One of the first five schools, that started up in February 2014, has had huge problems. Te Kura Hourua ke Whangaruru, a bilingual secondary school for years 9-13, has a dropping school roll, up to a third of students absent on any one day, poor planning, serious internal issues, and fighting and drug problems with students.
A Ministry-appointed facilitator was appointed, working there almost daily for hours at a time, and he stepped back only “after a local Child, Youth and Family manager was seconded to the job of executive principal.” Source
Radio NZ’s Morning Report piece can be listened to here. (approx 5 minutes long)
So far, the school has cost up to 500% what it costs to fund a state school pupil. Needless to say, principals and teachers at state schools are furious that they are struggling to get help for students equally needy, when money is being wasted on the charter school experiment.
There has been concern from many quarters regarding charter schools. The Quality Public Education Coalition (QPEC) has questioned the “secretive, undemocratic, expensive and ideological experiment”, PPTA have said that charters are “based on an extremist ideology which has no basis in evidence”, NZEI have expressed amazement at the experiment, saying “it beggars belief that any government of any persuasion would want to undermine a quality public education system in this way”. Leading academics from both New Zealand and overseas have also spoken out against the charter school experiment.
This is not an experiment we can afford to continue. Any school currently running that is found to be doing a good job should, as Labour, Greens, NZ First and Mana have suggested, be given the option to join the state system as appropriate. Those failing should be closed down.
The focus MUST be on improving the lot of all students in need, on helping all schools get the best resources to help those students, on making sure the whole support system is bolstered and supported so that it can properly serve all schools and their students.
Any system that serves to support only some students whilst ignoring the majority, is a system New Zealand doesn’t need.
Sources and further reading:
Jamie Whyte discussed charter schools this morning in his leader’s interview on Radio NZ. It makes fascinating listening (from 17 minutes on).