charter school

This tag is associated with 32 posts

Spin Doctors out in force at Vanguard – again!

spin checkedThe 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

Whangaruru the first example of failed ACT Party education ideology

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

Related articles:


Hekia misleads the house on Wairua charter school funding

Hekia ParataMinister of Education Hekia Parata (again) misled the House in response to a question yesterday about the school’s funding.

Here is what the Minister said (Oral Questions no. 8, 29 July 2015):

“Te Pumanawa o te Wairua will continue to operate under its contract and will therefore receive $412,000 per quarter.”

“This is the money that would have been spent had these kids attended other schools.

Wrong, Hekia, wrong.

Under her charter school funding model, the government pays $355,200 per quarter for the fixed costs that it pays the school’s Sponsor.  These costs would cease once the school was closed.

Add in the additional $129,000 in emergency funding that she has thrown in, and the taxpayer will pay a total of $839,400 over the balance of 2015 because the Minister of Education decided not to close the school at the end of the second term.

The charter funding model has four components for each school: two of these are “fixed costs” and two are “variable costs”.  But only the variable, or per student costs, would continue and follow the students if they were to transfer to another school in the network.

Wairua Funding Breakdown

Here’s the breakdown of the quarterly funding for Wairua for 2015:

Base Funding                                                                                   $252,128

Property & Insurance                                                                      $103,072

Sub-total Fixed Costs                                                                    $355,200    [86.2%]

Per Student (based on a Guaranteed Minimum Roll of 40)       $54,188

Centrally Funded Services                                                                 $2,760

Sub-total Variable Costs                                                                $56,948     [13.8%]

Total Quarterly Funding:                                                               $412,148

So, when Hekia quoted a cost of “412,000 per quarter” she was referring to the total funding that the school receives from the Government.

But $355,200 per quarter would not be payable, if she were to close the school, as her officials clearly recommended.

~ Bill Courtney, Save Our Schools NZ

Charter school funding comes with a sting

Reading another worrying report about the New Zealand charter school experiment – this time looking at Villa Education and the Ministry’s poorly negotiated contracts – a friend commented that it’s almost like the Minister will throw any amount of cash at charter schools to make them succeed.

Meanwhile someone else commented on the stark contrast with state schools that are mouldy and falling apart and yet wait for ages to see any sign of being sorted out.

And another mused that in no other area of government would a private business be handed over such huge sums of money from the public purse with no way of reclaiming it should the business fail.

Many ask themselves, just what exactly is going on? But if you try to find out, the Minister, Ministry and Undersecretary will merely offer words to the effect of ‘no comment’.

(And for the love of all that is holy, don’t hold your breath trying to find anything out via the Official Information Act – people have lived and died waiting for those beggars to come through).

I don’t know why, but it all puts me in mind of Nero fiddling while Rome burned.

Uneven Playing Fields

So is excessive funding of charter schools really such a big problem? I mean, MBIE flings public funds around like money’s going out of fashion, so perhaps it’s just how government funding goes? Are charter schools merely benefiting from government’s lax purse strings? Hmm, nice try – but not all publicly funded entities are so lucky:

Charter schools are given funds for students they don’t have: Public schools are funded only for their exact roll.

Charter schools can and do spend the funds they are given to buy property that they then own and keep even if they fail: Public school land and buildings are owned by the crown and are reclaimed if a school is closed.

Charter school accounts can be hidden by use of a parent Trust company: Public school accounts are entirely public.

It all sounds a little, well, uneven. And not entirely sensible.

As Jolisa Gracewood put it in What’s Wrong with National Standards?:

“By the current government’s logic, it makes more sense to pour money into a brand-new charter school in a lower-decile neighbourhood than to direct that funding towards support programmes at existing schools or kura…”

Exactly. But why?

Some say the Education Minister doesn’t know what on earth she’s doing. I disagree. She knows. But people misunderstand the purpose of these first charter schools.  Their purpose is to slowly get people used to the idea that privatising the  school system is not such a bad idea. As such, they will be supported and made to succeed (or seem to succeed) come hell or high water.

