Charter schools will go under Labour

The Labour Party’s position on charter schools is crystal clear – we don’t support their establishment and when we’re next in government the legislation that allows for their creation will be repealed.

Charter schools don’t have to teach to New Zealand’s internationally respected curriculum, don’t have to employ registered and qualified teachers, and don’t have the same accountabilities that every other school in New Zealand have.

The first round of charter schools are receiving up to five times the amount of funding that comparable state schools get and some of their spending decisions to date have been highly questionable.

Take the failing Whangaruru charter schools decision to spend most of their upfront funding purchasing a farm. If Hekia Parata does eventually decide to close them down, as the Ministry of Education have repeatedly recommended, that huge investment of public money will be lost forever.

Other charter schools have been stockpiling huge surpluses and directing funding that should be going into kids education towards ‘management fees’ and other dubious spending. That’s wrong.

We simply don’t need the flawed charter schools model in New Zealand. Our schools already have one of the most autonomous governance regimes in the OECD and there is already huge opportunity for creativity and innovation within our school system.

The biggest barrier to that creativity and innovation is the red tape that the current National government keep wrapping schools in. If they really want to make a difference for all Kiwi kids, they should deal with that problem.

I’m aware that even some of the advocates of charter schools are uncomfortable with aspects of the model they are working within, but they see it as the only way around the stifling regulations they come up against when trying to do things differently within the state school system.

It’s more than a little ironic that the current obsession with national standards, NCEA targets, indicators and performance management doesn’t extend to charter schools. And yet the government will try and tell us they are the most accountable of all. Experience suggests otherwise.

The Labour Party is firmly committed to a quality public education system in which every New Zealand child has the chance to achieve to their fullest potential. We recognise that every child is different and our education system needs to cater to that.

We will direct extra funding for education to where it can make the biggest different to the greatest number of students. Charter schools simply fail to meet that criteria.

When in government we will deal with each of the existing charter schools on a case-by-case basis, but none will continue in their present form. Where there are positive innovations that can and should be incorporated into the public school system, we will endeavour to do that. But let me be very clear, under Labour, Charter Schools will be a thing of the past.

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  • Stuart Macadam
    commented 2018-02-11 13:29:46 +1300
    What about Vanguard Military School? They have a pass rate of 90% plus in NCEA Level 1,2 & 3. They are given ERO reports like all other schools and have their work moderated by NZQA. They also do quarterly reports for the Ministry. Where are the differences in accountability between them and state schools?

    The level of funding they were given seemed necessary, given that Vanguard was setting up and establishing themselves.

    I know that you, Mr Hipkins have visited Vanguard and seen for yourself the difference which the school is making to the lives of the young people who are attending it. Young people who fell behind in the state education system are thriving there, not because the whole state system is flawed, but because naturally it just wasn’t a fit for them and Vanguard is.

    If we are serious about stopping youth offending, having young people locked up, the best time to change their mindset is when we still can. Vanguard does just that through a strict, no nonsense approach to education.

    It would be a real tragedy to see it go. Please reconsider your decision and let Vanguard Military School continue functioning as it is.