‘Easy transition’ promised, nightmare delivered

Timeline of Transition Events for two charter schools:

PHOTO-Supplied to Whaleoil
Dominic Elliot holding a sign: “Jacinda where is your support now?”

May 10?(2017):?Willie Jackson:

“He and all charter schools were performing well, especially compared to some in the state sector.?”

November 6?(2017):?Jacinda Ardern:

“We’ve also always had the position that for some schools it will be perfectly within their remit to be able to transfer and become a school of special character or integrated school, depending on their needs, and we’ve always maintained that opportunity existed for those schools that are willing to teach to the curriculum and have registered teachers,” .

February 12:?Chris Hipkins:

“The?kids won’t notice any difference?because?it’s transferring the schools from part of the Act to another part of the Act. In terms of what the kids do on a daily basis – they literally wouldn’t?notice a difference.”

February 13:?Kelvin Davis:

“We’re very confident that together we’ll make sure this transition happens …?with very little fuss. In fact, the students and their whanau should really notice no difference whatsoever.”

February 14:

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The answer’s really rather crudely put in question No. 11 today, which says, “the existing partnership schools will continue so long as they have registered teachers, teach the New Zealand curriculum, and have the same level of funding as State schools”.

February?13: Villa Education Trust’s first and only meeting with senior Ministry officials.

Alwyn Poole:

“The Prime Minister. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education have all said that it will be an easy transition as long as we – teach the New Zealand curriculum, employ registered teachers and have the same level of funding as a similar State School.”

Katrina Casey (Ministry of Education):

“Oh … there will be more conditions than that!”

Villa Education Trust?poses three questions to the Ministry:

  • Will we be able to remain bulk funded?
  • Will we be able to maintain our governance and ownership?
  • Will our teachers be able to stay outside the collective contract?

May 7:?Villa Education Trust applies for Designated Character Status for South Auckland Middle School and Middle School West Auckland. Their draft?Designated Character Statement is based on direct advice form Auckland Ministry officials.

May 29:?Katrina Casey from the Ministry of Education shuts down any further communication with the Trust after previously telling?them that if the ministry or minister needed more information then they would definitely ask for it.

  1. We have provided you with two opportunities to strengthen your proposed designated character.? We will now be focusing on our advice to the Minister and will not be contacting you any further about that.
  2. The Ministry is entitled to form an opinion about any application for a designated character school to be established.? Indeed that is a critical role that we have.? We do not make decisions, the Minister does.? We will be providing our advice to the Minister alongside the material you have submitted which will also be provided to him.? We will not be sharing with you or consulting you on the advice we provide to the Minister before we provide it.
  3. Any questions you have about any comments the Minister makes should be addressed to his office.

I have no further comment to make on any of these matters ?? we will receive any further information you wish to provide and we will now focus on the preparation of our advice to the Minister.

Villa Education Trust responds

Thank you for this. We will provide additional information.

We still need three other things clarified –

1. If you somehow deem that our Designated Character statements are inadequate – can we please receive advice on how to alter them to meet the requirement of the Act.

2. On every occasion the Ministry has submitted something to the Minister’s office in the past – when released (often much later) the documents have contained significant inaccuracies – some of which have had a material effect on decisions made. In one of the Ministry apologies (Lisa Rodgers in this case) – we were told that we would get to view significant drafts prior to going to the Minister – to guarantee accuracy. Can this be done please?

3. You didn?t clarify whether the Minister’s public statements on the nature of the process are accurate.

May 29:?After hearing that the advice from Auckland officials was both late and inadequate the Villa Education Trust resubmitted details and asked the Ministry to disregard the draft statements (which they clearly did not do).

May 29 – July 3:

  • No communication from the Ministry of Education at all.
  • No additional information was asked for.
  • No contact of any kind was made by the ministry.

July 3: Phillipa Pidd who had never met with, spoken to or sent any correspondence whatsoever to the Villa Education Trust – submits a report to the Minister of Education recommending that he defers the decision for transition for South Auckland Middle School and Middle School West Auckland until he gets more information on how their curriculum delivery differs from “ordinary State schools”.

This occurs

  • Despite the Trust’s open door policy and continuous availability
  • Despite the Martin Jenkins report,
  • Despite ERO reports,
  • Despite numerous direct communications to the Minister from parents whose children are thriving in the two schools.

**Phillipa Pidd does not approach the Trust for any information at any point in the process.

July 15:?The Minister signed off the document agreeing to defer the transition decision until extra information (not sought at any point) on how the schools’ curriculum differs from “ordinary State Schools.

This occurs despite 300 school leader visitors a year and national and international acclaim for the schools’?Project Based curriculum.

July 16:?The Minister replies to one of the many parent’s letters and says that he is “confident” that he will have reached a decision by the end of July. This is despite signing off on a delay until September just the day before.

July 24:?Three Auckland Ministry officials turn up at Middle School West Auckland and drop the bombshell that??despite all assurances to the contrary and zero requests for extra information?that the Minister has decided to defer the decision and appoint an “independent evaluator to gain further information”

July 24? (late afternoon) the Ministry confirm that their chosen “independent evaluator is in fact overseas.

July 25th?– No communication from either the minister or the ministry despite the minister calling for urgency and a continuation of the transition process.

Media coverage includes:

A Scoop press release

A NZ?Herald article

An interview on RadioNZ

Alwyn Poole:

Who is accountable for this?

Our students, families and staff are simply bewildered and hurting a great deal. “Our families – mostly Maori, Pasifika and low-income are also most bewildered about how the Minister and Ministry is treating their beautiful schools.”