It seems there is one rule for one and one for another, and never the twain shall meet.
Not sure what I mean? Well, let’s compare Hekia Parata’s treatment of Te Pumanawa o te Wairua charter school with the closed and merged Christchurch state schools.
Hekia’s Double Standards
WAIRUA CHARTER SCHOOL: Te Pumanawa o te Wairua charter school has a falling roll and is down to just 39 pupils, despite its contract stating it must have a minimum of 71. Hekia Parata keeps it open against ministry advice and gives additional money.
CHRISTCHURCH STATE SCHOOLS: Phillipstown had over 160 students.(4) At least one of the other schools had a growing roll. Hekia merges Phillipstown and closes or merges other schools, arguing that falling rolls meant they were too small and too costly. One of the merged schools is already reported to already be overcrowded.
WAIRUA CHARTER SCHOOL: Communities and professional bodies have grave concerns about the school, but Hekia decides to keep the school open.
CHRISTCHURCH STATE SCHOOLS: Communities and professional bodies spoke up for the schools and fought to keep them open (5) but Hekia decided to close or merge almost all of them.
WAIRUA CHARTER SCHOOL: Te Pumanawa o te Wairua charter school was given a 28 closure notice in February. It continued until late July, and has been now been given until October to improve. Kept open repeatedly.
CHRISTCHURCH STATE SCHOOLS: Branston, Linwood and Manning school closures were all brought forward significantly, despite promises by Ministry to the communities that they would be remain open for another school year or more. Closed by Hekia, and sooner than promised.
WAIRUA CHARTER SCHOOL: Ongoing reports of poor attendance, bullying, drug use and management infighting. (2) School kept open by Hekia.
CHRISTCHURCH STATE SCHOOLS: No concerns about management or student health and safety. Schools closed by Hekia.
WAIRUA CHARTER SCHOOL: The Ministry of Education, ERO and Deloitte’s audit have all deemed Te Pumanawa o te Wairua charter school to be failing. this school has again been kept open.
CHRISTCHURCH STATE SCHOOLS: All of the schools were considered good schools. Some were outstanding. These schools were closed and/or merged.
WAIRUA CHARTER SCHOOL: Very low levels of achievement – only one student reported to have gained NCEA, out of 49 put forward.(1) School kept open by Hekia.
CHRISTCHURCH STATE SCHOOLS: Students achieving well. Schools closed by Hekia.
Stark double standards
Time and again we saw these Christchurch schools being given no leeway by Hekia – no time for their communities to settle post-quake and no consideration for distressed staff and students coping with ongoing quake trauma. Decisions were made in a cold, clinical and often seemingly heartless way.
In stark contrast, Hekia is reported to be genuinely concerned about the pupils at Te Pumanawa o te Wairua charter school. That is to her credit. But why the difference in treatment?
No matter where you stand on charter schools, it’s pretty clear that Hekia Parata is bizarrely unfair when it comes to her treatment of different types of schools: Ideology is clouding her judgement.