Vanguard Military School to become ‘designated character school’

The Vanguard Military School in Albany near Auckland is the first Partnership School to convert to a ‘designated character school’, which is the only survival option under new Government requirements. Minister of Education Chris Hipkins and Labour have always been strongly against charter schools.

Vanguard to become designated character school

“Vanguard Military School was the first of 11 charter schools currently operating to put in an application to become part of the state system under section 156 of the Education Act 1989, and now it’s the first to be approved,” Chris Hipkins said.

“The school will use the ethos and training methodology of the military across the curriculum and in the day-to-day running of the school, to achieve attitudinal and academic excellence. This will form part of its designated character. It will also continue to have a special focus on ‘second chance’ students.”

The application was assessed by the Ministry of Education, and consultation with the boards of schools in the Auckland network whose rolls might be affected has taken place.

“After considering the assessment and the consultation responses, I have decided to approve the school,” Chris Hipkins said.

“The application met the requirements of the Act and demonstrated that students who choose to enrol will get an education of a kind that differs significantly from the education they would get at ·an ordinary state school.”

The new school will initially be located at the site of the current school, while the Ministry works with the Establishment Board of Trustees to locate a permanent site.

“I am pleased with the willingness of Vanguard’s sponsors to work with the Ministry to achieve this outcome, which means that students and the wider school community now have certainty for 2019 and beyond.

“The new school will retain key features of the current charter school, but with the added benefit of the support and protections that are provided within the state education system,” Chris Hipkins said.

So Vanguard will remain similar under a different label.

Another announcement yesterday on the transition from Partnership Schools (Hipkins seems to insist on calling them charter schools):

As the next step in the transition of charter schools into the state school system, the formal process to end charter school contracts is starting today, Education Minister Chris Hipkins says.

As the next step in the transition of charter schools into the state school system, the formal process to end charter school contracts is starting today, Education Minister Chris Hipkins says.

“As I announced last week, all existing charter schools have applied to become part of the state school system, and I will make a decision on these applications by the end of July,” Mr Hipkins said.

“My preference is still to reach mutual agreement with the charter schools on ending the contracts, and the Ministry of Education will continue to discuss this with the schools.  A formal notice would only take effect if they are unable to reach agreement.

“The formal notice I am giving today confirms that I intend their contracts to finish at the end of the 2018 school year. This is a legal process that is required under the contracts.  It is separate from decisions on their applications to become part of the state school system.

“Ending the contracts requires six months’ notice to be given, and can only take effect at the end of a school year.

“Each charter school has 10 business days when they may ask me to review this.  If I then decide to proceed with ending the contract, the school won’t continue to operate as a charter school beyond this year unless this is mutually agreed.

“The priority is to ensure a smooth transition for schools and their students.

“I am considering additional measures to support charter schools to make a successful transition into the state system, and details are currently being worked through.”

“Contracts with the sponsors of three unopened charter schools have already been ended.  This includes Blue Light Ventures, which was due to open in 2018, and City Senior School and Vanguard Military School Christchurch, which were due to open in 2019.”

Charter school report – ‘most parents happy’

A report into Partnership Schools says that there have been positive results and most parents are happy, but it was too soon to judge academic achievement.

David Seymour says that it justifies a reversing of the current Government policy to close Partnership Schools, but Minister of Education Chris Hipkins says “does not tell us much” apart from what students and parents thought about the schools. Isn’t that kind of important and relevant?

RNZ: Charter school report silent on educational achievement

Students at charter schools are being stood down less frequently than they were at other schools and most parents are happy with the schools’ performance, a report commissioned by the previous government says.

However, the report by consultancy firm Martin Jenkins, the third in a series, failed to cover the schools’ academic achievement because they had not been operating long enough and their NCEA data was presented in a way that was not comparable to that of other schools.


The report said its authors worked with the Education Ministry to shift the focus of the evaluation away from student outcomes in part because it was too early to determine the schools’ success.

“Schools/kura were still becoming established, numbers of students that had received a ‘full dose’ of the PSKH [Partnership School Kura Hourua] intervention were low, and efforts were ongoing by the Ministry to define and agree contracted outcomes,” the report said.

The report has been published at a critical time for the schools, which must apply to join the state school system as special or designated character schools or face closure.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins…

…said the report “does not tell us much” beyond an insight into what students and parents thought about the schools.

“It doesn’t tell us for example about academic achievement and progress and obviously that’s where a lot of the attention really should be focused.”

ACT MP David Seymour: Hipkins must reverse charters decision after glowing report

“The Education Minister must now reverse his decision to close Partnership Schools after the final report from independent consultants Martin Jenkins painted a glowing picture of the model”, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“The report cuts through the spin on Partnership Schools, delivering blow after blow to Government’s hopes it could kill off the model quietly.

