1. The introduction of charter schools is both a sop to the ACT Party, with their ideological desire to introduce a privatised, market based model of education, and a follow up to the Step Change Report produced in the term of the previous National Government. [Feb 2010]
2. However, there are significant differences between vouchers, the pure market model usually promoted by ACT, and charter schools, which is privatisation by way of contracting with private sector providers. Treasury calls this “Contracting for Outcomes”.
3. Treasury, in its advice to the Minister of Finance, noted that: “The evidence suggests that schooling systems that use strongly competitive elements such as vouchers, avoiding school zoning and ‘charter’ schools do not produce systematically better outcomes.” [July 2012]
4. “School Choice” is the phrase used in America to describe the market model. But New Zealand already has “arguably the most aggressive school choice system in the world” in the view of one overseas commentator. [Marc Tucker, Washington Post, October 2012]
5. NZCER surveys over the years consistently show that the vast majority of NZ parents already believe they send their children to the “school of their choice”. [NZCER]
6. Overseas evidence on charter school performance is inconclusive, at best. A wide range of individual school performance is evident but with little system-wide effect across the model as a whole. [CREDO and Hattie]
7. This purely quantitative analysis is then subject to further criticisms of many aspects of US charter school practices, including: student selection, including the effect of “self-selection” amongst parents; the proportions of English language Learners and special needs students; student attrition; school discipline and behaviour management practices; the apparent lack of backfilling, i.e. the tendency to not replace students as they leave; and the drive for what is commonly called “test prep”, in contrast to a genuine focus on the quality of education.
8. The promotional pack from the Authorisation Board boasts that the New Zealand charter school model represents “Freedom from constraints imposed on regular state schools in exchange for rigorous accountability for performance against agreed objectives.”
9. It then identifies the following factors, but without any evidence that these are likely to lead to higher student achievement: Cashed-up per student funding; school day & year; school organisation; curriculum; teacher pay / teaching practice; privately provided / secular or faith based. [PSKH Authorisation Board, 2016]
10. The argument that “freedom” will encourage/facilitate “innovation” is weak. It is not supported by overseas evidence [Lubienski 2003] and one US charter school industry’s overview even conceded that “… most charters do not employ particularly innovative instructional approaches”. [Bellwether 2015]
11. The combined roll of the 10 schools now in operation was 1,257 as at 1 March 2017, an average of about 125 students per school. The combined Maximum Roll across the 10 schools is 2,112 students. [MoE Schools Directory, April 2017]
12. The original funding model has already been changed, as it soon became clear how much operational funding these schools were receiving compared to their local state schools. Small schools are expensive and the government was fully funding the First and Second Round schools with no Sponsor capital input required.
13. Even in their 4th year of operation, the two largest First Round charter secondary schools are receiving cash funding of over $14,000 per student, compared to a system-wide weighted average for all schools, including property, of $7,046.11. [2015 system data]
14. The Third Round funding model now uses an approach more oriented to funding the student than funding the school, as the roll grows. But the government still provides the property and insurance funding for what is essentially a private sector organisation.
15. Cabinet was told: “A strong evaluation programme will be put in place that thoroughly examines the impact and effectiveness of the first such schools. This will enable us to make informed decisions about whether or not to open further such schools in the future.”
16. This promise has not been carried out. The roll-out of the model has proceeded well ahead of the release of any evaluation. At the time of writing, the Third Round schools have opened this year and applications are being processed for the Fourth and Fifth Rounds!
17. The first two reports from the Martin Jenkins Evaluation Programme are weak and do not rigorously examine school performance or the impact these schools have had. The Evaluation has also completely ignored the failure of the First Round school at Whangaruru.
18. Student achievement outcomes to date have been mixed but difficult to analyse thoroughly given the delays in the Ministry releasing accurate information.
19. By May 2017, the Minister has still not announced her decision on the release of the performance based funding for the 2015 school year! No operational reports for the entire 2016 year have yet been released, along with supporting documentation such as contract variations and Ministry advice to the Minister.
