Spin, spin, spin at the Remuera community newspaper



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.

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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.



  1. Arts and creativity, which is what Selwyn College once prided itself upon, have always been looked upon as suspicious meanderings by New Zealand’s pioneer society. Our great contributions to culture, at home and abroad, have happened in spite of the natural distrust from conservative New Zealand.

    Now, arts and creativity are being downright frowned upon and the intervention by (the now sacked herself) Anne Tolley confirms this. The current rule-makers want to let the market speak on art and culture, as if it is a cubic meter of concrete, or a brick & tile in the Remuera borders.

  2. I would urge casual readers to take John Minto seriously for this article. So many right-wingers I talk to (sorry!) have just arrogantly assumed that because John is a loud protestor, he is therefore some kind of bludging student/beneficiary agitator who ought to be made to get a job and earn his own living.

    The fact is that John has taught long, well, and hard in a Decile 1 school in South Auckland. Furthermore, as long-time supporter and often head of the Quality Public Education Coalition, he has more educational experience and research behind him than all the rest of our politicians put together.

    I point this out for the ignorant critics. John has earned the right to say what he has said here, and he is absolutely right. This Selwyn College ‘miracle’ is a load of right-wing spin.

    Anyone who wants to disprove it must look into those pass rates from various years. And probably fail.

  3. Interesting aspect to events that the msm do not report on. Or which are embarrasing to The Establishment – of which the NZ Herald is a part of.

    This is where The Daily Blog comes into it’s own’ reporting on events and behind-the scenes machinations that the media deign too “complicated” for us peasants.

    I look forward to more on this issue, John.

  4. We live in the heart of the Grammar Zone, so it seemed logical to send our kids to Auckland Grammar. That was a disaster. The subject choice was restrictive and stupid (just like when I went there), there was bullying and fighting and drugs. We were delighted that Selwyn College accepted our three sons out of zone. I was personally phoned by the head teacher to advise of their acceptance. Auckland Grammar didn’t seem to care when I advised them my sons were leaving.
    They were very happy at Selwyn College, no bullying or drugs, they could do all the subjects they wanted to. One has since got an honours degree.

    • Awesome stuff Caped Troika. So happy for you and your sons. I’m a Grammar old boy too and will definitely be sending my children to a high school with a wide range of subject choices in the hope she has a more holistic and well-rounded high school experience than I did.

  5. At least we now know with certainty that we wont get an objective view most of the time from our media.

    That this school was seen to be too liberal tends to be the weird view of a number of our National politicians. Its up there with the myopia of literacy and numeracy, military discipline, prisons resembling sink holes metering out eternal punishment, old school tie, rugby union, the Queen (and Knighthoods) and S & M bondage sessions.

    And their cure to Selwyn Colleges perceived problems has become a hallmark of this government, that is when they want something they tend to get it (even when they are frequently wrong), and woe betide anyone who goes against them because things tend to either get nasty in the process or the problem bought off. Just ask the Problem Gambling foundation.

    I’m surprised the schools stats haven’t been fudged to save face!

    • “At least we now know with certainty that we wont get an objective view most of the time from our media. ”

      I have a cunning plan! Let’s get the Govt. to establish a new media channel that will compete with the evil MSM. It will never make money, and the sector is already crowded, and it will cost zillions to establish, but hey that works for you, right?

      And the best idea of all? We’ll call it Kiwinews! Because anything with a Kiwi in it must be a good thing, right!

      • That would certainly be cheaper than continuing to fund the dubious combination of services Joyce is cobbling together.

        More likely however is that the independence and integrity of Radio New Zealand will be restored to some degree, probably with a fresh focus on internet radio. If that must be funded through a tax on ZB operations so much the better.

  6. I wonder why the Herald didn’t include Media Studies in their list of high performing subjects at Selwyn. Perhaps they didn’t want to acknowledge that students might be better prepared to critique the media–news agendas, in particular.

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