Labour to ‘rename’ Partnership Schools?

It sounds like Labour, or at least some of the Maori caucus and/or candidates, are planning on renaming Partnership Schools (sometimes referred to as charter schools).

There appears to be either some deft repositioning going on, or there’s a battle within Labour.

Labour, via education spokesperson Chris Hipkins, have always campaigned strongly against Partnership Schools.

Several weeks ago at Newsroom: Charter schools wait on their fate

When partnership schools were first set up some of them struggled to reach the guaranteed minimum rolls for which they were funded. Now with several hundred students on what’s known as ‘charter school’ rolls, school managers are holding their breath until the election and hoping a Labour-Green government wouldn’t have the heart to follow through with shutting them down.

Alwyn Poole, trust board member and academic advisor, said South Auckland Middle School was full at 180 students, “with 80 on a waitlist but no policy means or incentive for expansion,” while Middle School West Auckland was at 205 “and growing fast towards its maximum of 240 in its third year, after a difficult first year.”

Poole argued that, with the partnership schools now part of the educational landscape, opposition politicians needed to stop using them as the latest ‘dog-whistle’ issue.

He gave the example of Labour Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins addressing a public meeting in Palmerston North: “We have got a good relationship with Chris and he has seen the school and he appreciates it – but he says ‘we’ll abolish charter schools’ and everybody in the audience starts clapping. Well, Palmerston North doesn’t have a charter school, they probably don’t know what one looks like, they don’t know the kids that we are working with – it just becomes this way of saying something,” Poole said.

But much as Poole likes to think it is just dog-whistle rhetoric, Labour and the Greens remain determined the schools will go if they win the election.

The two parties are united in their position on shutting down the schools. New Zealand First is also opposed to partnership schools; its policy is to “end public funding for these privately-owned profit making opportunities.”

Hipkins’ response to Newsroom was simple: “Labour’s position on charter schools hasn’t changed. They won’t continue under Labour.”

But one thing in particular has changed with Labour. Andrew recruited Willie Jackson as a candidate, Jackson has been appointed as Maori campaign manager – and Jackson supports partnership schools.

In June last year: Willie Jackson: ‘I truly believe in the partnership school model’

The opposition’s stance on partnership schools won’t get a pass mark from me.  And as far as Maori are concerned, Labour’s Education spokesman Chris Hipkins’ Private Members Bill to scrap partnership schools rates an E.

I truly believe in the partnership school model.  I believe in it so much we have one at Nga Whare Waatea. The  kura comes under the Manukau Urban Maori Authority of which I am chief executive.

That’s why I have to put these questions to Hipkins: Why would you want to carry on funding a model which continues to marginalise those tamariki – admittedly mostly Maori – who don’t fit in? Why would you not want an alternative that can support and help our children fulfil their own dreams and aspirations?

Hipkins jumps on the bandwagon about them being a costly experiment that has distracted attention and diverted resources away from the vast majority of Kiwi kids attending public schools.

He describes the charter school model as a cosy “cup of tea” deal between National and ACT and that they’re based on ideology rather than what is best for kids’ education.

To me it appears that Labour’s need to appease the unions is at the expense of children’s education.  John Tamihere, who is the chief executive for the Waipareira Trust and a former Labour Party minister, and I have supported the charter school concept for a number of years now.

We will try anything that will help turn around the negative statistics in terms of Maori students failing in mainstream schools. That doesn’t mean we are anti-mainstream schools or in fact anti-Labour – it means we are pro-Maori and pro our people.

It is Hipkins’ right to put this through as a Private Members Bill but I would suggest that not even his own party colleagues are happy with his stance and when push comes to shove, they might not vote for it to happen. Let’s hope not.

That was before Jackson joined Labour – he is now placed at 21 on their list and judged a reasonable chance of making it into Parliament if Labour get their act together. Partnership schools is one thing they need to sort out.

Yesterday Jackson was asked about this clash on Q&A, along with another candidate, Kiri Allan, whi is placed a couple of spots above Jackson on Labour’s list.

CORIN But there are tensions, aren’t there? Because, Willie, you’ve been a strong advocate of charter schools. You’ve been involved with some. You’ve talked about how they are good for Maori children, yet you’re in a Labour party which will abolish them.

WILLIE I’ve already talked with the leadership about that. I’m into any sort of school that will change what’s happening with our kids. You can call it schools, whatever you like, and Labour—
CORIN Chris Hipkins will get—

WILLIE Well, Chris and I have talked about this, and he understands where we’re coming from. Our school has qualified teachers—

CORIN But can you change his mind?