20. There was a major problem with the interpretation of the original secondary schools’ contract performance standard, which is “School Leavers” and not NCEA pass rates. This resulted in incorrect reporting of the true state of the 2014 and 2015 secondary performance. [MoE advice to the Minister, July 2016, obtained under the OIA]
21. Superficially high NCEA pass rates are published by Vanguard Military School but NZQA data obtained under the Official Information Act (OIA) reveals issues around the quality of the credits gained, the high proportion of unit versus achievement standards entered and large differences between internal and external pass rates. [NZQA]
22. Primary and middle schools assessed against National Standards have not performed well. In the 2015 year, only one school out of five – the Rise Up Academy – met its NS student achievement standard targets. [MoE initial analysis, 30 May 2016]
23. Some schools, including Vanguard and the two Villa middle schools, have failed to meet their Student Engagement contract standards relating to stand-downs, suspensions, exclusions and expulsions. This is of concern, given the US charter school practices noted above.
24. Charter schools are not more accountable than public schools, simply because they operate under a contract. Whangaruru was not closed for failure to achieve contract standards; it was dysfunctional from the start.
25. Public school accountability includes parent-elected Boards of Trustees, which must hold open meetings, maintain open records and be subject to the Official Information Act. Board finances are subject to audit under the supervision of the Auditor-General.
26. No such requirements apply to charter schools, which are organised under a commercial contract between the government and the private sector Sponsor.
27. Public funding must go hand in hand with public accountability. State and State-Integrated schools both abide by this principle but charter schools do not.
The cover up of the true picture of student achievement in charter schools continued today with the belated release of the second Martin Jenkins Evaluation Report.
The report, with a final publication date of 28 November 2016, was released on Friday 5 May 2017, a delay of over 5 months.
However, even now, the report contains a massive caveat in the section discussing student achievement, which indicates there are still major problems behind the scenes.
Here is the footnote set out under the Evaluation Report’s analysis of Student Achievement:
The ratings in the May 2016 advice were based on the best information available to the Ministry at that time (and are indicative of the reports that the Ministry had received from schools/kura by then). They reflect the most up-to-date information provided to the evaluation team at the time of writing this report, but are not the Ministry’s final assessments of schools’/kura performance for 2015.
Source: Ministry of Education (2016) Education Report: Partnership Schools/Kura Hourua: 2015 Quarter Four and Annual Reports, 30 May 2016
So, a formal policy evaluation signed off in November 2016, cannot go to print in May 2017 with a clear statement of exactly what represents the “Ministry’s final assessments of schools’/kura performance for 2015”?
The same problem is holding back the Minister of Education’s decision on whether or not to release the retained operational funding that is performance related, in respect of the 2015 school year. And this is now May 2017!
The major problem relates to the issue which surfaced last year, when the Ministry acknowledged that the interpretation of the secondary schools’ contract performance standards had been incorrect. As a consequence, the schools had also reported incorrectly against their contracts.
These incorrect figures had been used to determine the Ministry’s ratings in its May 2016 advice, referred to in the footnote. While the Ministry has now acknowledged that these figures are incorrect, nothing further has since been released.
The poor performance of the primary and middle schools is also evident in the Evaluation Report. Of the five primary and middle schools, which have contract targets set against National Standards, only one school, the Rise Up Academy, was assessed as having met its contract targets.
And problems are also clearly evident in the assessment of performance against the Student Engagement standards. Vanguard Military School and Middle School West Auckland performed very poorly against the standards for Stand-downs, Suspensions, Exclusions and Expulsions.
Overall, the main takeaway from the Evaluation Report is a fairly damning indictment of performance to date.
But the continued cover up of the true picture should not be tolerated any longer.
~ Bill Courtney
The Education Ministry reported that some of last year’s new charter schools are not doing so well, but says there are good reasons for this.
The reasons given include students arriving at school far behind age-appropriate levels, student transience, the high rate of referrals from Child Youth and Family and the Police and referrals of difficult students from other schools.
Indeed, those are valid reasons for any school struggling to help students.
What I would like the Education Minister and the Undersecretary for Education to explain is how these factors are considered sound reasons for charter schools to struggle to help students and yet are considered excuses for public schools.
