Unions prepare for battle over charter schools

KELSEY FLETCHER
Last updated 07:37 25/01/2013

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Education sector unions are preparing for battle with the Government over charter schools after submissions closed on the Education Amendment Bill on Thursday.

The bill includes changes to the Education Act that would introduce charter schools, allow multiple timetabling, and allow teachers to search and seize offensive material from students.

The New Zealand Educational Institute and the Post Primary Teachers Association said they had received more than 1700 online submissions on the legislation, which they would be presenting to Parliament's education and science select committee.

PPTA president Robin Duff said the association was delighted with the response from the public, saying the closing date for submissions had been ''deliberately scheduled to pass them by''.

"It shows the New Zealand public is deeply concerned about the shoddy way this seems to be driven through ideologically without proper consultation," he said.

"We'll be watching carefully how the five National MPs on the committee respond to these submissions as they are responsible to the voters and young people of New Zealand.''

The PPTA also submitted an 18-page response that was publicly released online this week in relation to the handling of the bill and changes to the sector over the past year.

The submission said ''there was no public demand or even interest in charter schools prior to the election''.

It said there was reliable evidence the charter scheme would have a positive impact on New Zealand and that having sponsors running schools would ''hand community schools over to unaccountable private interests''.

''They may give the appearance of lifting achievement but that can largely be explained by the initial selection processes and the removal of those students who prove more challenging or who lack ongoing parental support,'' the submission said.

''The initiative was sprung on the electorate after the election in a process that can only serve to undermine public faith in democracy.''

The PPTA also addressed proposed changes to the Education Act, which would see teachers given the right to search and seize offensive material from students, changes to school start times, and drug tests for students.

''Vulnerable young people are a particular focus for this government, and the White Paper for Vulnerable Children makes it clear that one of the key actions is about government agencies working together and with consistency,'' the submission said.

''The changes proposed in this bill would undermine this goal, by making it more difficult for schools to live up to their responsibility of keeping young people safe and engaged in education.'' 

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- The Dominion Post

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