Of course you don’t have to trust me on this one – we can look to far wiser heads than mine and the conclusions of Massey University’s report, CHARTER SCHOOLS FOR NEW ZEALAND:

“In New Zealand, government initiated or ministry sponsored educational experiments have a long history of ‘success’: all innovations seem to ‘work’. The reason is, of course, that those who introduce them make sure that they are well funded and that the ‘evaluation’ is carefully controlled to ensure favourable outcomes.”


But why would anyone want to ensure the success of charter schools at all costs?

Privatisation Achievement Unlocked

shiny carrot

Oh, the shiny carrot

If ACT’s charter school dream comes true, all schools will be given the chance to become charter schools.

Of course, once large numbers of schools, wooed by the glint of better funding, convert to charter schools, the game will change:

The current level of funding cannot be sustained for huge numbers of schools.

What then?

The answer is, it won’t matter. Not to ACT or to National, at least, as the mission will have been achieved, which is to move the education system over to a privatised model.

Then the funding can and will drop, because the actual goal will have been met – privatisation of the public school system.

So to answer those wondering what’s going on with excessive charter school funding, the answer is simply this: it’s an inducement to jump the public school ship and board the charter schools cruise liner … but beware, that boat has holes.

~ Dianne Khan

Sources and further reading:

What’s Wrong with National Standards? By Jolisa Gracewood – Metro Magazine

CHARTER SCHOOLS FOR NEW ZEALAND, An investigation designed to further the debate in New Zealand on education policy in general and on charter schooling in particular, EDUCATION POLICY RESPONSE GROUP, Massey University College of Education, April 2012

Charter boarding schools for the poor – the latest in a long line of morally dubious education reformer ideas

social-engineering-basics.1280x600The New York Times is reporting the latest in a long line of morally dubious education reformer ideas – taking children from low socio-economic backgrounds into full time boarding school, the logic being that if poverty has such an impact on students and the student’s family is poor, then the solution is to take the child out of their family environment.

The NY Times reports that Carl Paladino “envisions a charter boarding school in Buffalo where students as young as first or second grade would be assured proper meals, uniforms, after-school tutoring and activities.”

Why, I would ask, can those things not be provided in the current system? Why are they dangled as a carrot that can only be had if you give your child into a boarding school system? Imagine being a parent wanting the best for your child hearing that your option is no help or hand over your child. Repulsive.

The idea is supported by Tanika Shedrick, a former charter school dean who, of course, wants to open one of the schools. Possible motives for that interest might be summed up in this quote from the NY Times:

[Shendrick] estimates the per-student cost at $20,000 to $25,000 per year, to be paid for with public funding and fundraising.

New York’s traditional charter school allocation is about $12,000 per student.

Interestingly, research done on this model, undertaken by the National Bureau of Economic Research, outlines the potential gains students make but has no mention of the human cost.  The report notes that  “SEED schools have an extended school day, provide extensive after-school tutoring for student who need support…” and goes on to note that “[w]hether or not the total benefits of attending SEED outweigh the costs can be known [only] with the passage of time“.

follow the moneySo, on one hand we have state schools being closed early due to lack of funds, and on the other hand we have proposals such as this, despite no clear indications of success, despite huge costs, and with no research on the impact on the students or their families.

It is also striking that money can be found to fund private charter schools, but not fund state schools fairly and properly in the first place.

Yes poverty has an effect on educational outcomes – a big effect – but we have to ask why anyone would think that, rather than dealing with issues of poverty and the underlying system that creates it, or even funding state schools properly, it is preferable to remove children from their families.

– Dianne Khan


Public Boarding School _ the Way to Solve Educational Ills? – New York Times (Firewalled – non-firewalled version at Trib Live, link below)

Buffalo weighs public boarding school proposals for at-risk kids – Trib Live

The Potential of Urban Boarding Schools for the Poor: Evidence from SEED∗ Vilsa E. Curto† Roland G. Fryer, Jr.‡ October 14, 2012

Charter schools no panacea for education system – Bill Courtney

private public schoolsPractical issues arising from the initial set of schools have highlighted how poor the policy development, authorisation and implementation processes have been.