“The final report shows Partnership Schools are strongly focused on disadvantaged kids with complex needs. Students are largely Maori and Pasifika from low-decile schools. Before attending the Partnership Schools, many students were transient, disengaged, with poor academic histories and complex socio-economic needs. They often lacked positive aspirations and role models.

“The schools are meeting learners’ needs using innovative practices and high-quality standards. Sponsors are driven by a vision to provide an alternative for students who have been underserved. Innovations enabled by the flexible funding model are across the board, in governance arrangements, staffing, student engagement and support, pedagogy, teaching and learning.

“Student engagement has significantly improved. Stand-downs and length of suspensions are lower. Students give positive feedback. Whānau feel more involved and more confident communicating with schools. Very few learners are opting out.

“It is no exaggeration to say that this is the most positive news our education system has had for some time.

“It simply beggars belief that Jacinda Ardern and Chris Hipkins would end an educational model that has delivered so much for students that have been so poorly served by our state system

“The Government must now reverse its position on Partnership Schools”, says Mr Seymour.

Last year an earlier Jenkins report: NZ’s charter schools given good report card

Most of the first eight charter schools are good at teaching and testing children from Māori, Pasifika and poor backgrounds, an independent evaluation says.

“All schools/kura report that high proportions of their students have poor achievement histories and are achieving below the age/stage-related standards that could be expected on entry to the school/kura,” it said.

It said the schools showed mostly good and in some cases innovative practice in their approaches to working with the children.

Last month from Seymour: Why is Hipkins Hiding the Final Charter Schools Report?

ACT Leader David Seymour is questioning why Education Minister Chris Hipkins is suppressing the final Martin Jenkins evaluation of charter schools.

“I wonder if Mr Hipkins is not bullying Martin Jenkins into modifying the report to talk down the schools?”, asks Mr Seymour.

In 2014, the Ministry of Education contracted Martin Jenkins to deliver an independent evaluation of the performance of the charter school model. Its reports were to be delivered between 2014 and 2017.

“The first report found the flexibility of the model was enabling charter schools to deliver ‘innovative educational provision for students who have been under-served by the education system.’

“In its second report, Martin Jenkins said charter schools were reaching priority students – those at higher risk of not achieving.

“The final report appears to have been completed, but not released. What does it contain? Why is Chris Hipkins hiding it? Is the Minister having the report altered to suppress glowing reviews about charter schools?

“Chris Hipkins can’t hide the report forever. At some point, New Zealanders are going to learn what 1500 students already know: charter schools change lives for the better”, says Mr Seymour.

It isn’t hidden any more, but is seems unlikely that Hipkins will change his mind about Charter Schools, he (and the teacher unions) has been always strongly opposed to them.

Closing the schools has been awkward for Labour as some of their Maori MPs have been involved in and support partnership schools. They may stay open but under a different description.

More Curran contact with RNZ a messy mistake at best

Clare Curran faced a barrage last week after Carol Hirschfeld resigned from RNZ as a result of of lying about a meeting that Curran had organised. Hirschfeld had assured her bosses several times it was a chance meeting, but Curran produced text records that showed that it had taken a month to arrange the meeting.

Now Curran is under fire again, this time for contacting chair of RNZ, Richard Griffin, over correcting the select committee record – with claims she tried to get him not to attend the scheduled meeting tomorrow.

It came up in Question Time yesterday, first with Simon Bridges questioning Jacinda Ardern.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she know who directed Richard Griffin, chair of Radio New Zealand, to stay away from the Economic Development, Science and Innovation Committee?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: My understanding is that when the Minister learnt that Radio New Zealand were unable to attend the original meeting they were scheduled to attend to correct the record around the breakfast meeting the Minister had, she sought to contact Radio New Zealand to find an alternative so that they could correct the record immediately.

Hon Simon Bridges: So is the Prime Minister’s understanding that Clare Curran told the chair of Radio New Zealand that he shouldn’t go to the select committee?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I’ve just said, the Minister exchanged voice mails and text messages with the chair of Radio New Zealand, where I’m advised that she sought to have the record corrected immediately. Obviously, the fastest way to achieve that in lieu of attending that meeting would have been in writing.

It is unusual for the Minister to approach the RNZ chairperson to correct the Parliamentary record on it’s own, but there are questions about what Curran said. She was also questioned.

Melissa Lee: When she said in answer to oral question No. 12 on 29 November 2017 that this will “be the most open, most transparent Government [that] New Zealand has ever had”, is it open and transparent for the Minister if, as reported today, she or her office asked the chair of Radio New Zealand, Richard Griffin, not to attend the call-back select committee meeting scheduled for this Thursday to correct the records?

Hon CLARE CURRAN: I reject the premise of that question. On learning that RNZ would not be appearing before the select committee last Thursday to correct the record at the earliest opportunity, and on advice from the office of the Leader of the House, I rang Mr Griffin last Thursday morning around 8.30 a.m. to advise him that it would be preferable to send a letter of correction that day before 1 p.m. rather than waiting until the following Thursday to appear in person. This was a voicemail message. I received a voicemail message from Mr Griffin at 3 p.m. that day to say that he had a prior agreement with the chair of the select committee to appear at the committee this Thursday and to call him back if I had a problem. I didn’t call him back.

