Strong opposition to charter schools plan

Strong opposition to charter schools was voiced at the beginning of public submission hearings made on the Education Amendment Bill today.

The controversial proposal, also known as partnership schools, was the hot topic of debate when a list of individuals and organisations within the education sector addressed the Education and Science Select Committee in Parliament this morning.

The bill would introduce partnership schools, clarify the role of boards of trustees, and amend provisions around issues such as a school's power to search and seize drugs.

New Zealand Principals' Federation president Philip Harding warned that the state-funded charter schools would not save taxpayers money, and would have the ''potential to harm children's learning and their futures''. 

''There is no public mandate to pursue this policy.''

On behalf of all New Zealand principals, he asked that charter schools be removed from the bill, and work be done to improve what already existed.

''It probably is time to have a conversation about how we can improve, develop and strengthen the Tomorrow's Schools model.''

New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) president Judith Nowotarski told the committee New Zealanders did not ask for charter schools.

''Voters did not know about charter schools, nor did they vote from them in the last election.''

Interested parties included Maharishi Foundation, a group of existing fundamentalist Christian private schools and centres, and an outdoor adventure provider, she said.

''These may be well-intentioned groups but there is no evidence they provide culturally appropriate or more innovative or better teaching and learning for the Government's priority groups.''

She was against ''schools without rules'', allowing for the likes of unqualified teachers.

''We didn't vote for them, we don't want them and we don't need them.''

The only obvious submission in support of charter schools at today's hearing was from the Sabbath Rest Advent Church, whose trustee Jillian Friar said the model would allow for a ''richer diversity''.

They would give the opportunity for more faith-based schools, she said.

More submissions will be made to the committee next week.

Contact Jody O'Callaghan
Education reporter
Email: jody.o'
Twitter: @miss_jodyo

The Dominion Post