The charter school initiative is driven by the ideology of those who believe that a market-based, privatised system is inherently superior to an education system based primarily – but not exclusively – on public provision.

But it’s abundantly clear that the market model just doesn’t work in education.

Dr Andreas Schleicher, the Programme Director of the PISA international assessments, had this to say about the “choice” model, as the market model is commonly called overseas:

“My organisation [the OECD] is very strong on choice, enabling citizens to make choices, and you would expect that systems with greater choice would come out better. You expect competition to raise performance of the high performers and with low performers put them out of the market. But in fact you don’t see that correlation… Competition alone is not a predictor for better outcomes.”

The overseas evidence bears this out. The CREDO studies of charter school versus public school performance in the USA are often cited by charter school advocates as proof that their system is superior. But the true position is far from clear.

The 2013 CREDO study reveals that 75 per cent of charter schools either underperform or are not significantly different in reading from public schools, while the corresponding figure for maths is 71 per cent underperforming or not significantly different.

But, more importantly, the CREDO studies make it clear that charter school performance varies widely. This means there are examples right across the spectrum of charter schools that illustrate educational excellence right down to those that are simply incompetent and even downright fraudulent.

So, my take on this is straightforward: changing the structure and organisational types of school within your school system will do nothing to materially impact on overall student achievement. It is this stark reality that really underpins the experience seen in New Zealand over the past year. Charter schools will not succeed just because they are charter schools.

They will exhibit the same range of outcomes and experiences – good and bad – as all types of school ultimately do. So, why are we doing this, just because someone thought it was a good idea? The poor policy and authorisation processes and the individuals responsible for them are at fault here – not the poor souls who have been dropped in at the deep end of the pool.

The original NZ Model of Charter School Working Group, headed by former ACT Party President Catherine Isaac, never produced any reports, advice or recommendations to its sponsoring Ministers, as required by its Terms of Reference. The Ministry of Education confirmed this in response to an Official Information Act request, when I asked to see the Working Group’s output.

The result of this omission is the lack of any definitive statement as to what this initiative really is, what evidence it is based on and how it is likely to make a genuine difference. One obvious example of this confusion is the stance taken by Catherine Isaac on Radio New Zealand late last year, that charter schools are really about “alternative education” for high risk students, while ACT MP David Seymour is busy running around arguing that every school in New Zealand should convert to charter school status!

This lack of clear policy direction has created many design and implementation problems. If we were really doing “alternative education” then wouldn’t we need the strongest and most capable teachers who were able and willing to go out on a limb and to take risks? Why then was the Education Act amended to expressly allow non-registered teachers in charter schools, when all other types of school in the system require all teachers to be registered? What criteria were to be used in deciding which schools were to be authorised?

How was someone like Catherine Isaac ever going to be able to assess the educational merit of charter school applicants, given her complete lack of knowledge in that field? How would the new schools be resourced, funded and supported to carry out their demanding challenge? And how would this funding and support compare to the three other “types” of school already in the New Zealand system, including other “schools of choice”, which we call State-Integrated?

There are numerous other questions that are likely to go unanswered as the experiment unfolds, but at the heart of the matter lies the failure to state clearly what we are really doing and why.

Perhaps if our education policy makers and leaders focused on the true realities of the challenges our education system faces, we could at least begin the dialogue of how we need to go forward together. But honesty and humility are not the natural characteristics of such people.

It is inherently easier to hide behind ideology and blame everyone else for “system failure”.


Bill is a parent and former school trustee who writes for the Save Our Schools NZ education blog site. 

The original article can be found here and is reproduced with the consent of Education HQ.