But more from Newstalk ZB – Exclusive: RNZ chair to ignore Govt directive over notorious meeting

The chair of Radio New Zealand’s set to ignore a Government directive and attend a Parliamentary committee to set the record straight about the notorious meeting Minister Clare Curran had with the now former head of content at the state broadcaster.

Newstalk ZB Political editor Barry Soper understands Richard Griffin was directed to stay away from the committee, and was instead told to write a letter apologising for misleading the committee.

Griffin would not say who made the suggestion that he instead write a letter of apology to the committee, but  Soper says that it was Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran.

The phone message Curran left may or may not be made public tomorrow. if not it is a ‘he reported, she said’ sort of situation.

RNZ followed up: Curran says RNZ board should correct record asap

Ms Curran said what she said was that if he could not appear in person, the record could be corrected with a letter.

“I thought it was really important that given the state of affairs around this particular issue that the record be corrected as soon as possible, if he was unable to attend in person last week then a letter could have been sent to the select committee and that was what my advice was.”

Ms Curran told Parliament she left that message on Richard Griffin’s voicemail.

She said she later received a voice message from Mr Griffin saying he was instead attending the committee Thursday this week, and if she had a problem with that to let him know.

Ms Curran was acting on advice from the office of the Leader of the House, Chris Hipkins, when she contacted Mr Griffin about making a corrected statement.

Curran may not have done anything particularly wrong, depending on what she actually told Griffin, but this looks messy from a bunch of amateurs.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it would have been preferable for someone other than the Broadcasting Minister to have contacted the RNZ board chair, given the circumstances of last week.

“Even though she certainly advised me her intent was to pass on a message about correcting the record directly to the chair, there are indeed multiple ways she could have done that,” Ms Ardern said.

But it would have been “cleaner” to have had someone from the select committee office or the Leader of the House to pass on the message, she said.

It certainly would have looked better.

“Ultimately though the minister’s focus was on getting the record corrected, it’s something she’d been criticised for in the past.”

Ms Curran left the matter alone once she found out the RNZ chief executive and board chair had been scheduled to reappear at the committee this Thursday, Ms Ardern said.

Tracy Watkins at Stuff: Labour’s new strategy – bury bad news in more bad news

Curran left a message on Griffin’s phone suggesting he send a letter to the select committee, rather than answer its recall in person.

It would suit Curran and the Government not to have Griffin front in person to answer questions – which is why Curran should never have made the call.

If the voicemail contradicts her version of events Ardern will have an excuse to sack her.

Ardern on RNZ – says she has confidence in Curran, says Curran made a mistake contacting Griffin, but it wasn’t a sackable offence.

Unopened Partnership Schools may cost millions

Labour had always strongly opposed Partnership Schools (alongside teacher unions), and campaigned on abolishing them. When they took over  Government they moved quickly, but due to contractual commitments millions of dollars may have to be paid for schools that will never open.

NZH: Charter schools that may never open were paid $3.4m

Taxpayers have paid $3.4 million to five proposed charter schools that may never open.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins has told National education spokeswoman Nikki Kayethat two proposed schools were paid establishment grants on the day the Ardern Government was sworn in, October 26.

Two others have been paid establishment grants since then, apparently because the new Government was bound by contracts signed before the election even though Hipkins has introduced a bill abolishing charter, or partnership, schools.

None of the five schools is believed to have paid back any of the money yet because they are still negotiating about either opening state or integrated schools instead, or recovering their costs for dreams that will never be realised.

The Ministry of Education has advised Hipkins that terminating contracts for the 11 existing charter schools and the five proposed schools “would generate compensation costs for committed costs of up to $1m per school (total of $16m for 16 schools), but is likely to be lower as not all schools would have committed costs of $1m”.

Kaye said adding that to the $3.4m in establishment grants, plus extra property costs the state may take on if charter schools become state schools, make “a $20m policy to change the names of the schools”.

But Hipkins said: “Negotiations with all existing and proposed charter schools are ongoing. I’d encourage the Opposition to contain their wild speculation until those negotiations have concluded.”

Some proposed schools may now never open, but others could switch to the newly named option, “State schools with designated character“.

Blue Light Ventures, which runs youth activities out of police stations, abandoned its plans to open a charter school in February for up to 90 boys in Years 11 to 13 at Wairakei, after local residents objected.

Blue Light chief executive Rod Bell said then that he was still discussing “the contract position” with the ministry, which paid it an establishment grant of $568,783 on August 21.

However at least three of the four charter schools that were due to open next year are still hoping to open schools in some form.

