‘No Minister of Education in NZ has ever chosen to close 11 high functioning schools on an ideological whim’

The following e-mail was sent today to supporters and other parties interested in what is happening to two partnership schools in South Auckland.

For the past five years we have tried to work cooperatively with the Ministry of Education to provide a great education for children.

Their email footer is:

  • We get the job done? Ka oti i a m?tou ng? mahi
  • We are respectful, we listen, we learn? He r?p? manaaki, he r?p? whakarongo, he r?p? ako m?tou
  • We back ourselves and others to win? Ka manawanui ki a m?tou, me ?tahi ake kia wikitoria
  • We work together for maximum impact? Ka mahi ng?tahi m? te tukinga nui tonu

Great results are our bottom line? Ko ng? huanga tino pai ? m?tou wh?inga mutunga

It took us a while to understand the level of secrecy in government practices in an “open and democratic society”. We have often been stunned months later to read Ministry reports “proactively” released that not only contain significant errors of fact – but recommendations/opinions based on such errors and non-consultation. The subsequent effects on us have proved irreversible – and the numerous apologies we have received are made without any consequence (or change to behaviour and practices).

Being ever optimistic and working in a genuine education environment where you are required to keep people like students, families and teachers fully informed of all aspects pertaining to them – I recently asked the Ministry if they would share the accumulated information and advice that they are giving to the Minister about our two applications to become Designated Character Schools. They flatly refused claiming traditional practices and the? ” right to form an opinion”. My response was that we (our whole community) have every right to know what is being said about us to democratic government – both in what they consider? ” fact ” and their “opinions”.

We have been told that we have to wait for a future pro-active release? (possibly months away)
– by which time the effects of their “advice to the Minister” will be unchangeable and irreversible. At which time they will apologise? (which they have done many times – the reasons why could fill a book) and any outcome of a forthcoming complaint to the Ombudsman will be a slap with a wet bus ticket ( similar to the
judgement on their Christchurch debacle).

NZ voters and taxpayers deserve much better processes and genuine transparency.

I am reminded of the quote from William Wallace in Braveheart:

There?s a difference between us. You think the people of this country exist to provide you with position. I think your position exists to provide those people with freedom.

When you add to this the opposition members of the select committee (including Chloe Swarbrick) voting down the invite to have hearings at South Auckland Middle School – opting to have them at inaccessible and salubrious hotels instead – you have to wonder what is happening. The select committee had “lost” our submission and the Villa Education Trust pretty much had to beg to be able to present – despite being over 30% of the policy by student numbers.

It was chilling to find out that the Minister of Education had “expressed his opinion” the opposition members of the select committee about holding a day of hearings at South Auckland Middle School. That may be held to be highly inappropriate and it also calls into question what he was afraid his MPs might find out (e.g. the quality of the school) and what he did not want them hearing from our parents and wider whanau. Choosing to remain ill-informed is tragic indeed.

It is also important to note that we have:

  • still heard nothing from Kelvin Davis – as the electorate MP of MSWA – despite his work with other schools in his electorate.
  • still heard nothing from Peeni Henare as the electorate MP of SAMS
  • still have no replies to anything at all that we send to Hipkins – including administrative aspects such as the effect of his Nation Standards eradication on the performance management aspects of our contracts.

This is despite him meeting with one of the other Partnership School organisations.

As a Trust, we have made some personnel/role changes beginning tomorrow and will seek much better treatment from the Ministry of Education and the current government. We will ask them to be consistent with what the PM, Deputy PM and Minister have said publicly about “easy transition” and quality of process/transition. Now that Minister Hipkins has issued the termination notices we will be asking for a much quicker approval to become Designated Character Schools – so as to treat our students/families and staff with respect and as humans who are passionate about quality education. It will also allow us to get on with preparing for the 2019 school year – an imperative when already nearing term 2. Further delays to appear like an unfair restraint of trade. At present we cannot even enrol students as we have no idea what the criteria will be.

We will ask the Ministry to be consistent with the Labour governments promises around transparency. Our school community has every right to know what the Ministry is saying about them to the Minister and to be highly consulted on this for accuracy. The Ministry have even stipulated that the current Charter Schools are not allowed to talk to each other. We live in NZ.

We are also seeking that the select committee put in three amendments to the Education bill currently before them.

1) That Designated Character Schools (DCS) can choose an alternative form of ownership/governance to that currently required.
2) That either bulk funding is an option or that DCS can negotiate funding proportions that allow a minimized on unnecessary building/infrastructure and therefore an increased operations budget that allows for the provision of uniform, stationery, and not seeking donations from families.
3) That staff can choose to stay outside the collective contract – as we have conditions of work and remuneration that are quite different from current State schools.

All three amendments are neutral to the taxpayer and help us to provide the innovative teaching models that the Prime Minister has said that she wants.

No Minister of Education in NZ has ever simply chosen to close 11 high functioning schools on an ideological whim (which he did last week) – or to treat at least 1300 families – mostly Maori or Pasifika with such casual impunity.