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
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.
The Ombudsman’s annual report is out, along with a summary in the Office’s spring newsletter, and it makes for some rather disconcerting reading.
To my mind, it speaks volumes about the workings of this current government that the Ombudsman’s Office is dealing with “a 29 percent increase in complaints and other work coming in compared with the previous reporting year”
and that the Office “received and completed the highest ever number of complaints and other contacts about state sector agencies.”
Add to that the fact that “Official information complaints increased overall by 92% this year” and you have yourself something to seriously ponder over.
The complexity of the issues regarding the way Christchurch school closures and mergers have been dealt with is such that the Ombudsman has had to extend its review period in order to gather all the relevent information:
“Chief Ombudsman Dame Beverley Wakem is continuing her investigation into the way in which the Ministry of Education undertakes consultation on school closures and mergers.
While the information gathering stage is mostly completed, and many affected schools have taken the opportunity to meet with investigators assisting the Chief Ombudsman, the complexity of the issues have necessitated an extended period of review. Dame Beverley is currently working with the Ministry of Education in order to assure herself that she has all information needed to form robust conclusions. This requires a number of further meetings and interviews with key Ministry staff.
It is important to bear in mind that any aspects of the processes which occurred at the Minister’s direction, including actual decisions about individual schools, are outside the scope of the Chief Ombudsman’s investigation. Rather, the focus is on whether, over a range of closure and merger processes, the Ministry undertook fair and meaningful consultation within the confines of its role.”
Also of interest is the Ombudsman’s findings on the government’s refusal to release funding information relating to charter schools. With a swift rap on the knuckles, the Ombudsman points out that, seeing as the decisions about how charters would be funded had been made when the request was made, there was no good reason to withhold the information.
Good to know the government is working honestly and openly for the good of all New Zealanders, isn’t it… Tui.
It’s all the more interesting then, to read that “One of Sweden’s largest free school operators has announced it will shut down, leaving hundreds of students stranded“.
19 schools will be sold, three closed**, leaving hundreds of students having to find new schools in the most important education years of their lives.
Why are they closing?
Because “Danish private equity group Axcel, which bought the chain in 2008, decided it could no longer continue to cover the company’s losses.”
This is what happens when you allow for-profit schools – if they can’t make enough moolah, they bail out.
Tough luck to the students.
Because they are not in it for education, they are in it to make money.
Compare that to Christchurch public schools who fought to carry on through quake after quake, caring for their students and communities no matter what. Staff who lost their homes, still turning up to work.
Compare that to Novopay. Staff not being paid correctly, some not paid at all – not a single cent. Some unpaid for months. And yet on they went.
Why? Because they became teachers to educate children, and they care about their students. Simple as that.
Kiwis should take note of the warning from Sweden to the UK “not to slavishly adopt the Swedish model, where private companies can set up profit-making free schools, paid for by the state but with little government oversight.”
Because this is where it can lead: students without schools.
* for more on why Swedish schools are not the bee’s knees, read these…
** Update – possibly four closed. http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2013/may/31/free-schools-education
They are mighty pigged off, that’s why.
This Saturday, 13th April, thousands of teachers, parents, students and other supporters up and down New Zealand will march to protest some very disconcerting things that are afoot in GodZone.
What are we protesting? Well I’m glad you asked.
Charter schools: The government is hell bent on bringing in charter schools despite massive resistance and rafts of evidence that they just do not improve achievement, least of all for minority groups. They are pushing an ideology that will privatise public schools. No amount of questioning elicits from the government or Catherine Isaac any answers on just how charters will improve anything.
They have no answers – there are no answers. The evidence is very firmly against them.
Community involvement is not guaranteed in charter schools (goodbye BOT), teachers can be untrained, money paid to run the schools can be skimmed off as profit. That’s your tax $$$ going not to resources of trained staff or even to pay for the building – just taken out as profit by the business owner. Nice.
The largest study of charter schools, by CREDO, showed that 47% of children did worse in the charter than in the local public school. Only 17% did better. Is that worth the cost, both financially and to communities? I think not.
National Standards and Testing: Teachers test all the time – we have to, to know where kids are and where to take them next. Tests are best if acted on speedily by the teacher, to inform their practice. National standards do nothing to inform teachers – indeed they eat up time best spent teaching or doing more useful testing. National Standards do not look at the progress a child has (or has not) made, it merely pegs them against a standard that has been deemed to be about right for their age. This is of no use to the child, to the parents, or to the teacher. Each student is different – what matters most is not where they are in relation to their peers but how they are progressing.
Add to this the growing and very real concerns that the tests used to determine students’ levels are faulty and are giving inflated results, and we have a huge, huge problem.