Partnership schools (to be abolished):

Owned by private sponsors; free to employ non-registered teachers; not bound by NZ curriculum; state pays establishment grants; state pays operational funding into one pot; no student fees. Example: Vanguard Military School.

State schools with designated character (the new alternative):

Owned by the state but private sponsors may have board representation; must employ registered teachers; must follow NZ curriculum; state provides capital for school buildings plus operational funding in two main pots – one for teacher salaries which must be paid at agreed collective rates, and one for other costs; no student fees. Example: Ngā Kura a Iwi (tribal schools).

Integrated schools (longstanding alternative):

Owned by private proprietors, who may have up to four people on the school board; must employ registered teachers; must follow NZ curriculum but may include religious instruction; state may fund up to 85 per cent of building costs, then funds operations as for state schools with teacher salaries which must be paid at agreed collective rates; may charge attendance dues solely to cover property costs.

Many religious based schools have become integrated schools.

Labour have not opposed privately owned Integrated Schools, but have strongly opposed privately owned (mostly trust owned) non-religion based schools.

Tomorrow’s Schools review terms of reference

Minister of Education Chris Hipkins has announced the terms of reference for the review into Tomorrow’s Schools:

The terms of reference for a review of Tomorrow’s Schools released today sets the framework for a once in 30-year opportunity to shape the way our schools are led, managed and interact with their communities, Education Minister Chris Hipkins said.

“There’s been a lot of tinkering around the edges since Tomorrrow’s Schools was introduced, which has moved the governance, management and administration of schools further and further away from what it aimed to achieve. 

“This broad-based review gives schools, students and communities the opportunity to take part in drawing the blueprint for how schools should be organised from here on.

“It will look at how we can better support equity and inclusion for all children throughout their schooling, what changes are needed to support their educational success, and at the fitness of our school system to equip all our students for a rapidly changing world.

“The review will consider how schools might interact differently with their communities, with other schools, with employers, and with other government organisations, to serve the best interests of our young people.”       

An independent five-to-seven person taskforce will be appointed in April, which will consult widely before reporting back in November this year.

“The review is part of the Government’s championing of a high quality public education system,” Mr Hipkins said.

“We believe that every child deserves the opportunity to be the best they can be, regardless of where they live, or their personal circumstances. And we want to ensure our schools deliver that opportunity for all New Zealanders.

 “A key priority is for our schooling system will be to be more responsive to the needs of Māori and Pasifika children and those children needing learning support for whom the education system has not delivered in the past,” Mr Hipkins said.

The review will also consider the roles of the Ministry of Education, Education Review Office, New Zealand Qualifications Authority, New Zealand School Trustees Association, and the Education Council in supporting schools.

The review of Tomorrow’s Schools is part of the Government’s education work programme, announced in February. The terms of reference for the review are available at

Government filibustering in Parliament

Accusations have been made (again) that the Government parties have been wasting time in Parliament, speaking on a bill that all parties supported. Labour denied that they were filibustering.

The Hansard transcript of the Education (Tertiary Education and Other Matters) Amendment Bill — In Committee shows that the following MPS spoke:


In Committee

Part 1 Amendments to principal Act relating to international and domestic school students

Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National): Thank you, Madam Chair. Look, obviously, this is a bill that has been developed by the previous National Government and much of it we support—in particular, a number of measures designed to strengthen the ability of the agencies responsible for maintaining the integrity of the system…

JAN TINETTI (Labour):  I’m delighted to have the opportunity here to talk to Part 1 of the Education (Tertiary Education and Other Matters) Amendment Bill. Part 1 deals with clauses 4A and 5 through to 8, and I’m particularly interested in talking to this part. I’ve got a few points that I want to make, and I do have a few questions that I would like to ask the Minister…

DENISE LEE (National—Maungakiekie): Thank you, Madam Chair. I appreciate the chance to take this call and speak to this particular bill. I’m going to speak and briefly touch on three matters here…

ERICA STANFORD (National—East Coast Bays): Thank you, Madam Chair. On the whole, this is a good piece of legislation introduced by the National Government…

MARJA LUBECK (Labour): It gives me great pleasure to speak to the Education (Tertiary Education and Other Matters) Amendment Bill. I took an earlier call, I think it was the second reading, talking about how this bill strengthens the education system, brings in more accountability, and also provides additional student protection.

Now, I had some notes prepared on Part 2 of the bill. Are we able to speak to Part 2 or is it just on Part 1?

The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Anne Tolley): No, we’re on Part 1 at the moment. We will come to Part 2, so there’s plenty of opportunity.

MARJA LUBECK: Right, right. OK. In that case, I’ll see if someone else wants to seek the call on Part 1.