WILLIE No, no, Chris is of the same mind as me. We want schools that will turn our lives around.

CORIN So you’re saying Hipkins is okay with a partnership school?

WILLIE No, no, you call it whatever you like, Corin, but if you will bring in a school that will change kids’ lives, that can— You know, we’re dealing with families who half the kids have parents are prisoners, for goodness’ sake. We’re not in for a profit. We’ve got qualified teachers.

CORIN I’m not questioning the results at the school. I’m just saying I’m curious as to Labour policy, because Labour policy is to not have partnership schools.

WILLIE No, no, but Labour—

CORIN How would your school fit under that if you get rid of them?

WILLIE No, no, they’ll get rid of the name, and they’ll get rid of the concept, but the principle of turning kids’ lives around is something that Chris Hipkins believes in and all of Labour believes in. So call the school whatever you like.

So they’ll get rid of the name and get rid of the concept, call it something else and do much the same thing?

KIRI And what you’ve got right now is a government that’s slashing its funding in education, right? So you’ve got principals that are having to make decisions about whether to fund books in schools, in libraries, or choose between support staff. So, really, again, if you’re boiling it down, it’s really— Right now, the priorities of this government in its education portfolio — and we would say across pretty much all of its social services portfolios — the matrix isn’t working right now, so whether— whatever you call them, we know our kids aren’t thriving in these schools, and that’s again— I mean, that’s why you’re seeing—

CORIN But if a charter school or partnership school works, why wouldn’t you do it?

KIRI Well, what I understand is that Chris Hipkins and our team, we’re focusing on what does work. Call it what you will. I don’t think that that’s the issue, but what we are looking at — what are the results for our kids? And right now our kids aren’t thriving.

Except that in most partnership schools it appears that their kids are doing better than they were in the standard State School system.

So “call it what you will”, and focus on what does work – partnership schools under a different name?

It’s well understood that Hipkins is close to the teacher’s unions, and has strongly promoted their opposition to partnership schools.

Labour are proudly proclaiming that the next Labour caucus will be 25% Maori, and they want to cut the Maori Party out of contention and be the sole party representing Maori (except for the Green Maori caucus, but that’s a different conflict).

Three months ago (February 7 2017) NZH: Labour leader Andrew Little confronts caucus over Willie Jackson ructions

Little said Jackson will be expected to abide by Labour’s policy on issues such as charter schools, despite his criticism of Labour on the issue in the recent past.

Hipkins today refused to endorse Jackson, saying it was not his role to voice support or dissent about any Labour candidate.

However, he said Labour would not change its policy to abolish charter schools.

This contrasts with the Jackson and Allan opinions on partnership schools. Unless Labour are just going to abolish the name and the concept but otherwise leave them intact. Or something.

This is something Andrew Little may need to show some leadership on – and some clarity on it. Otherwise it could easily become an embarrassing and/or divisive issue for Labour, and they don’t need any more of those.


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  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  8th May 2017

    Yet another reason not to vote Labour. Ever.

  2. Gezza

     /  8th May 2017

    What a mess they are.

  3. Absolute hypocrisy. They’ve hissed and spat for years over the partnership schools.

    • Gezza

       /  9th May 2017

      I don’t know if you can even accuse them of hypocrisy at the moment trav. They seem to be all over the place on this issue at the moment. Everybody must be scratching their heads 🙄

  4. Bill Courtney

     /  8th May 2017

    Except that it’s not correct to say that “…in most partnership schools it appears that their kids are doing better than they were in the standard State School system.”

    Read the wishy washy Martin Jenkins evaluation report released on Friday and you will see that they are still not coming clean on the true state of charter schools performance.

    The cover up is farcical.

    • Jackson, Tamihere and others seem to be fans of the alternative for Maori failing in the state school system. That’s in conflict with Labour’s position.

      • duperez

         /  8th May 2017

        Is it forever about Maori failing in the state school system or Maori failing in the state school system as the excuse to get a particular foot in a particular door?

        When a primary takes five year olds and other primary school children because their parents want them to be in Maori medium schooling is that because the kids are failing in the state school system?

        There is a certain beauty in the irony of those who have ranted and raved for years about separatism and “special treatment” now championing the re-birth of Maori schools.

        • Bullseye duperez!

          “Now I know … what they’re saying … It’s a terrible beauty we’ve made … ”

          Spandau Ballet, ‘Through the Barricades’ …

  5. Bill Courtney

     /  8th May 2017

    But your response does not address the point I made, Pete.

