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David Seymour’s bizarre claims about charter school performance

Seymour Outrageous comments

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

A week in the charter school universe…

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)

  • David Seymour confirms that as yet not a cent of the $5.2 Million the failed Northland charter school received has been recovered. The school was open for just one year.

Waipareira Trust (NZ)

  • Waipareira Trust pulled out of charter school negotiations in part because Government refuse to include the Treaty of Waitangi in the contract. (What’s that again, how ACT say this is all for the benefit of Maori students…)

The E Tipu E Rea Trust (NZ)

  • This new body is set up by government to promote and support charter schools and given half a million dollars without even going to tender. (Very expensive cheer leading.)
  • Apparently it’s a charity, so it’ll have charity tax exemptions.

Academy Transformation Trust (England)

  • Ian Cleland, chief executive,”…spent £3,000 of taxpayers’ money on first-class rail travel, while dining expenses racked up on his taxpayer-funded credit card include a meal with other staff at Marco Pierre White totalling £471, and the Bank restaurant in Birmingham, at a cost £703.45″ Yes, teachers eat this way all the time in the staff room. More Moët anyone?
  • He also leased a XJ Premium Luxury V6 Jaguar car and put his wife on the insurance, clocking up £3,000 in service bills alone. Because what head teacher doesn’t need a Jag?

NET Academies Trust (England)

  • Maxine Evans spent over £9,000 on executive taxis to travel between schools (and they have been sometimes made to wait outside, meter running, for the duration of her visit!)

Paradigm Trust (England)

  • An OIA shows that the Trust pays for broadband at CEO Amanda Phillips’ holiday home in France. (Clearly it’s hard to afford when one only earns £195,354 (NZ$400k) a year.)

Gulen/Harmony Charter Schools (USA)

  • Charges filed against them alleging  US$18M fraud (One of a raft of scandals related to the Gulen charter school chain over the years)

Michigan study (USA)

Ohio Department of Education invoiced (USA)

  • Diane Ravitch reports that Geneva Area City Board of Education invoiced the Ohio Department of Education, stating that “[o]ver the past 16 fiscal years, $4,265,924.70 has been taken away from Geneva Area City Schools via State Foundation Settlement deductions and sent to under-performing charter schools.”

Cabot Learning Federation (England)

  • Bath-based school is closed due to insufficient students, leaving current students without a school. Parents were not consulted.
  • The school was inspected in May and judged to be inadequate.

Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust (England)

  • The Trust decides it doesn’t want to run the schools any more and looks to find someone new to take over. (Like passing on a franchise…)
  • The BBC reports: “In November, the Regional Schools Commissioner’s Office issued a pre-termination warning notice to the trust over “unacceptably low” standards at Marshlands Academy in Hailsham.”
  • The BBC also reports: “The commissioner said the number of pupils reaching level four or above in reading, writing and maths had fallen by 20% and was “significantly below the floor standard”

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.

~ Dianne

Featured Image courtesy of pixtawan at


Taxpayers fund large wages and lavish perks of academy school chiefs , The Guardian, Published online Sunday 24 July 2016

Trust given $500,000 charter school contract without going to tender, NZ Herald, published online 

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

Gulen-led schools in Texas accused of $18M fraud, World Bulletin, published 15:14, 12 July 2016 Tuesday, retrieved 9.46pm 25/7/16

Parents at Bath Community Academy say school has failed their children and failed them, Bath Chronicle, published July 23, 2016, retrieved 9.59pm 25/7/16

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?


How long will the Government tolerate failing charter schools? – NZEI

nzei logoContinuing revelations of shambles and dysfunction at one of the country’s five charter schools are yet another indication that the charter school policy is an expensive failure and it’s time the Government stepped in.

NZEI President Judith Nowotarski says it’s not surprising that Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru school in Northland is failing to provide quality education and a safe environment for students.

“Charter schools are ill-conceived and were set up hastily to support a shonky deal between Act and the National Party.  The aim was all about privatising education, not providing good quality public education.

“When the Government embarked on its ideologically-driven experiment, the Prime Minister maintained that charter schools would be more accountable than public schools and that any school that did not perform would be able to be closed down.

“So why is the Prime Minister not prepared to front up, take responsibility, and admit that this experiment is proving to be an expensive failure?”