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): Thank you very much, Madam Chair. I’m very happy to answer some of the questions that have been raised on Part 1 of the bill so far. So the question that was raised by Jan Tinetti—…

Hon CLARE CURRAN (Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media): Thank you, Madam Chair. Can I take a short call on Part 1 of this bill regarding the schools’ management of international student misconduct. Can I thank the Minister in the chair for the clarification around the contract of enrolment and misconduct. My question to the Minister in the chair goes alongside that…

Hon DAMIEN OCONNOR (Minister of Agriculture): Thank you very much, Madam Chair Tolley. The point I’d like to raise, in the brief speech that I’ll give tonight, is the one I guess of equity or discrimination. We’re talking about foreign students here…

Hon TRACEY MARTIN (Associate Minister of Education): Kia ora, Madam Chair Tolley. Thank you very much. Just to take a call on the Education Amendment Bill. Just to the speaker who resumed his seat—we don’t have foreign students any more. We have international students. Just so you know—”foreign” is a very old-fashioned word, associated with colonialism, and now we have international students…

JAMI-LEE ROSS (Senior Whip—National): I move, That the question be now put.

TAMATI COFFEY (Labour—Waiariki): Thank you, Madam—

Hon Louise Upston: I raise a point of order, Madam Chairperson. I’m just interested in terms of the closure motion that my colleague Jami-Lee Ross has just put forward. It seems that speakers opposite are struggling with your repeated direction around clause 1, and then to have a speaker speaking completely on the wrong bill seems to indicate that there are actually insufficient things for them to debate. And so I would seek your guidance, Madam Chair, on the decision not to accept a closure motion.

Hon Tracey Martin: Speaking to the point of order.

The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Anne Tolley): I don’t need any help, thank you. It is entirely in the hands of the chair to make those decisions. I will say to the Government that it is getting repetitive, but I decided not to accept the closure motion at this stage. Tamati Coffey’s been seeking the call for quite some time, and Ministers have stood ahead of him, which means they have to get the call, so I am now giving him the call.

TAMATI COFFEY: Thank you, Madam Chair. I’m happy to take a very short call on this particular bill.

Alastair Scott: Something new. Add something new and fresh.

TAMATI COFFEY: You want something new? I’ll give you something new. How about this: I think that it’s, first of all, timely that we’re talking about this. I just saw three toga-wearing students outside, and, as students all around the country are preparing for their first week of university, I think this is very appropriate that we’re debating this.

Let’s talk about Part 1, because the part that I’m interested in is the use of allowing wānanga to apply to use the protected term. This has been a debate that I’ve had in my electorate for quite some time—about the ability for wānanga to apply to be called universities, basically.

The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Anne Tolley): I’m sorry to interrupt the member, but the member is speaking to Part 2 of the bill at the moment, and we’re still on Part 1.


The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Anne Tolley): So you could continue, if you speak to Part 1—[Interruption] I don’t need any help, thank you—or else you can sit down and allow another speaker, and seek the call for Part 2.

TAMATI COFFEY: I’ll allow another speaker.

JAMI-LEE ROSS (Senior Whip—National): I move, That the question be now put.

Motion agreed to.

Part 1 agreed to.

Part 2 Amendments to principal Act and other enactment relating to tertiary education

TAMATI COFFEY (Labour—Waiariki): Well, Madam Chairperson, thank you for that. Timing is everything, and mine was just off. But that’s OK.

Look, I wanted to stand and have the discussion about wānanga…

Hon NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central): I’m very pleased to take a call on this committee stage of the legislation. Firstly, can I just acknowledge my colleague the Hon Paul Goldsmith, who couldn’t be here this evening. But he has tabled Supplementary Order Paper (SOP) 17, which is about amending a particular section that is in Part 2, and I will be very focused in my comments to talk to Part 2, but I’m just going to weave in a few broader themes into those clauses as well…

Hon TRACEY MARTIN (Associate Minister of Education): Kia ora, Madam Chair Tolley. Thank you very much. I rise to speak on Part 2 of the Education (Tertiary Education and Other Matters) Amendment Bill, and I recognise the bill, because I happened to be on the hard-working select committee that discussed these items…

DENISE LEE (National—Maungakiekie): Thank you, Madam Chair Tolley—part two of my attempt to speak on Part 2. I’d like to touch on three matters…

Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Minister for Māori Development): Thank you, Madam Chair Tolley. I’ve been waiting all night to take a call on this great bill, and I want to offer a contribution…

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): Thank you, Madam Chair Tolley. I’d like to reply to a couple of the points that have been raised so far…

JAMIE STRANGE (Labour): Thank you, Madam Chair Tolley. I appreciate the opportunity…

MARAMA DAVIDSON (Green): Madam Chair Tolley, thank you very much. I wanted to pick up on a short call…

MARJA LUBECK (Labour): Thank you, Madam Chair Tolley.

Andrew Bayly: Oh, good.

