Fighting words from charter schools who refuse to go quietly

Top people from two different and unrelated charter schools have come out fighting in the media.

The chief executive of?He Puna Marama Trust that operates a Whangarei charter school has used the emotive and legal phrase ‘under duress’ to describe how charter schools have been coerced into putting in applications to become state schools.

Raewyn Tipene made it clear in a Herald article that she had no choice but to apply as the welfare of her students was of paramount priority. She also expressed her fear that M?ori academic achievement will drop as a result of being forced to transition to the state model. Quote:

NZQA roll based results – which capture all students on the roll for each year level, whether they participated in NCEA or not – show 64.3 per cent of students at Te K?pehu Whet? achieved University Entrance (UE). This was the second highest in Northland behind Pompallier College which had 87.8 per cent of students gaining UE. […]

“Here we have an example of our kura outperforming some of the older, more established schools in the region … That’s an indicator that what we’re doing here is successful,” Tipene said.

Hipkins said the primary difference with the state school system and partnership school model is that in the state system, schools must employ registered teachers and must follow the New Zealand curriculum.

Tipene […] said the biggest difference will be the loss of flexibility.

She said the trust won’t be able to act as the school’s Board of Trustees and therefore Te K?pehu Whet? will lose access to the trust’s many resources – including funding.

“There will be people missing who [the students] are used to having here, who do a lot of other work. We won’t be able to go on as many trips as we’ve done in the past, we won’t be able to do a lot of the exciting things that we do here because the funding will reduce and our flexibilities will change.”

There is also a chance the school’s Leadership Academy of A Company could end, as the kura won’t be able to keep as many staff who are not qualified teachers.[…]

[…] our success is having a whole lot more support staff to do the things the kids really love, not just the book work.” End of quote.

On the AM show, Alwyn Poole from the Villa Education Trust chose his words very carefully but his message was very clear. What Jacinda Ardern told the schools does not match what has happened and the way they have been treated does not match her claim of putting children’s needs at the centre of everything her government does. Quote:

A charter school operator says […]? the process has “made a liar out of our Prime Minister”.

[…] Alwyn Poole of the Villa Education Trust, which operates charter schools in Auckland, said they were already meeting the three conditions laid down by the Government, so they shouldn’t have a sword dangling over their heads for another three months.

“Both the Minister of Education, Deputy Prime Minister… and Prime Minister told us [it would be] an easy transition if we do three things,” he told The AM Show on Thursday.

“Those three things are teach the New Zealand curriculum – always have, registered teachers – always have, same level of funding – actually had less. Much less for start-up, but the same level of ongoing funding – always had that. They said as long as you do that, easy transition. Those are the only three conditions.

“[We] sat down with the ministry for our one meeting with them so far on February 13, and the first thing one of the ministry officials says is there will be more conditions than that. She immediately made a liar out of our Prime Minister, Minister of Education, Deputy Prime Minister. That’s the stuff that we’re battling.”

He said the process so far has been awful.

“We had this meeting on February 13, the ministry then took until April 11 to feed back to us and then on that day, said you’ve got to get your application in by May 1. We’re a tiny, under-resourced trust, so in the end we begged for another week. They gave us until May 7, and then yesterday Mr Hipkins told us it’s going to take a ministry of 3000 people with a CEO who earns $630,000 a year and all those resources to take three months to tell us yes or no… The minister kind of [said], ‘I’ve made you walk the plank, and in three months’ time I might fish you out.'”

[…] “What the MartinJenkins report says is the families and children who come to our schools love it, they become more aspirational, they’re improving in their academic work and they’re doing things that weren’t happening for them elsewhere,” said Mr Poole, who’s confident his schools will be just as good after they’ve transitioned to the state system – provided they’re not shut down.

“We will because we’ll be really creative and we’ll work some things out, but it should be the easy transition that they promised.” End of quote.

While the charter schools battle to stay open the only MP strongly defending them and consistently in their corner has been Act leader David Seymour. I believe that National MP Nicky Kaye showed her face at the first protest but other than that where has been the outrage and the defence of charter schools by National? They have been missing in action.

The media have reported that National has promised to bring back charter schools when it’s next back in power but if they can’t be bothered fighting to keep them open now, how likely is it really that they will bring them back then?