Sources and further reading:
Analysis by Save Our Schools NZ shows that the charter primary and middle schools achieved only 27 out a combined total of 66 achievement Targets for the 2015 academic year. This is a hit rate of only 40.9%.
For most people, this would represent a “Fail” but David Seymour seems to have taken the dark art of grade inflation to a new height.
In his Free Press release (15 August), Seymour claims that his charter schools are “knocking it out of the park with results and innovation”.
Outrageous comments such as Seymour’s serve to remind us that charter schools are clearly not subject to any serious monitoring at all.
Seymour’s colleagues on the charter school Authorisation Board have just launched a marketing campaign to try and bounce back from the disastrous current application round.
One of the slides in the presentation pack describes the charter school model with this comment:
“Freedom from constraints imposed on regular state schools in exchange for rigorous accountability for performance against agreed objectives.”
But the agreed objectives are those set out in the charter school contracts and not those in Seymour’s fantasy baseball stadium.
It will be interesting to read the Ministry’s evaluation of 2015 charter school performance and to see whether they have also drunk too much of the charter school Kool-Aid.
For the record, the combined 2015 results for the 3 primary and 2 middle schools are shown below.
Contract Targets are set at each Year level, as being the percentage of students assessed as “At or Above National Standards” across Reading, Writing and Maths.
The schools have different numbers of Year levels in operation, as they become established, but these add to 22 in each subject area for the 2015 year.
Targets Met in total: Achieved 27 out of 66 40.9%
Reading: Achieved 7 out of 22 31.8%
Writing: Achieved 10 out of 22 45.5%
Maths: Achieved 10 out of 22 45.5%
– Bill Courtney, Save Our Schools NZ
The two charter schools operated by Villa Education Trust have achieved only 3 of their 12 student achievement targets for the 2015 year, according to analysis by Save Our Schools NZ.
According to the 2015 annual reports to the public released by the two schools, South Auckland Middle School achieved 2 of their 6 targets and Middle School West Auckland achieved only 1 of their 6 targets.
Detailed results are set out below.
South Auckland Middle School
|Target %||Outcome %||Target %||Outcome %||Target %||Outcome %|
Middle School West Auckland
|Target %||Outcome %||Target %||Outcome %||Target %||Outcome %|
Charter schools are supposedly going to be held to account for their performance against clearly specified performance standards set out in their contracts, including student achievement and student engagement.
In its first year of operation, South Auckland Middle School failed to meet its student engagement performance standard when it missed the required standard for stand downs, suspensions and exclusions.
But the Minister of Education still approved the release of the 1% performance retention funding retained under the contract, even though the contract wording required the school to reach all of its performance standards before such a payment could be made.
The clear underperformance in 2015 of both schools in the most important contract area, which is student achievement, should make the Minister’s decision this year clear cut.
But as charter schools are ultimately a political initiative anything can happen!
Cartoon by Emmerson – twitter.com/rodemmerson
Prior to the publication of Save Our Schools NZ’s detailed analysis of charter school funding in 2016, we here present a summary of findings:
Finally, it will never be easy to make straightforward comparisons between charter school and State / State-Integrated school funding, as this inevitably involves an apples v oranges comparison. But even in their third year of operation, the first round schools still have high total funding per student costs compared to the weighted average across the school system.
And while things may or may not change over time, our approach will remain simple: “Follow the Money”.
~ Bill Courtney, Save Our Schools NZ
If you don’t follow charter school goings on worldwide (and for your sanity, I kind of want to suggest you don’t), you’d be forgiven for thinking that there’s just the odd blip here and there. But, to be honest, it’s more like a volley of blips coming thick and fast. In fact, if blips were locusts, we’d have a plague on our hands.
Take just this week’s revelations, for example…
Nga Parirau Matauranga Trust (NZ)
Waipareira Trust (NZ)
The E Tipu E Rea Trust (NZ)
Academy Transformation Trust (England)
NET Academies Trust (England)
Paradigm Trust (England)
Gulen/Harmony Charter Schools (USA)
Michigan study (USA)
Ohio Department of Education invoiced (USA)
Cabot Learning Federation (England)
Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust (England)
Oh I could go on… this is but a drop in the ocean… but you get the idea.
The charter schools movement is not about education – it’s about privatisation and diversion of funds. As always, I ask you to follow the evidence and follow the money.
Featured Image courtesy of pixtawan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Taxpayers fund large wages and lavish perks of academy school chiefs , The Guardian, Published online Sunday 24 July 2016 00.05 BST, retrieved 6.59pm NZ 25/7/16
Trust given $500,000 charter school contract without going to tender, NZ Herald, published online 10:43 AM Monday Jul 25, 2016, retrieved 9.18pm 25/7/16
Are charter schools making the grade? – The Nation, TV3, Saturday 23 Jul 2016 10:34 am, retrieved 9.38pm 25/7/16
Charter school a waste of public money – PPTA, Radio NZ, published 7:19 pm on 28 January 2016, retrieved 9.31pm 25/7/16
Parents at Bath Community Academy say school has failed their children and failed them, Bath Chronicle, July 23, 2016, retrieved 9.59pm 25/7/16
20 May 2016
Today’s announcement that the government will fund another seven charter schools and an independent body to support them comes as a huge disappointment to Principals across the nation.
‘Only a few months ago, the Minister was closing the Whangaruru failed charter school which spent $1.6million on a farm and the government has no mechanism to retrieve that money, even though the school is now closed,’ said Iain Taylor, President of the New Zealand Principals’ Federation today.
‘We thought that lessons had been learned from that disaster,’ said Taylor, ‘but obviously not.’
‘No one is calling for more of these schools,’ says Taylor. ‘Parents already have more than enough schools to choose from. Charter schools are a political arrangement with the government and the ACT party.’ he said.
‘Charter schools are a business, not a regular school, and businesses market themselves to get more customers by offering enticements. That’s what charter schools do”
‘Kids are not flocking to charter schools. Parents have to be enticed to send their kids there. We see the incentives like free school uniforms, free stationery and no programme charges,’ said Taylor. ‘Charter schools are a business, not a regular school, and businesses market themselves to get more customers by offering enticements. That’s what charter schools do,’ he said.
‘The Minister has often said that the vast majority of public schools of all decile levels in this country are great schools. We want all public schools in New Zealand to be great schools and we don’t need charter schools soaking up precious funds that would make that happen,’ said Taylor.
NZPF President Iain Taylor, media spokesperson
Mob: 021 190 3233
In these two short videos Assoc. Professor Peter O’Connor from the University of Auckland analyses why Charter schools are being introduced into New Zealand.
The first video was released in 2012. the follow-up in 2014, and together they give a good overall picture of the concerns people had and still have regarding NZ charter schools.
As a follow up, you may wish to watch Bryan Bruce’s up-coming doco about the New Zealand education system, ‘World Class?’, which is being aired on TV3 at 7.30 on Tuesday 24th May 2016. The doco was years in the making and should be very thought provoking.
The promo clip is here:
Assurances that ACT’s charter school experiment was just a pilot have been proven false with this afternoon’s announcement of seven new charter schools.
PPTA president Angela Roberts was surprised a new round of charter schools were being opened when New Zealand tax payers had been promised the concept would be a trial.
With a poorly conducted evaluation of the existing schools lukewarm about their efficacy opening more did not make sense, she said.
“There are still a lot of questions to be answered.”
“We have been constantly reassured there would be just a handful of schools which would be robustly evaluated – both of those claims have been proved false,” she said.
“This is not a pilot, it is just a sop to the ACT party’s ideological commitment to favouring the private over the public sector.”
This was out of step with reality as illustrated by the disastrous Serco prison contracts and the closure of one of the first five charter schools, she said.
Current research shows our poorest schools are facing the deepest challenges in meeting their students’ needs.
“Public money should be going towards what evidence shows helps the most vulnerable, and that is professional support for their health and welfare needs and economic and social wellbeing,” she said.
Enabling schools to be hubs where students can connect with nurses, mental health and welfare support would have a much bigger impact than wasting money on an unproven experiment.
“The funds should be reprioritised to the state sector where they will have the greatest impact on the greatest number of students,” she said.
The ACT party education policy proclaims that:
“all parents should have a chance to send their children to Partnership Schools. The best way to achieve this is to allow all State and Integrated Schools to choose whether they want to convert to Partnership School status.”
Despite the fact that charter schools do not have to have parents on their board of trustees, the ACT policy goes on to say that:
“Partnership Schools are accountable to parents and students.”
How, I wonder, if parents are not on the board and most information about the school can be kept secret due to it being a private business.
It is incredulous that ACT is still arguing that privatisation (of anything) automatically raises standards. It is patently untrue, as shown by the prisons saga and power companies.
What is true is that once a service is privatised, more money goes into CEOs’ back pockets and less to the workers or those they are meant to serve.
“Education is supposed to be for the benefit of New Zealand’s children.”
Ask yourself, who would privatisation benefit?
~ Dianne Khan
I could never work in an Academy. As an educator, a professional and a passionate believer in universal education, they represent a corruption of the principles of equal access to free education. Not only that, the long litany of problems involving finance, curriculum alterations and mistreatment of students and staff clearly outline that Academy schools aren’t great places to work. A friend of mine wrote beautifully on the subject a little while ago now.
In New Zealand we have Charter Schools a half formed cargo cult version. They’re already in trouble due to finance, curriculum and mistreatment of students and staff. Sounds awfully familiar.
The first UK Academy opened in 2002. Their introduction was aimed at reinventing inner city schools with significant results and management problems. Then sponsors got involved, either rich individuals or corporations (including educorps). They were supposed to bring in private sector best practice and management, like most privatisation is supposed to.
In May 2010 the Conservative-Liberal Democrat (Lib Dem) Coalition came to power in the UK. There were, at the time, 203 Academies in the UK – mostly Secondary Schools.
The term of the Tory education secretary Michael Gove saw a radical expansion of Academies. This was often as a result of OFSTED inspections, some of which classed schools as failing only a year or two after they had been called outstanding. Some schools were forced into becoming Academies, against the will of pupils’ parents.
Today there are 4,516 academies; 2,075 out of 3,381 secondary schools and 2,440 of 16,766 primary schools. The expansion was so rapid that many private Academy trusts took on more schools than they could cope with, leading to those schools failing and being taken back by the DfE until another Academy group could be found to take over. The free market of schools.
“It was the middle of last week when I heard that I could never work in the UK again as a teacher”
It was the middle of last week when I heard that I could never work in the UK again as a teacher. I’ve no plans to move back, I love Aotearoa New Zealand, but the crunching finality of knowing that there’d be no place that I could conscientiously work was sudden and upsetting.
In the Budget, Chancellor George Osborne (not the pig tampering one, the one who looks like a pig) announced that all English schools would be converted into Academies by 2020. Every single one of them.
What does this mean? Well, given the evidence already available it would mean none of the UK’s schools would be bound to teach the National Curriculum, instead being charged to provide a ‘broad and balanced’ curriculum. So what you’re taught in one school may be radically different from another. Not teaching style, actual content.
It’s not great for pupils, in more ways than one. Many Academies have operated a subtle and not so subtle selection process, choosing only pupils who are likely to be able to improve their results. Others, when dealing with those who are disruptive or failing, have placed pupils on study leave during exam or inspection periods, or placed them in study support centres outside of the school. This can take the form of pupils and parents being asked to leave by the school, rather than being excluded (which would show up in the all important league tables). Now that every school is to become an Academy, where do those pupils go?
Academies have, over the long term, not been proven to raise results any more significantly than schools in the UK operating under the LEA’s (Local Education Authorities, which will soon be defunded and dissolved). In fact, Academies have come under fire for exactly the same issues that LEA schools had in management, results and organisation, the same issues which saw the schools be forced to convert! Conversion turns every school into an individual Ltd company and scythes out the level of local support and oversight that was previously provided by the LEA. On such a huge scale, that’s far too much for the Department for Education to handle.
It’s going to cost money too. Newly converting Academies get a 10% funding boost, at a time when state funded schools have seen budgets cut year on year. But due to the rapid expansion of Academy schools and the lack of oversight, many have had to be bailed out by the Department for Education. I guess bringing in the ‘best of the private sector’ does mean being utterly sure the Government will spend millions trying to salvage the mess you make.
Overall, it’s had a huge impact on the profession. Academies are not bound by the collectively negotiated pay structure, meaning the UK’s Teaching Unions will have to bargain with individual Academy Trusts and schools. They’re also not bound by the negotiated terms and conditions of contract for teachers, which means many teachers find themselves on-call permanently or schools have employed teachers on the equivalent of zero hours contracts. The trend for Academies to lack unionisation, because of the ease with which you can be dismissed, makes this even harder.
It’s not great for Academies, either, though. Without a national pay structure, schools who can find more money will get the better teachers. Schools with wealthy backers will have more than schools that don’t.
As a male Primary teacher, I’m relatively certain that I’d be paid more than a female doing the same job with the same experience. Why? Because I’m rarer. Teaching is one of the few professions where pay equality was built in already. And they’re getting rid of it.
“Academies don’t have to employ qualified teachers”
There’s also the question of professionalism itself. Academies don’t have to employ qualified teachers. And hidden in the announcement of Academisation was the change to Qualified Teacher Status.
Previously, Newly Qualified Teachers (NQT’s) were assessed over the course of a year or two to see if they were able to meet the standards for a qualified teacher. With a huge teacher shortage looming in the UK, the plan is to allow teachers to teach for longer in the classroom and be certified by their Headteacher and a Senior Staff member.Education Secretary Nicky Morgan says this will drive up standards, and drive is an important word. She announced that allowing teachers longer to qualify and removing the strict schedule teachers had to meet will allow those NQTs who struggle more chances to make it.
As an experienced teacher, I look back on my NQT period as far, far less intensive than doing the job in the years that followed. It’s being presented as like a driving test, just because you fail doesn’t mean you’re a bad driver, right?
“…reducing the standards you require of a teacher doesn’t drive up standards and professionalism, it drives it over a cliff”
Fair enough, but with one report saying teachers would have up to a DECADE to pass, it makes you ask – if it takes you ten years to pass your driving test, maybe you’re just not a driver? Buy a bike. Or walk. Some people just aren’t meant for the classroom, some people just aren’t teachers and the attempt to try and fill the rapidly depleting profession by reducing the standards you require of a teacher doesn’t drive up standards and professionalism, it drives it over a cliff.
It also makes it trickier for teachers to do as I did and head overseas. There’s been a mass exodus of teachers from the English system, coincidentally or otherwise, in the last six years. By shifting the QTS award to something less substantial, overseas authorities may very well view them as insufficient evidence of an ability to teach. I’m glad I left when I did; others in future may not be so lucky.
There is already a growing and vocal opposition to all of the plans outlined above, as well there should. Announcing you’re ditching LEA oversight and support of schools, dumping the need for any school to employ qualified teachers, dropping the National Curriculum, scrapping nationally negotiated terms and conditions and placing schools in a bidding war for new teachers is a huge and complete evidence free attack on the quality and professionalism of education in the UK.
“For me there’s sadness.”
For me there’s sadness. My love of teaching was developed, as a student, in the UK system that’s now being explosively dismantled. I spent the first five years of my teaching career safe in the knowledge that I was a public servant, providing fair and equal education to all of my children as a professional. I was paid the same as anyone else who was experienced as I was, and I could talk with teachers from around the country about the curriculum and its delivery in the knowledge that we were all working together as equals. It was an education system for the whole country. If these plans are implemented, it won’t be any more.
In Aotearoa we should take lessons from the way in which Academy failures were written off or marginalised to the public and how concerted political pressure on inspection agencies led to the dramatic spread of privatised schools. The few Charter Schools in this country are already struggling, and what has happened in the UK this week shows us the future of education if they’re allowed to spread further.
~ John Palethorpe
New academies laws were passed by Parliament last night: here is what they mean for you and your school – Time Educational Supplement (TES)
NZEI Te Riu Roa says the Government’s proposal to allow universities to sponsor charter schools is another desperate attempt to embed the failed model of schooling.
Speaking at the Education and Science Select Committee this morning, NZEI Te Riu Roa National Secretary Paul Goulter said the Education Legislation Bill proposes a number of radical changes to our education sector.
He said the Government has tried to portray the proposed legislation as a “tidying up” bill to modernise legislation but this is far from reality.
“There are a lot of proposed changes that are cause for concern and this includes enabling tertiary education institutions to sponsor charter schools.
“It is clear that there has not been the level of support or interest in charter schools that the Government had hoped for and it is now desperately looking for new ways to support the model.”
He said allowing universities and waananga to set up charter schools is a conflict of interest, particularly for any tertiary institution associated with the training of teachers, as charter schools do not require 100 percent trained and qualified teachers.
“The original stated intent of charter schools was to place the risk of charter school failure onto private providers. However, by allowing public institutions to sponsor charter schools, once again the taxpayer takes on the risk.”
More much-needed teacher aide time, providing more digital devices in the classrooms and supporting the cost of outdoor excursions are just some of the ways principals at public schools would spend a $20,000 bonus if they received one.
NZEI Te Riu Roa executive member and school principal Lynda Stuart says revelations that $60,000 of bonuses have been given to three charter schools, despite not meeting performance targets, is another example of taxpayer money going to support private enterprise instead of public education.
“Why aren’t charter schools more accountable?
This is very frustrating when we’re constantly being told to cut corners to save money and told to take short term solutions when we know they will be more costly in the long run.”
She says she would have spent a $20,000 bonus on supporting more children with digital devices and subsidising the costs of outdoor activities.
“We do this because these are beyond the budget of many parents at our school. We try very hard to put our children on a level playing field and give them experiences and opportunities that many other children can take for granted. But as a school, we struggle to pay for the provision of an equitable learning environment for our students.”
Wanganui Intermediate principal Charles Oliver says if he had a $20,000 bonus he would fund an extra teacher aide for 25 hours a week for an entire year.
“This would be enormous benefit to many of our kids who are struggling because we simply can’t afford to provide enough one-on-one support for struggling students.”
He says the $60,000 charter school bonuses seem like another insult to the public education sector, especially as they come on top of reports last year that the privately-run schools were overfunded by nearly $900,000 more than if their funding was strictly roll based.
The recent press release from Vanguard Military School (3 February 2016) again highlights how the spin doctors love to spin a story around high participation-based pass rates in NCEA. But do they tell the full story of student achievement at the charter secondary school?
Late last year an excellent article published in the NZ Listener revealed that students at Vanguard and its counterpart in Whangarei – Te Kura Hourua o Whangarei Terenga Paraoa – gained the vast majority of their NCEA credits in internally-assessed standards. They also had far higher pass rates in internally-assessed standards than they achieved in external assessments.
The full breakdown published by NZQA (and linked to in the Listener article) also revealed that no less than 25 students at Vanguard gained 3 credits at NCEA Level 2 in 2014 for such demanding subjects as “Experience day tramps”, which is Standard no. US 425, if you want to look it up! Readers will be pleased to know that no-one seemed to have failed that one!
It will be interesting to examine the 2015 standards information release and see if there is any change in the makeup of these “top academic results”, as the spin doctors have described them!
The final comment in the release also caught our eye, as it related to the school roll.
Vanguard talked about opening in 2014 “… with a roll of 104 it has grown to around 160 students in 2016 and will continue to look to expand.”
This sounds like the school is growing steadily but in practice, Vanguard’s roll has been below its Guaranteed Minimum Roll used for funding purposes since the day it opened.
The 2014 GMR was set as 108, but the actual roll dropped from 104 in March to 93 in July and 79 by year end.
In 2015, the GMR was set higher at 144 but the actual roll was 137 (March), 123 (July) and 84 by October.
This trend confirms that students are leaving the school well before end of year external exams take place, which is consistent with the high proportion of internally-assessed standards achieved.
But, more significantly, the taxpayer is funding far more student places at the school than has been evident in the school roll.
Given the school is operated by a for-profit company (Vanguard Military School Ltd, company no. 4622709) this additional revenue has gone straight into the Sponsor’s bottom line profit.
Bill Courtney, SOSNZ