National Standards 'a colossal waste of human resource', says principal, but what's the alternative?

National Standards in education were a key plank of the last administration, so it's perhaps no surprise they're headed for the chopping block now.

Seven Sharp's Mike Thorpe speaks to a Christchurch headmaster. Source: Seven Sharp

The new Labour-led government is preparing to scrap them.

But, what's the alternative? And how will we know in the future how well our kids are performing?

A Christchurch headmaster believes we should all be quizzed for the answer to this big education dilemma.

John Laurenson has been in education since 1969, 13 Prime Ministers ago, and he supports the scrapping of National Standards.

"Get rid of them, get rid of them now, they're a menace. But what they need to put in it's place becomes really important," Mr Laurenson says.

"What constitutes success amongst young people? Because we get it wrong all of the time.

"Now I have my own very strong feelings as far as that's concerned but I'm saying let's go to the population, let's go to the public."

National Standards are the benchmark of a child's success at school: in reading, writing and maths from years one to eight.

But there's no set test, so ultimately it comes down to each individual teacher's opinion.

Once your child has been judged against National Standards, their school is too, in the form of league tables.

But it's a one size fits all approach to a system which has no set test.

"You would have no idea the amount of manipulation of statistics. God, lies and damned statistics," Mr Laurenson says.

"That's legion right through the whole profession because that's your survival.

"If you don't get the students and then the right students, your school goes down the gurgler.

"And all the people in the government and the ministry come down like a tonne of bricks on you.

"It's a colossal waste of human resource, and what's our raw material we're playing with? Kids. When did kids become raw material?"

So league tables face the chop too, which apply to primary and secondary schools.

"There is so much that is potentially able to be unleashed today if we can get rid of the obsession with assessments," Mr Laurenson says.

It's a big dilemma the new government will be trying hard to resolve.