MARJA LUBECK: I know, my third time—third time lucky, they say, so I’ll give it another crack…

Hon TRACEY MARTIN (Associate Minister of Education): Kia ora, Madam Chair Williams. Thank you very much. I did contribute earlier, but I actually want to just raise a couple of other areas…

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): Thank you, Madam Chair Williams. I just want to comment briefly on “Meetings of councils” in clause 27, which the Hon Tracey Martin just mentioned…

JO LUXTON (Labour): Thank you, Madam Chair Williams. I’m pleased to have the opportunity to speak on this bill…

Dr DUNCAN WEBB (Labour—Christchurch Central): Thank you, Madam Chair. I have a number of questions for the Minister in respect of this amendment Act…

Hon JENNY SALESA (Associate Minister of Education): Madam Chair, thank you so much for this opportunity to speak…

SIMEON BROWN (National—Pakuranga): Thank you very much, Madam Chair Williams. It’s a pleasure to take a very, very quick call on the Education (Tertiary Education and Other Matters) Amendment Bill in its committee stage. I’ve got a question for the Minister: why are we here extending the debate on a bill that we all agree on? We all agree on this bill, and there are Ministers down here in the Chamber asking other Ministers minor questions like “What is the definition of the term ‘university’?” Well, I really want to know what the definition of the term “university” is. Or the other comment was “when and if we pass this bill”. Well, we are ready and we are willing to pass this bill and get on with it.

So that’s a very quick call. I don’t want to take up the committee’s time, but let’s just get on and pass this bill. Thank you.

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): I’m very happy to respond to that brief contribution from Simeon Brown, asking why we are here discussing this particular bill. That’s because that’s our job. It’s what the Parliament does. We scrutinise legislation in this House, and the fact that we have the largest and laziest Opposition New Zealand has ever seen should not detract from the fact that the Parliament still has a job of scrutinising the legislation that is being put before it…

Hon TIM MACINDOE (National—Hamilton West): I move, That the question be now put.

The CHAIRPERSON (Poto Williams): Before I take another call I just want to say that I think that we haven’t been going for an hour yet. I’m still encouraged by the breadth of the debate. So I won’t be taking a closure motion at this stage.

Hon TIM MACINDOE (National—Hamilton West): I raise a point of order, Madam Chairperson. Can I just seek your explanation? Are you saying that it is the time of the debate or the quality and the relevance of the debate? Because if it’s the latter, we’ve heard nothing of any relevance whatsoever.

The CHAIRPERSON (Poto Williams): Thank you. Part 2 of this bill is actually the substantial part of the bill. So I’m prepared to listen to more debate on Part 2.

JAMIE STRANGE (Labour): Madam Chair, thank you for the opportunity to speak, which I assure the member will be a quality presentation. So the member can take notes if the member so wants to…

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): I’ll just take a very brief contribution in response to that matter…

Dr DEBORAH RUSSELL (Labour—New Lynn): The naming of tertiary institutions is a difficult matter, and it isn’t just one of your holiday games. You may think at first I’m as mad as a hatter when I tell you a tertiary institution must have three different names…

Hon JACQUI DEAN (National—Waitaki): I move, That the question be now put.

Motion agreed to.

And it went on from there…

Hipkins’ rush to change education

Chris Hipkins was critical of the last Government’s ideological approach to education policy, but he seems to be trying to  fast track his education ideology.

The incoming government rushed in one education policy:

  • Make the first year of tertiary education or training fees free from January 1, 2018.

They were under pressure to do it in time for the new university year, and there has been criticism this week of unintended consequences: ‘Grossly inequitable’ fees-free warning from universities

Universities have warned fees-free study could push some students to apply for courses they are unlikely to pass.

Tension between the sector and the Labour-led Government over the flagship scheme is revealed in letters sent to Education Minister Chris Hipkins, now released to the Heraldunder the Official Information Act.

They include a warning universities will be forced to ask for hundreds of thousands of dollars of extra funding to help meet an administrative “burden” accompanying the policy.

Hipkins has hit back – flatly rejecting any request for cash and saying the vast bulk of administration is done by the Tertiary Education Commission.

University of Auckland vice-chancellor Stuart McCutcheon wrote to Hipkins in December, in his capacity as chair of Universities NZ, the body that represents all eight universities, to warn of “a most unfortunate and no doubt unintended anomaly” of the fees-free policy.

And Hipkins has been criticised with his rush to scrap Partnership Schools, despite contracts being in place. It has been controversial within Labour with some Maori MPs supporting some Partnership Schools – before the election not Associate Minister of Education Kelvin threatened to resign if the schools were forced to close.

And from Stuff: Entire charter schools authorisation board to step down in protest

The entire board of trustees for New Zealand charter schools has announced it will step down, citing a lack of faith in the Government’s decision to abolish the model.

Hipkins has indicated a preference to close New Zealand’s 17 charter schools in their current form.

Partnership Schools/Kura Hourua board chair Catherine Isaac said she had advised Minister of Education Chris Hipkins the board would retire at the end of its current term on March 1.

