National Standards and your Child

Nelson Central School reports record your child’s achievement using the government’s National Standards. This page has been written to help you understand this report format.

There continues to be a great deal of debate around the introduction of National Standards, and the Board of Trustees is keen to try and help parents get a better understanding of this complex issue and how it may impact on your child.

What are National Standards?

National Standards are an initiative by the Government, introduced in 2010. They aim to lift student achievement by providing information on how students are progressing, and all schools are legally obliged to implement them. Parents should remember that Nelson Central School has been providing detailed information on your child’s achievement for many years, but in a different format.

National Standards are a description of what New Zealand children are expected to achieve in the first eight years of school (generally ages 5 to 12). They cover three areas

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Mathematics
  • They do not cover other areas of your child’s achievement, such as Health, Physical Education, Science, Social Studies and the Arts, or key personal competencies, such as how children relate to each other and manage themselves.

    How are National Standards assessed?

    National Standards do not use one national test. Rather they use a combination of assessment techniques. These include long-standing tests that have been used for many years at Central School, as well as the individual judgement by your child’s teacher as to how your child’s achievement compares to the National Standard.

    In National Standards there are four possible levels of achievement that your child may meet in Reading, Writing and Mathematics.

  • Above
  • At
  • Below
  • Well below
  • National Standards have set the bar higher

    One of the most controversial parts of National Standards is that they are set at a higher level than some children usually achieve for their age. This means that many children will sit in the ‘at’ and ‘below’ categories.

    This is different to the assessment tests on which previous reports at Nelson Central School have been based – these tests have been moderated over many years so that the majority of New Zealand children ‘sit in the middle’. They also enable you to accurately see how your child is performing relative to others in their age group.

    Some people, including the Government, believe that setting new aspirational targets for our children is a good thing that will raise educational achievement.

    Others believe that under National Standards too many children will be unnecessarily given the message that they are failing, when previously they and their parents have been told they are doing fine.

    What should I do if I am concerned by my child’s National Standard results?

    If you are concerned one thing you could do is to ask your child’s teacher how your child is doing using other long-established assessment measures, such as the PAT test in Mathematics, or the STAR test for Reading. This will give you an accurate measure of how your child is doing in relation to other pupils the same age across New Zealand.

    Bear in mind that if your child is new to the school then teachers will need time to understand your child’s level of achievement before they can form an in-depth picture of how well your child is doing.

    Whatever the result you should also always take a rounded view of your child’s education. Remember that National Standards are only concerned with the ‘3Rs’, and that there are many other crucial aspects of their education, some of which are covered in your child’s end of year report.


    The implementation of National Standards is creating a significant new workload for our teachers, as they are required to continue with all of the established assessment methods, as well as adding National Standards assessment on top of that. There is also considerable debate among the teaching profession about how best to deal with National Standards, and the Board of Trustees would be grateful for your understanding as our teachers continue to come to terms with this significant change in the education system.

    Reporting on National Standards

    Tips for Understanding Your Child’s Reports

    National Standards Reporting Requirements

    As of 2010 schools are required to report in relation to the National Standards in writing to parents twice each year. The National Standards are very confusing for many people.

    For the first 3 years of a child’s schooling children are assessed against the standard in relation to the time he/she has spent at school, not the time of year.

    Once your child reaches Year 4, he/she will be assessed in relation to the standard at the end of the year.

    This means if your child does not start school as a five year old at the beginning of term 1 for the next 3 years he/she will be assessed in relation to the standard on or near to his/her anniversary.

    For simplicity, our school will continue to report in writing at the beginning of term 3 and the end of term 4, rather than each time a child has an anniversary!