Teachers’ Pay and Conditions: You might think this is about Novopay; it’s not. The Secretary of Education wants authority to change teachers’ pay and work conditions without consultation. Like you turning up to work and finding your contract had been rewritten and there’s nothing you can do about it. Nice eh? Why would the SoE want to do that, you ask? Most likely so that performance pay can be brought in.
Performance pay is an anathema to teaching. By its very nature, teaching is collaborative, it means working in a team to get the best for the students. The minute performance pay rears its head, that begins to change. Why share your resources with someone who just got a pay rise when you got none? Why agree to have more than your fair share of the trickier students if it might impact your wages? Where it has been implemented, abroad, it has lead to some desperate teachers exaggerating test scores, and so on. It’s human nature, and has been documented widely by many reliable researchers, including those at the OECD. We just don’t want that. We want to continue working together as a team within our school and with other schools in the wider community for the kids.
Christchurch school closures and mergers: The schools in Christchurch just did not get a fair hearing. Information was and still is being withheld by the authorities, preventing schools from being able to put up accurate arguments against the proposals. Dame Beverley Wakem has deemed the Christchurch schools closures and mergers consultation process to be questionable enough to warrant an investigation. No-one is arguing nothing needed to change post-quake. But even schools with growing roles and good quality buildings and sites have been earmarked to go. It makes no sense.
Christchurch has been bullied, there is no other term for it. And teachers do not like bullies.
It’s time to say NO.
It’s time to insist it remains about the children and not about ideology.
It’s time to demand that changes are research based and not done on the whim of a one-man political party.
It’s time to include community MORE in schools, not less.
Join us – come and show your support.
Ach, just when you think you have heard it all, Hekia manages to open her mouth and spew forth another gem.
Despite Chief Ombudsman Dame Beverley Wakem deeming the Christchurch schools closures and mergers consultation process to be questionable enough to warrant an investigation, Hekia is yet again flying in the fact of the facts.
An Ombudsman’s probe last year found the ministry “acted wrongly” in how it handled official information requests on proposals affecting Christchurch schools.
But there’s nothing at all wrong and nothing to worry about at all, apparently.
No, Hekia says it’s all good: “Ms Parata says she did everything she could.”
In fact she goes one further and says that the process was ” a pretty good job”. Source
Run that by me again.
” a pretty good job”
Tell that to the schools, parents and others who tried to get information through the OIA and were fobbed off.
The teachers’ union, NZEI, put out a statement yesterday saying “We also hope the Minister of Education is prepared to listen seriously to the Chief Ombudsman’s findings and engage with Christchurch school communities in a way that is more respectful and credible than in the past.”
It’s not looking promising, is it, NZEI, let’s be honest.
And it’s not just Christchurch schools that have been rail-roaded by Hekia and the Ministry – Salisbury School for special needs girls has been treated despicably, too, and now – having won a court case to halt its closure – is finding the Ministry is employing underhand tactics that will see it close eventually anyway. Truly, these actions are not just despicable they are quite possibly illegal, too.
Christchurch schools have to have their submissions in tomorrow. The inquiry is to be done the second half of the year. Many commentators have pointed out that the Ombudsman’s investigation could well lead to legal challenges once decisions are announced regarding those schools.
This is no way for a democracy to run.
This is no way to treat our communities, our children, our education staff or our parents.
If there is a true and rigorous reason for a school to close, so be it. If that is the case then there should be no need for hiding facts, refusing to share information, obfuscation and downright lies.
So why, Hekia? Why are you treating schools this way?
And who is next?
Anyone who has information relevant to the investigation should contact the Ombudsman:
– Telephone on 0800 802 602,
– File an online complaint at www.ombudsman.parliament.nz
– Email info@ombudsman. parliament.nz
It could never happen. Right? …..
Christchurch schools are being done over – even those will GROWING rolls are being closed or merged.
You need to ask yourselves why.
Why close so many schools when 15 schools are scheduled to be built?
And while you ponder what is really going on, watch this:
Thank you to Simon Kenny for sharing this with me.
Any of you care to respond via here or the Dominion Post?
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“… this deal is being made so that property values will decrease so that private equity can swoop in and pick up these school properties on the cheap and start making some bucks (read: school privatization). The closure of these sites would bring in only $2.5 million in revenue to the city. An infinitesimal part of a huge budget deficit. ”
The 20,000th page visit was a highlight for me – confirmation that people are reading what I write and share.
But this week when the facebook page was just under 1000 fans, I couldn’t even get excited, and when we passed the thousand mark, not even a woot was issued.
In fact, I cried.
I cried because the only reason the page is now so busy is because of what is going on in Christchurch, and the sudden influx of (to date) around 100 new fans was only due to them needing to search out information and try to make sense of the various verdicts given by Hekia Parata on Monday.
