QPEC Chairperson, Bill Courtney, participated in two interviews broadcast on Radio New Zealand on Wednesday 10 September 2014 on the subject of the first five charter, or Partnership, schools.
QPEC is concerned by several comments made during these segments by both Minister of Education, Hekia Parata and Catherine Isaac, the Chairperson of the Partnership Schools / Kura Hourua Authorisation Board.
The following release sets out several of the issues that QPEC believes require clarification or rebuttal.
Where is the Isaac Report? The arguments behind the establishment of NZ charter schools have always been weak and the original Working Group led by former ACT Party President, Catherine Isaac, never produced a written report. This is in contrast to former ACT MP John Banks’s claim in parliament that we could learn from the successes and failures of charter schools overseas. But with no written report from his former party president, we simply don’t know how the NZ model supposedly does this and how it should therefore be resourced, funded and evaluated.
a. “The Partnership Schools / Kura Hourua Working Group (formerly known as the New Zealand Model of Charter School Working Group) has not produced any document that sets out the evidential base behind charter schools.”
Ministry of Education letter dated 4 October 2012.
b. “The Working Group did not produce any reports, recommendations or advice to the aforementioned Ministers. However, their views were captured in four documents that were produced by the Ministry of Education:
i. Developing and Implementing a New Zealand Model of Charter School;
ii. Regulatory Impact Statement
iii. Authorising and Monitoring Report back
iv. Resourcing Partnership Schools
OIA Ministry of Education letter dated 8 August 2013.
Why is there so little transparency around the charter school authorisation process and how the schools operate? There have been serious concerns from the outset about the deliberate moves to reduce transparency and remove the schools from the scope of normal public sector accountability.
a. “I do not accept the Ministry’s position that later disclosure of the [application] information at issue will satisfy the public interest. Disclosure after the Minister has taken decisions on the applications may serve the public interest in accountability, but it would not satisfy the public interest in the public being informed, and being able to participate in the debate, about the creation of partnership schools prior to those decisions being taken. The partnership schools policy involves substantial public funds and significant changes to the way in which publicly funded education provision is controlled, managed and delivered. I consider a more informed public discourse about the creation of such schools is in the public interest.”
Ombudsman Report, dated July 2013.
Why does Hekia Parata state incorrectly that the funding figures per student are a “gross misuse” of the data? The Operational Funding calculations have not included the one-off Establishment Payments, as Hekia Parata states. In the story reported on Radio NZ on Tuesday 9 September, the Whangaruru funding was stated as “nearly $27,000 a pupil,” which is based on Operational Funding of $1,508,561 divided by 56 students, giving $26,939 per student. This excludes the Establishment Payment of $1,379,150.
Why does Catherine Isaac, as the Chairperson of the Authorisation Board, not know what the charter school rolls are, if her group is also responsible for monitoring their progress? Why have the Minister and Catherine Isaac both made statements about the schools’ rolls that are simply not correct?
a. Isaac: Radio NZ 10 September: “It is simply not correct [that 3 out of the 5 schools have not reached their guaranteed minimum roll]. Many are at their maximum roll and have waiting lists.”
b. Parata: “All five are near or above enrolment.” Parliament, Questions for Oral Answer, no. 7, 11 February 2014
|School||“GuaranteedMinimum Roll”||MaximumRoll||Actual Roll@ 1 March||Actual Roll@ 1 July|
|South Auckland Middle School||90||120||108||110|
|Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru||71||128||63||56|
|Te Kura Hourua O Whangarei Terenga Paraoa||50||300||50||53|
|Rise Up Academy||50||100||42||46|
|Vanguard Military School||108||192||104||93|
Although rolls may well fluctuate at any school during the course of the year, the fact remains that two of the schools have experienced falling rolls during the year.