As well as an initial $1.3m to buy the farm property, the Northland school last year received $1.5m in its operational grant despite the fact that it continually failed to meet its Guaranteed Minimum Roll of 71.  The latest reports show that the school’s roll has now dropped to just 47 students.

Meanwhile a second charter school, the Vanguard Military School, despite receiving at least $2.1m this year in operational funding, has also failed to meet its Guaranteed Minimum Roll.  It was revealed earlier that while it was funded for a minimum roll of 108 students, just 79 were attending by October this year.

“Clearly these schools, at a cost of between $27,000 and $40,000 per student are costing well in excess of the $7000 per student cost at a state school.

“We need to stop this failing, expensive Act-driven model, put the money back into public school and then all move on.”

Blindly Defending Failed Charter Schools Experiment – NZ First Press Release

Tracey Martin NZ FirstNational’s charter schools are “crashing and burning” while the Education Minister Hekia Parata blindly defends this failed experiment in taxpayer funded privatisation of education, says New Zealand First.

“Northland school Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru was dysfunctional right from the start,” says Deputy Leader and Education Spokesperson Tracey Martin. “A governor has been brought in, the school has lost staff and the roll began falling from the minute it opened its doors seven months ago.

“This school was always going to be a challenge because it took on some of the most difficult students. But, with the Ministry of Education painting a picture of weak governance, staff resignations and poor planning, what chance do the students have to get a decent education?

“Most charter schools are failing to reach their required minimum roll and are receiving taxpayer top-ups. What’s more, the rolls at two schools are falling.

“Charter schools are proving costly to taxpayers. Their performance has to be questioned when the ministry refuses to release performance reports for them.

“How can the government go ahead with plans to approve the opening of even more charter schools next year, when just one school in Northland has cost $2.4 million so far.

“New Zealand First will end this ideological experiment that is charter schools and find more appropriate solutions for these children.”



Big worries with charter school experiment

danger turn backYet more concerns have come  to light regarding New Zealand’s charter school system.

One of the first five schools, that started up in February 2014, has had huge problems.  Te Kura Hourua ke Whangaruru, a bilingual secondary school for years 9-13, has a dropping school roll, up to a third of students absent on any one day, poor planning, serious internal issues, and fighting and drug problems with students.

A Ministry-appointed facilitator was appointed, working there almost daily for hours at a time, and he stepped back only “after a local Child, Youth and Family manager was seconded to the job of executive principal.” Source

Radio NZ’s Morning Report piece can be listened to here. (approx 5 minutes long)

So far, the school has cost up to 500% what it costs to fund a state school pupil.  Needless to say, principals and teachers at state schools are furious that they are struggling to get help for students equally needy, when money is being wasted on the charter school experiment.

There has been concern from many quarters regarding charter schools.  The Quality Public Education Coalition (QPEC) has questioned the “secretive, undemocratic, expensive and ideological experiment”, PPTA have said that charters are “based on an extremist ideology which has no basis in evidence”, NZEI have expressed amazement at the experiment, saying “it beggars belief that any government of any persuasion would want to undermine a quality public education system in this way”. Leading academics from both New Zealand and overseas have also spoken out against the charter school experiment.

This is not an experiment we can afford to continue.  Any school currently running that is found to be doing a good job should, as Labour, Greens, NZ First and Mana have suggested, be given the option to join the state system as appropriate.  Those failing should be closed down.

The focus MUST be on improving the lot of all students in need, on helping all schools get the best resources to help those students, on making sure the whole support system is bolstered and supported so that it can properly serve all schools and their students.

Any system that serves to support only some students whilst ignoring the majority, is a system New Zealand doesn’t need.


Sources and further reading:

Jamie Whyte discussed charter schools this morning in his leader’s interview on Radio NZ. It makes fascinating listening  (from 17 minutes on).


For all parents who think National Standards a good idea


The Government introduced National Standards for one purpose – to appease those parents who wanted to know that their child was achieving. There is nothing wrong about knowing if your child is achieving, but you actually need to think about a much bigger picture!

As a parent you will fit into one of the following two categories:

  1. If your child has achieved National Standards ask yourself have they actually been extended to their full potential? National Standards will not tell you this.
  2. If your child has not achieved National Standards ask yourself where are they and what progress are they making? National Standards will not tell you this.

But don’t worry, if your child is attending a good school then despite having to complete copious amounts of paperwork to comply with National Standards your school will be keeping the other records they have always kept (and god forbid they are ever forced to stop), which informs them about the PROGRESS of your child.