Excerpts from the damning ERO report on NZ’s Northland charter school

Excerpts from the readiness report on Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru charter school are startling:

After months of operation, ERO reported in September that the school was in a dire situation with inadequate teaching, poor management, disengaged students, and sub-quality learning.  The eyebrow-raising list of findings is here:

northland - findings


It is admirable that the Trust want to help these students. But wanting to and being able to are two different things, and in order to serve any students properly, a school needs to be run well with properly trained and skilled staff that can engage the students. Without that it is nothing.

northland - teaching

The school hasn’t even been undertaking proper planning or evaluations. How can you know what the students need without first evaluating where they are? And how can you move them forward without planning for progression?

If the school is mostly dealing with classroom management and behaviour issues, then the staff need to be far more skilled in those areas, which I would suggest takes very experiences teachers with a really special ability in that area.

northland - learning ownership

“Limited feedback.” “Limited positive reinforcement.”

In any school that would be a disgrace. In a school that promised to cater to those most in need, it is doubly so.

David Seymour ACTMeanwhile, over on planet ACT…

“The New Zealand charter school model is the best in the world …”

said David Seymour, the new under-secretary to the minister of education.

I would ask Mr Seymour to look below at the huge list of this charter school’s serious weaknesses. Does that look like the best in the world to you, Mr Seymour, because it really doesn’t look remotely adequate to most observers and I very much doubt the students feel they are getting the best education possible.

northland - matters to address northland - matters to address 2

Charter schools were and still are sold as innovative and able to do amazing things that state schools cannot. So far we have one totally failing school, three largely off the radar, and one posting good NCEA results but with very high rates of pupil attrition.

How is any of this improving the education system?

Perhaps I should print David Seymour’s statement in full so you can see what the real focus is:

“The New Zealand charter school model is the best in the world and ALL state schools should have the option to be one.”

David Seymour, the new under-secretary to the minister of education.

That’s the real aim of the game, eh, Mr Seymour; Privatisation at any cost.

~ Dianne

Sources and further reading:

Charter schools at any cost? Really, New Zealand?

errorAfter months of chasing for information, delayed ERO reports, stalled Official Information Act (OIA) requests, fudging by Hekia Parata, David Seymour, Catherine Isaac and co., and blinkered reports from the mainstream media and right-wing bloggers, today we finally have confirmation of what we knew all along: Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru charter school is failing its students.

For a whole year, political rhetoric and cover ups have taken precedence over the needs of students that are reportedly some of the neediest in the country, letting them down yet again.

How utterly cruel to promise so much and deliver so little.

How reliable is ERO?  

ERO is meant to evaluate our schools’ effectiveness and make recommendations where there are concerns.

As such ERO’s reports must be reliable and must not be held back to protect charters or any other type of school. Hiding the truth serves no-one other than politicians and those making money out of schools – it certainly doesn’t serve students.  It’s worth reading this, then, to get an idea just how hard it has been to get information on this school. ERO’s readiness report was due in June, and an OIA was delayed repeatedly as the report was held back and held back.

A cynic might ponder why the report on Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru would be held back until both the general election and the 2nd round of charter schools were done and dusted…

Lastly, how can we be confident that concerns have not been played down in the other ERO charter school readiness reports, too?

How capable is Hekia Parata?

nzei_issues_charter1This is yet another stuff up to add to Parata’s list: Class sizes, technology cuts, Novopay, IES,  and now this. It seems she is incapable of running a sizeable project without it crashing down, which is of huge concern when she is in charge of such an important portfolio as education.

Best not mention that it’s another $3 Million down the drain, with no promise that any of it will be recovered when the school closes.

And just what exactly is David Seymour doing for his pay packet, since charter schools were his party’s baby?  His silence is deafening.

Meanwhile,  it’s the kids that suffer. The students are, sadly, mere pawns in a cruel political game that is so keen to push an ideology it is blind to the truth.

Charter schools at any cost? Really, New Zealand?


Charter Schools NZ: School Trust issued with notice

parata-haircut-1200Education Minister Hekia Parata has issued the Trust running Te Pumanawa o te Wairua School with a performance notice requiring it to take immediate action to address areas of serious concern at the school.