    Willie’s school had a woeful first year in terms of its National Standards results. Of the 5 primary and middle schools in 2015 (including Villa’s 2 schools) only one – the Rise Up Academy – met its contract performance standards for student achievement.

    Read the massive caveat in the footnote discussing student achievement in the Martin Jenkins evaluation report.

  6. “The Labour Party is firmly committed to a quality public education system in which every New Zealand child has the chance to achieve to their fullest potential. We recognise that every child is different and our education system needs to cater to that”. Sure Mr Hipkins

    Really, the irony is that Labour have never done NOTHING substantial to change the functional literacy stats in this country. They can prattle on all they like about “full potential” but fact is no amount of money poured into the state system, will change the mindset of educators within the system, and they’ll keep on failing many Kiwi children. Try as the Statists might to put us all in neat little NCEA merit-for-rubbish-pick-up boxes, try as they will to turn us all into cookie-cutter, socially aware Ruby and Jacks, the state system will always fail a significant group of children. They won’t be their children of course. None of the failures live in prosperous Grey Lynn or the beltway, nor do they get given a Greenpeace membership at birth. These kids do not feel welcome or relate to the inflexible, intransigent state system, they need something else to learn. Their communities recognise this and are stepping forward with solutions. In my POV, if even a handful of kids are able to contribute to society in their own original way we are all enriched and their lives are potentially transformed. Why keep on doing what doesn’t work?

    • duperez

       /  8th May 2017

      Thanks for introducing the words “inflexible, intransigent” with the state system. It would be interesting to hear from those involved in the system over many years to contrast the levels of freedom from years ago to the freedom and regimentation of recent times and the present.

      I seem to remember John Banks, master control freak, rabbiting on about the lack of flexibility in state schools while he was an Associate Minister. It was a bit like the referee in a game complaining about there being too much whistle.

      • You both make valid points IMHO. I’m no great fan of State schooling …

        Education is one area where I believe there could be a great deal more flexibility, but if ethnic and religious schools are permitted, we might logically expect ethnic and religious neighbourhoods, communities, economies and politics, too easily [and conveniently] labelled ‘separatism’, race-based privilege or apartheid …

        My fear is that SOME Charter Schools are even more indoctrination facilities than State schools are …

        Example: An education full of ‘Creation Myth’ may rule someone out of a career in Science?

  7. Anything not nothing.

  8. Andrew Little has just been interviewed about Labour’s stance on charter schools on RNZ.

    I’ll post on this later when details are available.

  9. Pete Kane

     /  9th May 2017

    “….blew your policy on charter schools wide open.” Blew it at Waitangi Day when he announced Jackson’s candidacy.

  10. Anyhow … Look … Aside from anything else, ‘Partnership Schools’ have been in existence since 2011 … So by all neoliberal standards they are long overdue for “rebranding” …

    And Labour clearly support neoliberalism … They introduced it here …

  11. Mr Jackson was only pro-charter schools because he has his fingers in it !
    Schools should be about Educational achievement first, NOT just ‘cut costs & maximise profits’ (for the ‘owners’), that a ‘business plan’ not a education plan 😦

    There are certain things that should not be about ‘how much profit/cash can we make !’ : Education, health care, Law/order etc. BUT the longer this Tory Govt. stays in power, the more, this goes out the window.
    23/9 is coming folks.. ‘time for a change’ sez I&I 🙂

    • Well … to exaggerate for effect Zedd … Life under neoliberalism has become merely “a business plan” … Market society replaces ‘market economy’ …

      • Gezza

         /  9th May 2017

        The trouble with exaggerating for effect is that it then becomes one of the categories of Fake News.

        • I disagree … I think its opinion … which is a perfectly legitimate form of media, news & ‘current affairs’ …

          If all opinion and ‘dramatisation’ is Fake News … We’re in big trouble …

          Language itself is categorisation …

          There’s a sound argument that Truth exists more in fiction rather than fact … because facts can never fully describe or encompass it … and fiction can much more strongly allude to it … guiding the ‘reader’ to the discovery of their own truth … their own meaning … to ‘experience’ their truth emotellectually … [I encountered this in Stage 1 English Lit at Varsity] …

          • Gezza

             /  9th May 2017

            I think it’s already been pretty clearly established here that there are times when *English Lit* has a lot to answer for.

  1. Labour to ‘rename’ Partnership Schools? – NZ Conservative Coalition
  2. Maori-Labour charter school differences | Your NZ

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