From being mainly teachers that joined the page and read the blog, it is now wider than that, with parents, grandparents, teacher aides, caretakers, students and the wider public joining pages like mine just to try to work out what the heck is actually going on – and why.
Some just want company in their dismay.
The numbers keep growing…
and my sadness gets deeper.
And if I am this sad, I can only wonder and imagine how the affected communities are feeling…
and then I get sadder still.
Kia kaha to everyone caught up in the mean and ugly mess. You are in the thoughts of myself and so very many other people.
Dominion Post today, 20th Feb 2013.
19 February 2012
4pm at the CBS arena, Jack Hinton Drive, Addington
Christchurch school communities and supporters will gather this afternoon to show support for schools that have been earmarked for closure and merger and to tell the Government that it needs to show more respect for the people of Christchurch.
NZEI National President Judith Nowotarski says educators are very concerned about the pace that the Government wants to impose these changes on Christchurch children and educators.
“We are looking at a much more accelerated process than originally planned. Some schools that had originally been told the changes would take place over four years have now been told that they will be merged by the beginning of next year.
“This is very worrying because it appears the timetable has been set more for political purposes than educational ones.
“Frankly, we have serious doubts about whether the Ministry of Education has the capacity to undertake this process within the proposed timeframe. The Christchurch rebuild has been extremely slow and the experience of other school mergers and closures gives us little confidence.
”We believe there is a very real risk that children’s education will once again be put in jeopardy.”
Ms Nowotarski says the past five months have been extremely difficult for the education community in Christchurch.
“This has been a botched and disrespectful process. The Minister will have to go forward in a much more credible and respectful manner than she has shown in the past.”
Today’s rally will take place at 4 pm at the CBS arena and will be followed by a march to the Ministry of Education offices in Princess St”
Please go to www.transportforchch.govt.nz to the latest update on road conditions and access to the CBS Arena. Parking is available.
What to Bring
We will be seeking support for the following motion:
If you’re out of Christchurch:
Please support our Christchurch schools by encouraging your school to wear red and black tomorrow and posting photos to the Listen to Christchurch Facebook page.
NZEI’s top priority continues to be to stand up for teachers, support staff and kids in Christchurch and support all schools to remain safe and stable environments where great teaching and learning can continue.
We are committed to ensuring there are fair processes for all school staff through the next stage of the process. We have been listening to all schools in Christchurch and we will be offering a full range of assistance and support to those schools that have been identified for merger or closure. This includes offering schools assistance as they undertake further engagement with their communities about whether to accept or fight the interim decisions.
Today is a day for Christchurch parents, educators and communities to come together and have a voice on the future of learning in our city, culminating in a family friendly, city-wide event at CBS Arena.
All who care about the future of education in Canterbury welcome!
This makes interesting reading…
“Someone asked for a map like this via twitter. It is not the prettiest and it is not the biggest. But it should give you a rough idea of where the closures map out across Christchurch (as well as the reprieves and the new schools). “
Someone asked for a map like this via twitter. It is not the prettiest and it is not the biggest. But it should give you a rough idea of where the closures map out across Christchurch (as well as the reprieves and the new schools). There is a map up on stuff, but it doesn’t show electorates.
I can’t promise it is 100% geographically accurate, but I’ve tried my best.
The big black dots are closures. As you can see, there are actually 4 in National held seats, and three in Labour seats. However, there are far more mergers in the Labour held seats, mainly Christchurch East and Port Hills. The location of the New Schools is indicative, as Rolleston, Rangiora and Lincoln are all off the map. Of the new schools, 4 (West Halswell, Rolleston x 2, Lincoln) are in Selwyn (Amy Adams) and one (Rangiora West) is…
View original post 177 more words
Six schools should remain open
Burnham, Burnside, Duvauchelle, Okains Bay, Shirley Intermediate and Ouhuria (which should relocate to West Belfast when the population grows sufficiently).
The following seven schools should close:
Branston Intermediate, Glenmoor, Greenpark, Kendal, Linwood Intermediate, Manning Intermediate and Richmond.
Three mergers (six schools) should not proceed and remain separate:
Bromley and Linwood Ave, Gilberthorpe and Yaldhurst, and TKKM o Waitaha and TKKM o Te Whanau Tahi (in the latter case, one should relocate to another part of the city to ensure better access).
Six mergers (12 schools) should proceed:
Burwood and Windsor, Central New Brighton and South New Brighton, Discovery One and Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti, Lyttelton Main and Lyttelton West, North New Brighton and Freeville, and Phillipstown and Woolston (on the Woolston site).
All 31 schools will be given until 28 March to make further comment, provide feedback and add to their submissions about the interim decisions. It is expected that final decisions will be announced by the end of May 2013.