Issac said the board’s members were committed to innovative education for “disadvantaged or marginalised children who are failing in the regular state school system” and believed the Government was not taking those children’s interests into account.

“We have made this decision because we do not wish to contribute to dismantling an initiative which we know is achieving so much for students, and for which there is great demand.”

Hipkins said Isaac told him about the board’s plans last month. He rejected claims the Government had neglected to consider students’ interests.

“We want minimum disruption for the students and are hopeful the outcomes will be positive.”

There are higher than normal risks when new systems are hurriedly implemented without time for consultation.

ODT editorial: The changing face of education

Education Minister Chris Hipkins seems determined to change the face of New Zealand education at every level, convinced he and his teacher union backers have the answers to questions yet to be asked.

Hot on the heels of his determination to rid New Zealand of the private charter schools, despite two of his Maori MP colleagues having ties to charter schools, Mr Hipkins has announced an ‘‘ambitious’’ three-year work programme for education.

Mr Hipkins says New Zealand has an education system to be proud of but as the way we work and live continues to rapidly change, so, too, do the demands on our education system.

Ministers should always be looking at changing how we do education in a rapidly changing world.

Over the next three years, it is possible to make significant progress in changing the education system to provide for all New Zealanders, he says.

The work programme includes the NCEA review, a review of Tomorrow’s Schools, developing a future-focused education workforce strategy, a continuous focus on raising achievement for Maori and Pasifika learners, an action plan for learning support, an early learning strategic plan and a comprehensive review of school property.

That’s a lot to try and do in three years.

New Zealand is not training the skilled tradespeople it needs to build Labour’s 10,000 houses a year or even plant New Zealand First’s billion trees, something it needs to do urgently.

However, the complete overhaul of the education system seems too much too soon. The review also includes a programme of change for vocational education, a full review of the Performance Based Research Fund and better support for the research aspirations of the tertiary sector.

There has been no indication from Mr Hipkins on the fate of elected boards of trustees but reports from Wellington indicate they will be disbanded under the review.

That would be a major change – and there is no sign of what might replace them.

Boards of trustees have a heavy workload but they do give parents direct representation on how their school operates. A return to central control of schools from an education authority or ministry will be a step backwards in democracy.

It is time for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Mr Hipkins to start becoming more open with their plans for education. Establishing any government task force inevitably means reaching a conclusion already formulated at the highest level.

If there is a plan, now is the time to reveal it. Rushing headlong into change just because Mr Hipkins is ideologically opposed to something a previous government implemented, is not the way to operate when it comes to education.

Hipkins obviously has an agenda, but is communicating poorly – and that may be deliberate.

Studies abound into why parts of the education system are failing. Perhaps it is time to start adopting some of the many recommendations that will already be floating around various departmental offices.

Labour has always marketed itself as a party of inclusion across race, age, gender and identity. The changes being proposed for education do not feel that way.

It will be far better for Mr Hipkins to concentrate on one significant project, allow open and uncensored feedback, see it through completely, measure its success, and move on carefully.

But Hipkins appears to be on a mission and does not seem to care for alternate views or genuine causes for concern.


Major education ‘reform’ plan to be announced today

The Government is announcing ” a complete overhaul of the education system from early childhood right through to post-secondary schooling” today. It is commonly thought that Labour works closely with and for teacher unions, so they will presumably be largely behind the proposals.

Stuff: Convincing parents it’s time for substantial education reform won’t prove easy

The Government is on the brink of its biggest test and the measure of success will be proving educational reform on a scale not seen in almost three decades isn’t just change for change’s sake.

Schools are no strangers to policy changes – as the world evolves, it’s up to principals, teachers and school communities to keep up with the sometimes frightening pace of things like technology.

But on Wednesday Education Minister Chris Hipkins, who arguably already has the worst job in politics, will lay out his plan for a complete overhaul of the education system from early childhood right through to post-secondary schooling.

Since 2002 there’s been the introduction of NCEA and National Standards, a proposal to scrap the way schools are funded through deciles, the closure of Christchurch schools and a u-turn on policy to increase class sizes.

The Tomorrow’s Schools model, which was introduced under then-Prime Minister and Education Minister David Lange in 1989 was educational reform that had never been seen before.

Under Hipkins, Tomorrow’s Schools look set to be Yesterday’s Schools when he announces a three-year work programme to review the entire system.

At least there are some benefits in teacher unions and groups being willing to work with the Government in looking for improvements in our education systems, in contrast to the last nine years where teacher groups (and Hipkins) have strenuously fought National attempts.

But it doesn’t stop there – it’s understood the review will also lead to change in the early childhood area, polytechs and school property.

While parents will welcome more state-of-the-art classrooms for their children, stomaching so much change in other areas could be a scrap the Government has underestimated.

Parents, students and teachers won’t mind something new if it’s better than what they had before but Labour is already fighting off attacks of “ideology-driven policy” when it comes to scrapping National Standards.

