Principal questions charter schools

TALIA CARLISLE
Last updated 10:04 05/11/2012

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Kapiti Observer

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Introducing charter schools has raised more questions than answers for some Kapiti schools.

The Education Amendment Bill to establish charter schools passed its first reading in Parliament last month.

The Bill is endorsed by Education Minister Hekia Parata and Associate Education Minister John Banks.

Called partnership schools, or kura hourua, the schools would be run by private companies for a profit, but be accountable to the Crown.

President of the Otaki-Kapiti Principal's Association Bruce McDonald wants to know why the Government is supporting new schools, when New Zealand's schools are already underfunded.

"My major question would be why would we need them," he said.

"Is that the best spend of the money or would they be better off putting it into our existing school system to help those children that are underachieving?"

Mr McDonald is also concerned about the fact the schools can develop their own curriculum.

"It raises the question, does the Ministry of Education not believe that the New Zealand curriculum is important and valuable enough to be mandated for all schools in New Zealand?

"It's a really good curriculum and you'd wonder why they were giving schools the option to not use it."

The New Zealand Educational Institute's Kapiti vice-president, Jim Swift, said the idea of the schools seems to have come out of the blue.

"It is something they are keeping a bit quiet on.

"And so if they're a bit quiet on it you've got to be a bit suspicious about, well, why are they keeping it so quiet."

He said there is no evidence from overseas experiences that they would improve the New Zealand school system.

Ms Parata was not available for comment, but Mr Banks said he has been pushing the idea of partnership schools since before the last election.

He said the system aimed to aid the bottom 20 per cent of students who are "languishing at the bottom" of the OECD.

"I'm not knocking our education system, because for you and for me it was great [but] there are many sons and daughters where it doesn't work.

"If we're going to empty out the prisons of this country, we're going to have to substantially improve the educational attainment for people at the low end of the spectrum, who fall through the cracks."

Mr Swift is also concerned that partnership schools will be able to employ unregistered teachers, and be excluded from the Official Information Act.

Mr Banks did not believe that would be a problem.

"I think you'll find that a majority of the teaching in our partnership schools will be by registered teachers," Mr Banks said.

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The schools will be accountable to the Ministry and the Minister of Education through their audited financial statements and for their achievements under the mapping principles of the New Zealand curriculum, Mr Banks said.

Parents will also have to sign contracts with the schools and with the private provider.

"This is not just about kids, it's about families, its about community, and its about a commitment to be involved so there's going to be much more sign up by the parents to the child's education than we've ever seen before.

"In South Auckland for instance [there are] hundreds of young people without a job, without hope, without education, can hardly read, can hardly write, no self-preservation, no self-worth, in the criminal justice system.

"There is nothing to lose except win-win."

- Kapiti Observer

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