Thrice denied

The decision to close charter schools (partnership schools | Kura Hourua):

  • took no account of parent or student preferences
  • is a denial of their success and
  • is contrary to the principle of placing kids’ needs and interests first.

Within the space of four short years eleven small charter schools with 1,500 students, of which at least 75% are ‘priority learners’, have delivered educational success for Maori and Pasifika students, which has eluded the state education system for decades.

The government and the teachers’ unions’ claim that New Zealand has one of the world’s best education systems is not supported by global comparisons such as PISA, TIMMS? and?PIRLS.?These studies all show that we are, at best, sitting around the middle of the global pack. The PISA data (as below) in fact shows the literacy and numeracy competencies of our students is in decline, further supported by our own Tertiary Education Commission establishing that 40% of school leavers with at least Level 2 NCEA are ?functionally illiterate?.

The assertion that charter schools are ‘taking money out of the state system’ is false. If an underachieving student opts out of their local state school then, of course, the funding for that student will move with them, but the funding formula for the school is unchanged.

There was no consultation?with those directly and most affected by the government?s decision to close charter schools. The government acted unilaterally, in the total absence of any consultation with those who this decision affected most: parents and their children.

Parents now have no choice. Parents for whom the education of their children is a priority have been denied the option of taking their children out of a school that is failing them and into a charter school, simply because of a unilateral political decision.

It will be no surprise to anyone that low decile schools struggle more than most to attract and retain high-quality teaching talent. Yet it is these schools that enrol our most at-risk students from low socio-economic settings. These students can find themselves captured within a school zone that might be limiting their educational prospects.

The Ministry of Education confirms that charter schools are funded comparably to equivalent state schools, and the funding for all schools is based on the number of enrolled students, as it always has been.

The claim that charter schools are taking registered teachers out of the state system?and compounding the teacher shortage is a totally ridiculous notion. The short supply of high-quality teachers is more to do with teachers’ pay and conditions and a lack of union and political foresight and planning than anything else.

Charter schools were never an experiment.?They are succeeding, they are cost efficient and they are contractually accountable. International models for charter schools are working, there was no risk and this was no experiment. By way of example, there are now more than five hundred new schools (free) and academy schools in the UK.

It would have been understandable for the government to tweak the charter?school model, and even to rebrand it, but to demolish it and, by doing so, hurt our most vulnerable students, is irrational, contrary to student and parent preferences, and inconsistent with the government’s publicised determination to place the interests and needs of our children first.


by Graeme Osborne