Ms Parata met with the Ngā Parirau Mātauranga Charitable Trust today to lay out her concerns about ongoing issues identified by the Education Review Office (ERO) and the Ministry of Education. The Trust is the sponsor for the school at Whangaruru.

“I have become increasingly concerned at the cumulative failures in performance that have seen declining numbers of kids enrolled, sporadic school attendance and the knock-on effect on educational performance.

“The Ministry has worked extensively with the Trust over the past year to address the issues raised, but ERO has found that it would not be able to operate effectively without further substantial support.”

Ms Parata says she is aware of the challenges faced by the school. “A number of these students have been out of the education system for some time. However, these challenges were known by the Trust when they made their proposal and later signed the contract to run the school.

“The Ministry has provided support and advice over many months to the sponsor in a number of areas, including governance, management and operational matters.

“There were some improvements at the school last year, particularly when it was under an interim Chief Executive, but they were not sustained after the interim CE left the school.”

Ms Parata says the Trust has put forward a remedial plan, but she is not confident that it is sufficient to make the difference required.

“Therefore, under the agreement, I have issued a performance notice. This sets out exactly what the performance failures are and what must be done to address them.”

She says a Specialist Audit will be conducted at the school in a month’s time to assess progress.

“I intend to use the findings of the Specialist Audit to assist my overall judgement as to whether the failings identified are capable of being rectified.

“Partnership schools are giving many kids who’ve faced considerable difficulties in their lives the chance to get engaged in education again. But it is our duty to ensure they do actually receive the quality of education they need to open the doors of further promise in their lives.”

Ms Parata says she is not predetermining the outcome of the process.

“The issuing of a performance notice is a step in the process to both protect the rights of these students to get a better education while protecting the use of taxpayers’ funding.”

Fact Checker: Vanguard’s 2014 NCEA Results Release

sosnz fact checker RECTANGLE

The press release from Vanguard Military School on its 2014 NCEA results makes for impressive reading on the surface (release date 18 February 2015). Digging deeper, a  few key questions are worth asking.

First, a statement about percentage pass rates does not reveal two key ingredients: how many students obtained that qualification and how many attempted it, especially in relation to the number of students in the cohort?

This is important in any school that experiences a high rate of student attrition, as Vanguard did in 2014.

Second, in what subjects have these students achieved their qualification?

Vanguard’s curriculum is narrow, which is a practical constraint given the small size of the school.  At NCEA Level 2 students take five compulsory subjects and then two electives.  The compulsory subjects are English, Maths, Physical Education, Physical Training and Recruit Development Course.

The electives are Engineering and Defence Force Studies (vocational pathway) or Maori, Biology or History, from the university pathway.

It is not clear from the release how many students went down the university pathway and how many took the vocational pathway.

Nor is there any indication as to the level of achievement within each subject.  However, it is possible that such detailed information may be available at a later date.

In addition, although the press release stated that the school’s roll has “increased from 108 students in 2014 to 144 this year”, this is not quite correct.

charter schools this-does-not-add-upVanguard’s “Guaranteed Minimum Roll” was set as 108 students in 2014, as per its contract with the Ministry of Education.  Vanguard was therefore funded throughout the year as if it always had this number of students, but the reality was quite different.

Roll returns obtained from the Ministry of Education’s School Directory database indicate actual student roll numbers as follows: 104 as at 1 March; 93 as at 1 July and 79 in October.

Vanguard has previously stated that many students received their qualifications during the course of the year and then left, often to join the military forces.  This may well be a sensible and logical outcome for the students concerned but the taxpayer still funded the privately owned and operated school for many more students than it ever enrolled.

This is in contrast to the position of State and State-Integrated secondary schools, which lose funding during the course of the year if their roll numbers decline.

Guaranteed Minimum Roll levels and funding details for 2015 for the 5 first round charter schools have not been released by the Ministry of Education, despite repeated requests under the Official Information Act.