Firstly let’s look at a school where the children come from homes where they have been read to since they were babies and where literacy and verbal communication has played a large part of their lives, plus they’ve been to kindergarten and/or other socialising environments before coming to school.

A graph of National Standards for 100 of these children could probably look like this:

National Standards graph 1

After 2 years at school (7 years old) the odd few have caught up and all 100 children have reached and continue to show their achievement to the National Standard.


But what about if the reporting included by how much children were progressing above National Standards? ie how much the children were being extended?

Parents could be informed like this:

National Standards graph 2

Even better information and if your school is giving you this type of data then they should be commended. But National Standards do not require them to do this. They do it because they are excellent educationalists and want every child to progress and do their best at all times.

Using the above diagram, it would be quite natural for parents to want their children to be in the red block and raises the question whether National Standards needs to be higher for them!

Let’s now look at 100 of the children who aren’t so fortunate.

They probably don’t have many books at home, or parents who can read to them and English is not necessarily a first language for their parents. These children might even have moved around to live with various different people in the first five years of their life.

A graph of National Standards for these children could look like this:

National Standards graph 3

Notice that it takes years to bring the 100 children up to achieving the National Standard and some may sadly never make it, especially if they continue a pattern of continuing to move and change schools.

The schools working with these children have an enormous challenge to meet National Standards. Testing and measuring against the National Standard, particularly in the early years is something they certainly do not need to do. They know only too well that their children would not achieve the arbitrary target.

National Standards has done nothing to help them, in fact quite the opposite. They now have huge additional workloads which detract from what they want to do, which is to progress these children much faster than those in other schools. How can the time required to report against National Standards possibly be justified to these schools?

In my mind these schools need the highest level of commendation. Not only have they been forced to take on the extra workload created by National Standards, they are still committed educational professionals who use their integrity and focus everything on the children’s


Sadly though the Government does not commend them, because they do not believe in PROGRESS they are only interested in achieving National Standards.

There was an example of the Education Review Office (ERO) criticising a school for saying their students have met expectations (a positive statement which is encouraging and reflects an achieving progress level). The school was instructed to change the wording to say that the students have failed to meet National Standards.

What a very sad and demoralising state of affairs.

But let’s not blame poor ERO, they are driven by Government policies so National Standards really do say more about the Government’s understanding of education. Do we really not understand why the committed professionals working in our schools were totally against the initiative?

Yes we need some form of school reporting but it should be based on PROGRESS. So long as a child is progressing to the best they can possibly be that is all that can be expected of them and what must be expected of ALL schools!

Written by a parent, BOT member (1989-1999), school advisor (1989-2007) and concerned future grandparent and member of the public (2014)

What’s the big problem with charter schools?

dollar deskIs it really that bad to have a few charter schools?  Can a handful really be a problem?  Why not just let them be, and go fight other battles?

Well, some days I do feel like giving up the ghost and letting government bring in more and more charters.  Battling Goliath is sometimes more than a bit wearisome for a little David such as myself.  But here’s why I fight on, and why you should, too.

Because charter schools do not improve the education system – in fact some are the worse schools in the country.

Charter schools take a disproportionate amount of funds from the education budget, like here for example.

Charter schools lead to increased racial segregation.

Charter schools are about privatisation of the education system, not about improvement.

The trouble is, the whole charter movement starts small and relatively uncontroversial which means people are easily swayed by the promises of great schools and a better education for students, but before you know it, it descends into this and this and this and this and this and this … oh the list goes on.

And who is behind all of these reforms?  You should read How billionaire-funded ‘ed reform’ groups push charters, vouchers to learn just how rich fat cats buy up politicians’ votes and push through the reforms they want.  They want you to think they are fighting for a better education system, but the truth of the matter is they can and do make a lot of money out of charterisation, and the public is being sold a line. And sold out.

This interview on MSNBC news sums it up perfectly

Education should not be about siphoning off the tax dollar to companies like Pearson and KIPP.  Money is in short enough supply, and as much as possible should go to resources and good teachers, not for profits and administrators.

Charters are not the way forward.

Our students deserve a hell of a lot better.

Sources and further reading:

GCSE shame of ‘flagship’ academies as it is revealed six of the Coalition’s schools are among the country’s worst

charter schools dividing communities since1991300

Follow Save Our Schools NZ on

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