So here it is – the first draft of my submission, and I welcome thoughts, corrections, additional evidence, and any other teachery red pen type things you want to throw at it…
“I strongly oppose the Education Amendment Bill.
New Zealand has one of the best performing education systems in the world . We consistently show as a well-performing country in the OECD’s PISA studies with high test scores for our 15 year olds in Maths, Reading and Science. In 2009 we were 7th for Maths and Science, and 13th for Reading. [i] New Zealand is a well performing nation. Partnership (charter) schools have not lead to higher achievement in other countries. Those countries with charter schools have not only failed to hold their own but have moved down the PISA rankings. Stanford University’s CREDO report states that whilst 17% of students did better in a charter school than their peers in public schools, 37% did worse, and the rest did about the same. [ii] This is not an adequate level of improvement to warrant the level of disruption and change – indeed for the almost 40% of children who did worse than if they had stayed in public schools it is a disaster.
The argument that New Zealand parents want more choice is not one that is borne out by my research and I have yet to find any government research that supports that assumption either. We are very lucky in New Zealand to already have a wide variety of schooling option open to our children: Special Character schools, Steiner Schools, home schooling, private schools, bilingual schools, correspondence school, Te kura kaupapa Maori, State integrated schools, special schools, Health Units, and teen parent units, single sex schools, day schools, boarding schools and more. [iii] One might also ask, if choice is truly a selling point for parents, why England’s Free Schools are failing to attract the numbers of students they expected, with some closing down and others not even opening despite millions of pounds being spent setting them up. [iv] Furthermore, students in the USA have been left without any school place at all after charter schools have closed with just a few days’ notice, leaving them with not only no choice but no school place at all.[v] I do not believe choice is a true factor – instead I believe that partnership (charter) schools are being promoted as such merely to sell an ideological concept to parents.
The Bill allows unregistered and even untrained ‘teachers’ to work in these schools, and without even the process of being checked and found suitable for Limited Authority to Teach (LAT) status. This is an unacceptable drop in standards, and not something I or many parents want for our children. Even the Ministry of Education has recognised that this is a bad move,[vi] and yet it is still included in the Act. It seems incredible that on the one hand government is calling for teachers to be more highly qualified and on the other hand allowing people with no training or teaching background to be in charge of our children’s education. Classroom management skills, pedagogical knowledge and research-based planning and evaluation are not something you can just bypass or even learn as you go. Teaching is a profession and should be recognised and treated as such. Our children deserve no less.
The New Zealand National Curriculum is recognised as a world-class document and is something that teachers have embraces whole heartedly. It is not acceptable to allow Partnership (charter) schools to set their own curriculum outside of this very flexible and well thought out document. Indeed there is no need for that measure, as the curriculum gives plenty of scope for creativity and innovation whilst ensuring that core learning objectives are covered.
Furthermore, allowing public schools to be run for profit is a folly of the highest order. The folly is multiplied tenfold by the fact that schools will not be accountable under the Ombudsman Act or the Official Information Act. This misuse of tax-payers’ money is unacceptable.[vii] The charter school’s funding and management model has led to a number of frauds in overseas schools, the fudging of data, funding of self-congratulatory ‘research’ to bolster standing, and a number of other very disturbing practices. [viii][ix] Whilst I recognise that these have not happened in all charter schools, I feel we should not even be opening up our education system or our fiscal purse to such possibilities when the potential gains are so minimal.
Charter schools overseas have also had a poor record regarding inclusion of special needs students,[x] as well as very high attrition rates for (non-white) students.[xi] [xii] There is nothing anywhere that outlines how the Ministry of Education intends to address those issues. This is of great concern, especially as Partnership (charter) schools are touted as being aimed at least in the first instance at lower-achieving students and poorer communities.
The New Zealand social groups that consistently under-achieve do so for the most part due to socio-economic factors rather than the quality of their education.
Partnership (charter) schools will do little or nothing to change that.”