This lack of transparency has plagued the charter school experiment from the outset and undermines any confidence that the taxpayer may have about how their funding is being used.

Finally, there are ongoing concerns around the charter school funding formula, particularly in respect of funding for property costs.

On balance, this may or may not be a good set of results, given the expectations of the students and their families. Many questions remain about this concept and its applicability to the New Zealand system.

It is the stance of Save Our Schools that individual school performances will not, in themselves, either prove or disprove the charter school idea in New Zealand.

As we see in the United States, charter school performance varies widely and right across the spectrum.  We expect charter schools in New Zealand to exhibit the same characteristics.

It is the ACT Party conference this weekend but Vanguard’s oh-so-positive press release is unlikely to be the full story.

~ Bill Courtney

Charter School reforms just one big con

charter schools look before you leapGrand rhetoric and promises that are not realised are the order of the day for charterisation. Failures are papered over, successes exaggerated, and public schools demonised. All of this to push charter schools over public schools.

Ask yourself why anyone would do this.

Who does it serve?

And my advice… follow the money.

No Better

After 9 years, only 4 of the 107 schools taken over by the Recovery School District and made into charters are above the state average.

No Choice

Now parents have to enter a lottery for a school place and hope for the best. Their children can be bused all over the city. One mother is reported to have 5 children in 5 different schools. She did not choose this. The system forced it upon her.

Who Does Charterisation Serve?

Charterisation has not brought choice or improvement. Nothing has improved. The promise of a better system was a lie. The promise of choice was a lie. The only people to benefit here are those running the charter schools.

Watch This

A Perfect Storm: The Takeover of New Orleans Public Schools reveals the real story behind the creation of the USA’s first all-charter school district.

Part 1

Part 2

A Perfect Storm Episode 2: The Illusion of Choice from Phoebe Ferguson on Vimeo.

“The lie is simply this: ‘We want you to have choice….  But we are going to

set the parameters of the choice and then convince you you have it’.”

~ Steve Monaghan, President, L.A. Federation of Teachers

Selling charter schools as the great hope while all the time undermining public schools should act as a red flag to parents.

Again, ask yourself why anyone would do this and who it serves.

~ Dianne

Terrible school? It’s okay, just go for a rebrand…

disguiseBy anyone’s measure, Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru had a bad first year.  The Northland charter school was plagued with problems – staff, buildings, pupils, drugs, you name it. Even the principal sounds mortified.

Given charter schools have been touted as the cure for all ills, this school has become something of an embarrassment.

But that’s okay, isn’t it, because we were all assured that any charter schools failing to meet the grade would be closed quick smart…. So is Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru being closed down?


It’s getting a new nameTe Pumanawa O Te Wairua.

Because one thing the private sector has taught us, is that if your business is poor and is associated with low standards, all you need is a new name and logo, and bingo!

Of course, a new name does nothing to improve things for students, but it *will* make it harder for people to search on the web and find out about the many troubles the school had in its first year, and surely that’s what matters….

It’s also worth pondering what the cost of changing the name will be. New stationery, new school sign, changes to web sites and who knows what. It won’t cost the cool $20 Million that Telecom budgeted when becoming Spark, but it’s still an unnecessary cosmetic change that’s paid for by our tax dollars.  The NZ Taxpayers Union should be up in arms about it…. eh, Jordan?

Welcome to the wonderful world of the privatisation.


Further reading/listening:
Parata defends Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru – Radio NZ
Charter school 3 teachers down – NZ Herald
Bill Courtney – Charter Schools: The Shroud of Secrecy Continues
Charter school shambles show Government’s failing experiment

As predicted, charter schools in trouble – QPEC

QPEC logo no borderWhen the government changed the Education Act to allow for charter schools, it bet that a bunch of non-educators using their own untested theories of education could run schools for our most disadvantaged students and achieve better results than state schools.

