Higher goal for charter schools urged

CHARLEY MANN
Last updated 05:00 11/08/2012

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Charter schools could be better suited to high school pupils, Christchurch principals say.

Principals from almost 20 schools, mostly from the earthquake-damaged east, yesterday met Associate Education Minister John Banks and Catherine Isaac, chairwoman of the working group charged with shaping the charter school model in New Zealand.

Avondale School principal Mark Scown, who organised the meeting, said principals noted that the schools seemed better suited to disengaged high school pupils than under-achieving primary pupils.

He said some pupils arrived at his school with the language skills of a 3-year-old.

"We get 5-year-olds who are totally unprepared for school in terms of the level of preschooling they have had and coming from dysfunctional families," he said.

Good teaching practice could help a child to reach age-appropriate learning targets, but without family involvement, children would continue to struggle.

He questioned whether charter schools would increase family engagement.

However, at a high school level, where pupils had switched off from learning, charter schools could help by providing pathways to technical skills.

Those skills, such as trades training, were available at some city high schools.

Despite concerns about the schools, Scown said, principals "by and large" came away from the meeting feeling "that this is not going to be forced upon us".

"They (Banks and Isaac) dispelled the rumour that a charter school would be placed in the eastern suburbs," he said. "Christchurch was mentioned in the early stages, but that is about as far as that has gone.

"They made it clear they are not about to force a charter school on anybody."

A public forum will be held by the New Zealand Educational Institute at 7pm on August 22 at Shirley Intermediate School.

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- The Press

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