First charter school opens

SIMON DAY
Last updated 20:23 31/01/2014
ASHER FINLAYSON/Fairfax

Prime Minister John Key has opened the first of five controversial Partnership Schools in South Auckland

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The first of five controversial charter schools was opened today by Prime Minister John Key, in South Auckland.

South Auckland Middle School (SAMS) is co-educational, caters for years 7 - 10 and is particularly focused on Maori and Pacific students. It will begin its first term next week with a role of 110.

Called partnership schools by the government, the programme was part of a confidence and supply agreement with ACT, and offers an alternative education for parents looking for something different for their children, Key said. 

“I think this is important because it gives parents choice. It is just one small addition to the education system in New Zealand,” Key said.

The opening ceremony was also attended by Education Minister Hekia Parata, and ACT leader and partnership schools orchestrator, John Banks. They were welcomed onto the school grounds with a powhiri.

The new charter school in Manurewa features a four-hour academic morning, while the afternoon is devoted to sport, music and culture. 

The teachers at SAMS are all qualified and registered. 

The school is housed in the former headquarters of the New Zealand branch of the Jehovah’s Witness. The property is now owned Elim Christian Centre Auckland and leased to SAMS. 

The school incorporates Christian values and philosophy.  

The five new charter schools are funded by the government on average of decile three state schools in a performance-based contract.

“The strength in the system is that you are contracting for performance and if you don’t get that performance then you can cease to continue with the contract,” Key said.

The addition of five alternative schools will not distract the government’s attention from the traditional education sector, which received $359 million in additional funding, according to Key.

“The government has been hugely focused on the compulsory sector of education in this country. We do allow parents to have choice, just as parents have choice to go to an independent school, or an integrated school or a single-sex school,” he said.

Key said he would be keeping a close eye on the success of the students and would have sent his kids to SAMS.

“If I had the chance to send my child to this school I would in a heartbeat,” he said.


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