Not only that, it stacked the decks by deliberately removing the charter schools from the checks and balances that all state schools must face and gave them more money (as a series of set-up grants). For example, these schools are exempt from making disclosures under the Official Information Act, despite the fact that they are government funded.

The policy was always ideological, always about neo-liberal thinking rather than straight thinking. In Sweden and the UK, charter school models (free schools) are contributing to the decline of educational outcomes. There are calls for change in both countries.

In the USA, scandal after scandal has swept charter schools: poor teaching, poor facilities, financial scams, corruption, profiteering, abrupt closures of failed schools, political patronage, abuse…. Almost everything that could go wrong in these schools has done so, often over and over again. QPEC has been tracking US charter schools daily for over two years ago now, and not only are many of them an educational disgrace but they continue to contribute to the overall educational collapse of the USA in world educational rankings. Per dollar spent, US schools are the world’s worst.

The public was told things would be different in New Zealand (despite depressingly similar policy settings). But our own tiny number of such schools have already suffered from student loss, concerns over quality and now a new school is being led by a principal under investigation by the Teachers Council for potential serious misconduct. This is a clear example of de-regulation leading to poor practice.

The Minister calls these “teething troubles”.

QPEC calls them an educational disaster in the making, and calls on this government to stop this experiment, which is following the worst practices of schools internationally and will not improve outcomes for the most disadvantaged.

There is no empirical research that supports this model of charter schools, and plenty of evidence against the model. It is being driven by the first term right wing ACT MP, David Seymour, who promises to support these schools through thick, thin and very expensive, success or failure – competition at all costs, and the taxpayer must pay.


– Ends

Stunning hypocrisy on charter school funding – PPTA

PPTA logoTom Haig of PPTA writes:

“Yesterday’s story about quarter of a charter school’s students leaving in the course of a year throws into relief some of the inconsistencies between the way the government treats charters and regular public schools.

Charter school operator Nick Hyde has said that students leaving during the year , supposedly having finished their qualifications, is something to be celebrated*.  I’m sure that plenty of secondary school principals would like to be able to agree – but that’s not the way they are supposed to operate.

In 2011 the government introduced a new funding regime to try and make schools keep students all year – by penalising those that don’t. Quarterly funding means that if students leave (for any reason) during the year, their school loses funding. Here’s the Minister at the time explaining the new policy:

Education Minister Anne Tolley said quarterly roll counts were introduced to ensure funding was more accurate, and directed to where it was needed.

“I’m sure taxpayers will be astonished to find out that schools have previously received funding for students who are no longer attending.

“This change provides an incentive for schools to retain students. If students are at school and engaged in learning they have a much higher chance of gaining qualifications and skills.

Contrast this to charter school funding – guaranteed for a minimum roll for the whole year, however many students leave during that time (not to mention the generous funding rates…)

Currently three of the five charter schools are below their minimum roll (down 29, down 21 and down 2), and two above (up 2 and up 17). I wonder how many students who were enrolled at charters are now at other educational institutions, receiving more state funding there?


Who is benefiting from the education reform movement?

Just who benefits from the education reform movement? In countries with charter schools and academies, exam passes and PISA scores have gone down. Teachers’ working conditions have worsened. But someone must be benefiting otherwise why would reformers be pushing so much money into lobbying politicians to open even more charter schools?

With that in mind, ponder this list:

swag bag


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 (England). Source




swag bagFormer teachers from the Horizon Science Academy Dayton High School in Dayton testified at the board’s monthly meeting in Columbus about years of misconduct. Some said they had been afraid to come forward before finding new jobs.”