The absence of any substantive case for “What” and “Why” leads to another problem: How is the charter school initiative going to be evaluated? This point is vitally important if the public is to gain confidence that the initiative is to be objectively and independently evaluated, as the Cabinet Paper tabled by the Minister of Education, in October 2013, promises:
a. “The Cabinet paper “Developing and Implementing a New Zealand Model of Charter School” states:
“A strong evaluation programme will be put in place that thoroughly examines the impact and effectiveness of the first such schools. This will enable us to make informed decisions about whether or not to open further such schools in the future” [CAB Min (12) 26/6 refers.]”
b. The October 2013 cabinet paper was prepared after a briefing paper from the Ministry of Education, dated 6 September 2013, contained the following warning:
“…risks in moving from what was described as a pilot to an on-going roll-out before evaluating the model. Committing to on-going annual rounds now will reduce the potential for evaluation of the early schools to be taken into account before a long term roll-out.”
In many ways, the most important comments made during the day, were the disparaging comments made by the one person who is ultimately responsible for New Zealand’s public education system: the Hon Hekia Parata, Minister of Education:
“But what’s the alternative? To have these kids become another statistic in the justice system, or in the social welfare system”
No, Hekia. The alternative is to stop talking in clichés and to start dealing head on with the real challenge of properly resourcing public schools. Let’s give all our children the greatest possible opportunity to succeed.
Quality Public Education Coalition
Please take note of this information from Kaimanga, newsletter of the New Zealand Teachers Council, and contact your reps to have your say:
Have Your Say
The Government plans to have these roles in place from 2015 with full implementation in 2017.
A working group made up of education sector representatives, including unions, will be charged with fleshing out the details of this initiative.
The following sector representatives have been invited to be a part of the sector working group:
Teachers should contact and work with these representatives to influence the detail that emerges in the implementation of this initiative.
NZEI Press Release
The former ACT president and current chair of the Government’s charter schools working group, Catherine Isaac, is pre-empting Parliament’s job of examining legislation introducing charter schools.
NZEI Te Riu Roa says it is writing to Parliament’s Education and Science Select Committee to express its concerns.
“Ms Isaac has created an “indications of interest” process for groups interested in establishing a charter school that mimics a formal authorisation process for such schools before the legislation to introduce charter schools has even been passed,” says NZEI Te Riu Roa National Secretary Paul Goulter.
“The Education Select Committee has not even yet held hearings on the Bill that would introduce charter schools. Ms Isaac was appointed to chair a working group to provide advice to the Government, not to usurp Parliament’s right to consider, debate and change proposed legislation, or to set up her own charter school authorising empire,” he says.
Mr Goulter says Ms Isaac appears to be setting up the process in a desperate attempt to drum up business, given the paucity of interest in the controversial ACT-National policy agreement.
A recent Official Information Act request to the Ministry of Education reveals that, up to the end of October, 11 parties had contacted the Partnership Schools/ Kura Hourua Working Group expressing an interest in establishing a charter school (see list below).
“Most of the parties that have expressed an interest have narrow sectarian religious connections, including a transcendental meditation group,” Mr Goulter says.
“It appears few would even meet the Government’s focus of targeting priority groups of Māori, Pasifika learners from low socio economic backgrounds and learners with special education needs.”
“There is a risk we will see groups trying to siphon off taxpayer dollars to fund religious and spiritual schools who can access existing special character provisions of the Education Act.
“Charter schools will allow people who are not registered or qualified as teachers to teach in their schools. This has a high risk of a negative impact on children especially those who are more vulnerable or not achieving – the very children whom charter schools are supposedly going to help.”
The charter school framework permits private companies and not-for-profit groups to set up schools without being subject to the same outside scrutiny as public schools, even though they are given taxpayer money.
“The Government’s decision to continually put ideology ahead of quality education for students is part of its neo-liberal Global Education Reform agenda. It puts competition and measuring ahead of quality teaching and learning.”
List of parties interested in establishing a Partnership/Kura Hourua:
Maharishi Foundation of New Zealand
Nga Potiki Education Trust
Pacific Christian School
Living Way Centre
Little Ark ECE Centre
Nga Kakano Christian Reo e Rua Kura
Otara Community Preschool
Te Aka (2010) Charitable Trust
Makahika Outdoor Pursuits Centre
Motueka Rudolf Steiner School
Immanuel Christian School”
Press release ends.