia Oakly, an ECE teacher and representative on NZEI Te Riu Roa National Executive says that there are many alarming points in the ECE policy released from Act today, top of the pile being leaving teacher to student ratios up to individual centres to manage.

“The fact that ACT have no policy on ratios and would leave this to centres to manage is beyond a joke. We, the experts in the needs of the tamariki in our care, know for certain that we need to carefully regulate and fund for lower teacher to child ratios if we want to set up these children for healthy successful lives.

“They also have no policy on full parity, which is very disappointing as we know that we need this to ensure we can attract and retain amazing early childhood teachers.”

Ms Oakly said that testing a four year old’s knowledge of the alphabet would be hard to enforce. Punishing centres by withdrawing funding if four year olds failed these “tests” would disproportionately impact on centres that had high numbers of children with learning support needs and second language learners.


Notes to Ed

Survey on Australia National Assessment Program as quoted in release: