The closure of the charter school based at Whangaruru is an indictment of the charter school model and not a strength as David Seymour wrongly claims.
The first round charter schools were hand-picked by the Government and the Authorisation Board, headed by Seymour’s political ally, Catherine Isaac.
The Minister comments loosely on matters such as “inadequate curriculum leadership” but where was the advice she should have received from Catherine Isaac on whether it was feasible to put the Trustees’ “vision” into practice?
One can sympathise to some extent with the challenges the original Trustees faced in trying to establish the school in such a short time period.
But it is a failing of both the ideology behind the model and the politicised authorisation process that these challenges were not considered more seriously and evaluated properly.
Secondary schools need to be of some significant size before they can offer a broad curriculum and give students the full range of opportunities they need in the modern world.
According to the Ministry of Education’s database, only one Whangaruru school leaver (out of 15) gained NCEA Level 2 in 2014. But information obtained from NZQA reveals that a good deal of the NCEA credits gained by students in 2014 came from Fencing and Possum Trapping.
The reality of what has happened at Whangaruru stands in stark contrast to the grand statements promoting the charter school model made by Authorisation Board member Sir Toby Curtis:
“We do not want to see our children fobbed off with “soft” subjects and meaningless qualifications that take them nowhere. They need the chance to succeed in subjects such as maths, science and technology, as well as languages, the arts and trades.”
Sir Toby gets our vote for Tui billboard of the year.
– Bill Courtney, Save Our Schools NZ
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.
This weekend the special character school, Te Pā o Rākaihautū, opened in its new site, having been in a different temporary location since opening in January.
It may well be a marvellous school – it certainly looks interesting, and I’ve no reason to think it’s anything but good. That’s not what raised my eyebrows. No.
What made me look twice is that it is on the former Linwood Intermediate School site. You know, one of the schools closed by Hekia Parata.
An article about the school quotes Rangimarie Parata Takurua. as saying:
“Linwood Intermediate was closed after the earthquakes and I came upon the buildings quite by chance,”
Really? Is there an educator in Chch that doesn’t know the name of every school forcibly closed by Hekia Parata?
And this from Rangimarie Parata Takurua, cousin of the person that closed the school…
Which was in the media for months…
But she came across it “quite by chance”? ** (Update, I am informed that “Although Linwood Intermediate was closed by the minister the site was reopened in January 2014 for another school that was found to have a black mould problem 7 days before that school was due to reopen for the year. That school returned to their original site Easter 2015. The chairperson of Te Pā went to a fitness class, when it was occupied by the other school, and then proceeded to question MOE of it’s availability.”) Source
The article then quotes Rangimarie Parata Takurua as saying they:
“worked hard with the Ministry of Education to secure [the site]”
Can you see the Ministry putting up much of a fight to give Hekia Parata’s cousin the school site she wants? Perhaps they did…? (UPDATE: the new information above raises a new question – given the Linwood Intermediate site was deemed to need over $3 Million of repairs to be fit for use, how come two schools have used the site since Linwood was moved out? Was it not as damaged as claimed?)
What am I missing here?
As I said at the start of this post, this school may well be fabulous. It certainly sounds good from the article (and people on the SOSNZ facebook page are saying great things about it). The quality of Te Pa is not what I’m querying.
It’s more that something doesn’t seem to sit right when a school is closed due to unsafe buildings and then the site is used by one, perhaps two, other schools. Did the site miraculously repair itself? I’m sure the community that fought so hard to keep Linwood open would love to know.
(Article edited 10.30pm to remove paragraph containing unclear/inaccurate information on which bilingual units were/weren’t eventually closed as per 2012 Stuff article.)
Your choice – actively work to change the direction of these reforms or accept that you are as much to blame as the reformers.
This from HuffingtonPost:
As I watch the education “debate” … I wonder if we have simply lost our minds.
In the cacophony of reform chatter — online programs, charter schools … testing, more testing, accountability … value-added assessments, blaming teachers … blaming unions, blaming parents — one can barely hear the children crying out: “Pay attention to us!”
None of the things on the partial list above will have the slightest effect on the so-called achievement gap or the supposed decline in [our] international education rankings. Every bit of education reform — every think tank remedy proposed by wet-behind-the-ears MBAs, every piece of legislation, every one of these things — is an excuse to continue the unconscionable neglect of our children.
As Pogo wisely noted, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” We did this to our children and our schools.
We did this by choosing to see schools as instructional factories, beginning in the early 20th century.
We did this by swallowing the obscene notion that schools and colleges are businesses and children are consumers.
We did this by believing in the infallibility of free enterprise, by pretending [our country] is a meritocracy, and by ignoring the pernicious effects of unrelenting racism.
We did this by believing that children are widgets and economy of scale is both possible and desirable.
We did this by acting as though reality and the digital representation of reality are the same thing.
We did this by demeaning the teaching profession.
We did this by allowing poverty and despair to shatter families.
We did this by blaming these families for the poverty and despair we inflicted on them.
We did this by allowing school buildings to deteriorate, by removing the most enlivening parts of the school day, by feeding our children junk food.
We did this by failing to properly fund schools…
We did this by handcuffing teachers with idiotic policies, constant test preparation and professional insecurity.
[The] children need our attention, not Pearson’s lousy tests or charter schools’ colorful banners and cute little uniforms that make kids look like management trainees.
[Our] teachers need our support, our admiration, and the freedom to teach and love children.
The truth is that our children need our attention, not political platitudes and more TED talks.
Read the rest of the article here.
Kia Kaha Phillipstown
The National Government’s decision to merge Phillipstown and Woolston
schools is another disaster for Christchurch and proves this Government is
more interested in saving face than in what is best for children, the Green
Party said today.
“Hekia Parata’s stubborn refusal to budge on her closure plans is a
tragedy for the children who fought so desperately for their school to remain
open,” Green Party education spokesperson Catherine Delahunty said.
“This is about Hekia Parata trying to save face after a litany of
back-downs, U-turns and policy failures, but it’s come at the expense of
hundreds of little children and their families.
“The children of Christchurch have become a scapegoat for Hekia Parata’s
“Even in the last few days, evidence has emerged that the second round of
consultation over the closure plans has not been fair, or accurate.
“This is not a ‘new decision’, as the Minister claims. She went in to
this second so-called consultation process with her eyes closed and her mind
“From the very beginning Hekia Parata lost sight of what was the best
decision for the children of Christchurch and has set out to use the
earthquakes to reinforce her hard right agenda to damage and dismantle public
“If she had really listened, and engaged in proper consultation from the
beginning, the children of Phillipstown and Woolston would have had some
certainty, instead many have found themselves fighting the very person who
should have been working in their interests.
“The Green Party stands with the communities of Phillipstown and Woolston
and wishes them well in their attempts to do what’s best for their kids,”
Ms Delahunty said.
Read that meme again: Only a crisis actual or perceived produces real change. That is the heart of global education reforms – Creating a perception.
Below is a hard-hitting and disturbing documentary, outlining how disasters are constructed or manipulated to justify far-reaching reforms and economic take-overs. I will warn you, it is not for the faint hearted but is well worth watching. But first, an outline of how the Shock Doctrine applies to schools.
So, here is the documentary, The Shock Doctrine. Again, I warn you, it is very hard hitting.
If you watch, pay close attention to the beliefs of Milton Friedman and the then Education Minister, Margaret Thatcher, as a lot can be understood about what is happening right now in education by analysing their views and actions.
The Shock Doctrine book and documentary: an investigation of disaster capitalism, based on Naomi Klein’s proposition that neo-liberal capitalism feeds on natural disasters, war and terror to establish its dominance.
Based on breakthrough historical research and four years of on-the-ground reporting in disaster zones, The Shock Doctrine vividly shows how disaster capitalism — the rapid-fire corporate re-engineering of societies still reeling from shock — did not begin with September 11, 2001.
The films traces its origins back fifty years, to the University of Chicago under Milton Friedman, which produced many of the leading neo-conservative and neo-liberal thinkers whose influence is still profound in Washington today.
New, surprising connections are drawn between economic policy, shock and awe warfare and covert CIA-funded experiments in electroshock and sensory deprivation in the 1950s, research that helped write the torture manuals used today in Guantanamo Bay.
The Shock Doctrine follows the application of these ideas through our contemporary history, showing in riveting detail how well-known events of the recent past have been deliberate, active theatres for the shock doctrine, among them: Pinochet’s coup in Chile in 1973, the Falklands War in 1982, the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989, the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Asian Financial crisis in 1997 and Hurricane Mitch in 1998.
It is astounding the list of wrongs done to the Kiwi education system in a few short years. I’m not exaggerating – it is just beyond belief. To the point that when I try to think of it all, my head hurts and a thousand conflicting issues start fighting for prominence rendering me unable to sort through the spaghetti of information and in need of a big glass of Wild Side feijoa cider.
I live and breathe this stuff, and if I find it bewildering I can only imagine what it does to the average parent or teacher, grandparent or support staff.
So I am truly grateful that Local Bodies today published a post listing the long list of things public education has had thrown at it since National came to power.
This is the list. It needs to be read then discussed with friends, colleagues, family, teachers, students, MPs and the guy on the train. Because this is it – this is what has been thrown at education in a few short years. It is no overstatement to say that New Zealand Public education is under attack.
Take a breath, and read on:
A National led Government was elected and New Zealand’s public education system came under heavy attack:
You can add to the list the change to teacher training that allows teachers to train in 6 weeks in the school holidays and then train on the job in one school without varied practicums, just as Teach For America does to bring in low cost, short term, untrained ‘teachers’. (Coincidentally great for charter schools, especially those running for profit.)
The full Local Bodies article is here. It is well worth sharing and discussing (share the original, not this – the full article is better)
Please be aware that what has already gone on is just the preamble to far more extensive measures getting increasing more about Milton Friedman’s “free market” than about good, equal, free public education for all.
Unless you want NZ to descend into the horrors being seen now in England and the United States, you need to act. How?
Because three more years like this and the list above will look like child’s play.
And the Telegraph reports that a number of Academy chains “have already been told that they cannot take on any more academies until concerns over standards have been addressed” (3) so it isn’t just this chain (E-ACT) that are under the microscope.
When the UK Labour party trumpeted Academies and Free Schools (charter schools) ten years ago, they promised a rise in standards, a brave new world of innovation and brilliance, and it has plainly failed to materialise.
Like New Zealand charter schools, Academies are funded by government and “have complete freedom to alter the curriculum, staff pay and to reshape the school day and academic year.” Around 3,500 English state schools are now Academies, and just like other English state schools, some are good, some okay and some just plain terrible. That said, even the worst of the school districts never had as many schools closed as “failing schools” as Academies have managed to clock up, and that in itself is rather telling.
“Of course some academies have done well, although increasingly the evidence suggests that this is more the result of changing intakes rather than a ‘magic dust’ sprinkled by sponsors.” (2)
What does this mean for New Zealand? We have been given the same promises, the same utopian vision, that other countries were given in order to usher in the privatisation of public schools. Well, it’s likely we will fare the same as England, the USA and Sweden, with a broad spread of quality and really no overall improvement in education quality at all. In fact, if PISA is your thing, the catapult down the rankings since privatisation for those countries has been quite monumental.
Which does beg the question why we are going down this path at all, if it doesn’t improve anything.
Well maybe privatisation does improve something? Improvement in education, it might be argued, never was the goal; maybe privatisation is itself the goal?
More public schools owned and run by private entities = More public funds going to the pockets of businesses and the 1%. Goal achieved.
If you think that’s pie in the sky, check this out:
EACT’s catastrophe is a personal humiliation for Sir Bruce Liddington, former Permanent Secretary at the Department for Education and head of the Academies Division.
He was one of the chief architects of the Academies Programme before sliding seamlessly into the private sector to pocket £300,000 (NZ$600k) pa. salary plus benefits as CEO of EACT Academy chain.
Add to that the number of investigations into financial irregularities and money mismanagement and a picture is revealed of fat cats misappropriating funds meant for educating students:
Kings Science Academy, West Yorkshire was last year investigated and ““serious failings” were found in the school’s financial management with allegations that £80,000 worth of public money had not been used for its intended purpose”. (1)
Priory Federation of Academies Trust – the Department for Education found evidence of “serious failings” in the running of the trust, which operates four schools. These included its chief executive paying for horse-riding lessons for his son out of trust funds, receiving “personal items of an inappropriate nature” (sex games and supplements) paid for on a Federation credit card, and the use of trust credit cards “to purchase items at supermarkets and meals at restaurants” in France. (1)
E-ACT was censured by the Education Funding Agency in May 2013 for lavish spending. It was reported to have £393,000 of “financial irregularities” … It paid for monthly lunches at the prestigious Reform Club, first-class travel for senior executives in defiance of a ruling they should go standard class, and spent £16,000 on an annual strategy meeting in a hotel – of which £1,000 was spent on drinks and room hire. (1)
And there we have it. For the architects of the Global Education Reform Movement (GERM), money-grubbing mission achieved.
So, Christchurch schools were forced to close because of falling rolls…
But Wanganui Collegiate, in an area with 1400+ unused school places, is given bailout after bailout.
Guess which of these schools was a private school?
Guess which was rescued from debts of over $800k despite having assets worth millions?
Guess which had rolls that were growing?
Yet more evidence of the way this government favours private business over public schools and looks after the top few at the expense of the majority of ordinary New Zealanders. Shame on them.
And who wants to join me in betting that Wanganui is a charter school within a couple of years, with higher level decile 3 funding and not much oversight? I’m willing to put a tenner on it right now.
Beware the global education reform movement (GERM)
Global reforms are just that. Global. The same damage is being inflicted worldwide to schools in large and small communities, causing distress and doing nothing to improve education. Often quite the opposite.
This is Cedar, a small community in Canada. I only heard about Cedar because my gorgeous friend James lives there. James isn’t a political soul. Or he wasn’t … until the GERM arrived in Cedar and started on his local schools:
Our school district wants to close down four schools in our community.
They’ve already voted to do so based on untruths and lack of information regarding the closures on the community as a whole. We’re a rural community.
They used to bus the grades 8-12 out of here to schools in town because there was no high school in Cedar. So they built one. Now they want to close all the elementary schools, merge them into one of 500 students, house them in the high school and bus the high school kids into town again!
It would be a stab in the heart for the community as a whole.
There are a lot of people not happy about this.
Closing schools? Merging schools? Leaving students to travel long distances? And all against the community’s wishes? Cedar, you really do need to speak to the good people of Christchurch, and in particular follow the Phillipstown School court case.
for young children to negotiate the Ferry Rd/Aldwins Road intersection [in Chch] always has me cringe since some years ago I witnessed a 10 yr old girl get crushed under the wheels of a giant truck as she cycled from school— this intersection could not be safely used with out direct supervision and who will the volunteers be — unpaid — because the dept wants to super school and destroy a community
Help Phillipstown School
A Campaign Fund for Phillipstown School legal challenge has been setup It is called WE ARE PHILLIPSTOWN. The bank account for donations is ANZ 06-0807-0114631-75
Help Cedar Schools
You can stay follow and help Cedar schools’ campaign here:
Good luck to all concerned and to everyone out there fighting reforms that put children and learning behind money and politics. The GERM is multiplying fast, but with loud and active enough parents and educators, it can be sterilised.