The NZ Herald ran an op-ed piece yesterday written by former ACT Party leader, Don Brash. It sang the praises of South Auckland Middle School, one of the two charter schools run by Alwyn Poole of Villa Education Trust.
The piece contained statistics of all sorts including figures purporting to compare the National Standards results for SAMS to local Manurewa schools. I will write separately on the thorny topic of comparing schools and how this might fit in to how we see the charter school concept playing out here in New Zealand.
We will also look again at the much higher operational funding that SAMS receives compared to local schools. And we will also deal with the silly comment that Dr Brash made about Rototuna Primary receiving “$40 million for start-up”, which is a ridiculous statement to make.
[If you want a summary of this year’s charter school funding read our piece from earlier this year]
But, in the meantime, let’s focus on the current PR push.
We have seen this push several times recently in the right wing blog sites Whale Oil and Kiwiblog and it even appeared in a piece in the National Business Review, written by another former ACT Party leader, Rodney Hide.
Alwyn is well known to many of us in the charter school circle. He is very aggressive in his marketing and communications, looking to push both the charter school concept and his own schools at every opportunity.
While there’s nothing really wrong with that, I suspect the motivation for this current push was that SAMS has fallen short of the student achievement performance targets in its contract.
This was confirmed last week when the Ministry’s evaluation of the 2015 charter school performance was published. SAMS met only two of its six Targets and was rated as Almost Met. However, its sister school out west, Middle School West Auckland, met only one of its six Targets and was rated Not Met.
Mind you, the Ministry report, dated 30 May 2016 but released in the last week of August, was buried on the charter school section of the Ministry’s website and not even put at the top of a long list of documents. No press release, no website announcement – nothing. I wonder why?
The Ministry report did not make any recommendations on the release of what is termed the 1 per cent retention amount of each school’s operational funding. This is supposed to be released only when a charter school has met all of its performance standards. [See charter school Agreement, Schedule 7: Payment, clause 1.4 (i)]
However, the Minister fudged this decision last year and released the retention payment to Villa, even though SAMS failed to meet its student engagement performance standard, due to having too many Stand Downs, Suspensions and Exclusions.
Just out of interest, we should also note that the two Villa charter schools have so far generated $640,016 in management fees to the Sponsor. And these are on top of any expenses incurred within the schools to cover both teaching and administration costs.
The charter school love-in group, known as the Authorisation Board and headed by another ACT Party ideologue, is in recruitment mode now for the Fourth Round. They have a slide pack that promotes the charter school concept as “Rigorous Accountability for performance against agreed objectives”.
Both SAMS and Middle West have not met their student achievement contract performance standards in the 2015 year.
We shall see what the Minister decides…
~ Bill Courtney, SOSNZ