Play fair with partnership schools

There's an education showdown brewing in Whangarei, with the PPTA looking to sink a proposal floated by a partnership school that would see their students joining public high school classes for non-core subjects.

Te Kura Hourua o Whangarei opened this year with around 50 students, some of whom were planning to take visual arts and other specialised subjects at Whangarei Boys High School (WBHS).

However the PPTA have insisted that no union member engage with partnership schools in "professional, sporting or cultural interactions or support," with president Angela Roberts saying this week that her members would not "prop up" partnership schools.

The group behind Te Kura Hourua o Whangarei are no educational slouches in need of "propping up." In fact, they have been running a phenomenally successful leadership academy for several years, providing academic tutoring, hostel facilities and life skills training for young Maori attending WBHS.

While NCEA performance by Maori boys in Whangarei has historically been poor (81% failure rate in 2007), 100% of the boys at the academy passed NCEA levels 1 and 2 last year.

Despite this success, the PPTA's stance comes as no surprise-after all, the teachers' unions have been resisting partnership schools ever since they popped up on the political agenda in the 2011 post-election deal making between ACT and National.

But the local union chapter's refusal to assist Te Kura Hourua o Whangarei savours somewhat bitterly, as the teachers at WBHS would surely attest to the support their students have been receiving through the work of the academy over the last few years.

More to the point, there also must come a time where the chance for political point scoring ends, and all players start to act both in accordance with the new educational landscape and in a way that seeks to benefit all students, no matter which school they attend.

Plans to subcontract out the teaching of non-core subjects to local public schools and technical institutions were part of the original submission by the partnership school applicants, and included in the contract between the school sponsors and the Ministry of Education.

The Ministry also circulated a Memorandum of Understanding around the five public schools in Whangarei at the end of 2013 to make it clear that this kind of collaboration between schools was the desired approach.

This concept isn't even new. All around the country there are high schools collaborating to share the teaching of certain subjects. I vividly remember a friend of mine getting no end of grief from his Boys High schoolmates for crossing the road to take French at the local girls' school four times a week. He didn't seem to mind. 

Partnership schools are being trialled in New Zealand, and their success or failure should be judged on the results they bring to the communities they serve. It is unfair-and counterproductive-for others to attempt to sabotage them before they're given the opportunity to prove their worth. 

(Live Matches)