““I know of one student who failed the 7th grade and then had to repeat the year with the agreement with (an administrator) that she would be promoted to the 9th grade if she passed 7th grade during the second attempt. She indeed completely skipped 8th grade and all associated curriculum,” [testifying teacher] Kochensparger said.”  Source


swag bag


Kings Science Academy, England, 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”. Source



swag bag


“COLUMBUS, OH—A federal grand jury has indicted four people, alleging that they offered and accepted bribes and kickbacks as part of a public corruption conspiracy in their roles as managers and a consultant for Arise! Academy, a charter school in Dayton, Ohio.”  Source: FBI Press Release, June 2014



swag bag


Michael Gove (ex UK Education Minister)’s favourite Academy chain, run by Haberdashers’ Aske’s Federation Trust, is in the middle of a £2m (~$4m NZ) fraud investigation.  The Guardian reports “The alleged fraud, which comes after Haberdashers’ Knights Academy was judged by Ofsted in November to have “serious weaknesses”, is likely to raise questions about the freedom given to academies.”



swag bag


Charter School Fraud Totals $30 Million, Education Groups Launch State-by-State Investigation: “the Center for Popular Democracy, Integrity in Education and ACTION United released a report titled “Fraud and Financial Mismanagement in Pennsylvania’s Charter Schools” that exposes at least $30 million lost to waste, fraud, and abuse in Pennsylvania since the passage of that state’s charter school law in 1997 and was the subject of a Philadelphia Inquirer exclusive



swag bagThe “Charter School Vulnerabilities to Waste, Fraud and Abuse” report focused on 15 states representing large charter markets, out of the 42 states that have charter schools.

Drawing on news reports, criminal complaints, regulatory findings, audits and other sources, it “found fraud, waste and abuse cases totaling over $100 million in losses to taxpayers,” but warned that due to inadequate oversight, “the fraud and mismanagement that has been uncovered thus far might be just the tip of the iceberg.” Source 


swag bag


Academy hear teacher, Sir Greg Martin’s pay jumped by 56% last year giving him him a total salary package of £229,138 (~ NZ$460k).  “Sir Greg is the executive head of Durand Academy in South London.

The National Audit Office said there were a ‘large number of conflicts of interest’ in the way the academy was managed.” Source 



swag bag


A study of KIPP charter schools found that they receive “‘an estimated $6,500 more per pupil in revenues from public or private sources’ compared to local school districts.” But only a scant portion of that disproportionate funding – just $457 in spending per pupil – could accurately be accounted for “because KIPP does not disclose how it uses money received from private sources. Source



swag bag


The director of the now-closed New Hope Institute of Science and Technology charter school in Milwaukee, was convicted in federal court of embezzling $300,000 in public money and sentenced to two years in prison.  She spent about $200,000 on personal expenses, including cars, funeral arrangements and home improvement.




swag bag


The troubled Hartford charter school operator FUSE was dealt another blow Friday when FBI agents served it with subpoenas to a grand jury that is examining the group’s operations. When two Courant reporters arrived at FUSE offices on Asylum Hill on Friday morning, minutes after the FBI’s visit, they saw a woman feeding sheaves of documents into a shredder.  Source: The Hartford Courant, July 18, 2014



swag bagAn FBI raid on a charter school in East Baton Rouge is the latest item in a list of scandals involving the organization that holds the charter for the Kenilworth Science and Technology School. … Pelican Educational Foundation runs the school and has ties to a family from Turkey. The school receives about $5,000,000 in local, state, and federal tax money. … the FBI raided the school six days after the agency renewed the Baton Rouge school’s charter through the year 2019.” Source: The Advocate, January 14, 2014




swag bag


The head of an an English Academy chain run by Haberdashers’ Aske’s Federation Trust was ordered to repay £4.1m (~$8m NZ) taken fraudulently.

Not a penny had been repaid as of mid 2014.



swag bag


“An academy superhead paid £120,000 (~ NZ$250k) a year has told how he deserves a pay rise because his salary is “low” compared with those in other industries.

Liam Nolan, chief executive of Perry Beeches Academy Trust, Birmingham, said a review should be carried out into senior leadership pay in state schools to make the job more attractive.”



The list could go on and on and on.  Go do a search for “charter school fraud” or “mismanagement academy” and see the huge raft of worrying reports that come back.

Someone is benefiting from the education reform movement: The big question is, who?


Further Reading:


Follow Save Our Schools NZ on

Category list:


%d bloggers like this: