The New Zealand Herald claims of a turnaround at Selwyn College after the sacking of the Board of Trustees in 2009 is a reminder of Labour Education Minister Trevor Mallard’s visit to Cambridge High School to congratulate the school on its 100% NCEA pass rates.
The comparison applies not because Selwyn has been rorting the assessment system as Cambridge High School did but rather because the public should always be wary of public relations spin from schools which is repeated by right-wing politicians and their media backers.
The Herald’s claims don’t stack up.
Just two months before the Selwyn board’s sacking by then Education Minister Anne Tolley the school had achieved a stunning range of academic results including 17 scholarship passes across the subjects of History, Geography, English, Chemistry, Physics, Visual Art, Statistics, Calculus, Drama and Classics.
Its 2008 academic results also included impressive improvement across the other NCEA levels (up from 43% to 71% at level 1 in just three years and up from 49% to 63% at level 2 in two years) as well as the astonishing level three scholarship results.
The school’s roll had risen significantly for the 2009 year as the school was building confidence in itself with the local community. It was also introducing a school uniform in response to community requests.
This was the point in early 2009 the New Zealand Herald should have been congratulating the school with the big bold headlines it saved for last week.
But in 2009 the Herald was on another mission on behalf of local National Party MP Alan Peachey who hated Selwyn College with a passion. Peachey famously sent the principal at the time a note telling her to watch her back as he ran a vicious campaign of vilification against the school and its board of trustees.
In Peachey’s eyes the school was too “liberal” and in his mind this view was strengthened as the school took in students from the closed Tamaki high schools close by.
Local National Party voters in Kohimarama didn’t want the school to accommodate students from low income communities, the programme the school ran for refugee children, or even the school’s relationship with Ngati Whatua O Orakei whose strongly supportive board representative was sacked along with everyone else.
It was all too much for Peachey who wanted the focus to be on the children of wealthier local families. So after National won the 2008 election new Education Minister Anne Tolley stepped in and dissolved the board to the dismay of the school and its parents.
I haven’t seen the school’s academic results from last year but I’d be surprised if it topped the 17 scholarships in 2008. The Herald might also have reported on the changing socio-economic face of the school as a reason why the school’s academic results in NCEA have continued to improve since then.
However these would be stories too far for the Remuera Community Newspaper – aka the New Zealand Herald.