Hipkins has criticised the last Government over pursuing ‘ideological’ reforms, but is being criticised of the same thing (albeit different ideologies).

Complaint to Auditor General over Partnership Schools

The Opposition is keeping up the pressure on the Government, in particular on Minister of Education Chris Hipkins, over proposed legislation to scrap Partnership Schools.

National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye has sent a complaint to the Auditor General “outlining potential issues to be investigated regarding the Government’s handling of the impending potential closure of partnership schools”.

Complaint to Auditor-General regarding partnership schools

National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye has today sent a letter to the Auditor-General outlining potential issues to be investigated regarding the Government’s handling of the impending potential closure of partnership schools.

“I want to stress that I while I believe there are serious grounds for the Auditor-General to investigate, it will be up to the Auditor-General to determine if there have been any issues with the process regarding partnership schools and any potential perceived conflicts of interest,” Ms Kaye says.

“It is important that all of the evidence and paperwork is made available and transparent before any conclusions are reached.

“The first area of complaint relates to Minister Hipkins’ and the Ministry of Education’s process around the discussions with partnership schools about their futures.

“The Minister has made several unfortunate comments that indicate he has a closed mind and there is potential evidence that the schools have undue pressure being put on them to terminate their contracts.

“I believe the Minister’s and the Ministry’s process is fundamentally flawed and there is public interest in investigating it.

“The second area of complaint relates to perceived conflicts of interest, or failure of Ministers to manage or declare conflicts of interest. This is set out in the letter I have sent to the Auditor-General.

“Given the serious nature of the letter, I hope to meet with the Auditor-General in the next couple of weeks.”

English versus Ardern on Partnership Schools

Soon departing Leader of the Opposition Bill English questioned Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern about Partnership Schools yesterday.

1. Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all of her Government’s policies?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister):Yes.

Rt Hon Bill English: In light of her statement that, “we want to say hand on heart we want to be a society judged on how we look after our vulnerable”, is she aware that many of the children in partnership schools are vulnerable, so why is she moving to close those schools?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I said yesterday, we are working as closely as we can with those schools to transition them, to make sure that those children have the best quality education, and that includes making sure they have registered teachers and they’re being taught the curriculum.

Rt Hon Bill English: When the Prime Minister uses the word “transition”, is she aware that the legislation her Government introduces certainly closes the partnership schools—it makes their closure absolutely certain because legislation will be passed to achieve it—but there is no guarantee those schools will be able to reopen?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: It ends the model. It stops future contracts. But it still allows this Government to negotiate with those schools to try and keep them open if they are willing to have registered teachers and to teach the curriculum.

Rt Hon Bill English: What guarantee can she give to the students and parents of the partnership schools, which she is legislating to close, that they will be allowed to reopen with some other status?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As we’ve said, we’re stopping any opening in the future. With those who are currently operating, we’ve said we want to work constructively with them. There is the ability for them to operate as special character schools or even, perhaps, as alternative education operators and providers, and that’s the work that the Ministry of Education is undertaking with them, as we speak. What I would like to give them is the assurance that we are working diligently on this. I know that some of the rhetoric coming from the Opposition isn’t helping with their security, but that’s what we’re doing.

Rt Hon Bill English: Can I ask the question again. What guarantee can the Prime Minister give that a partnership school will be able to reopen, a guarantee that is necessary for the peace of mind of the students, and the parents, who attend those schools and may not be familiar with the legal niceties she’s referring to?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As we’ve said, I can assure those parents, if the school in which their child is attending is willing to have registered teachers to teach to the curriculum and to operate with the same kind of funding parameters, generally speaking, as State schools, then that is exactly what we are seeking from those schools. Ultimately, those parents will want to probably have those same assurances from those current providers because a lot of this decision sits in their hands too.

Rt Hon Bill English: Is it now the case that if the schools close, it’s the schools’ fault not the Government’s and that she won’t actually offer a guarantee that schools will be able to reopen and, therefore, parents and students should be told the truth now rather than be misled through months of complex legal negotiations?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: If these schools have at their heart the best education for their kids, then I imagine they should be able to transition.

Hon Chris Hipkins: Is the Prime Minister aware that existing partnership schools are being urged to close rather than negotiate with the Ministry of Education in good faith, and that that urging is coming from Opposition members of Parliament?

Mr SPEAKER: No, no. I’m going to disallow that supplementary. I think the Leader of the House has a special standard, and he’s going to stick with it.

Rt Hon Bill English: Will the Prime Minister take the opportunity to visit Pacific Advance Senior School, as I did on Monday, talk to the staff and the students, hear the stories of the way that school has changed the lives of those 13-, 14-year-old girls, and 16-, 17-year-old boys, of whom, as the Government says, there’s only 1,000, so it won’t matter much—

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Rt Hon Bill English: Will she visit a school, look them in the eye, hear the stories, and reassure them that the Government guarantees the continuation of that school?

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! I am going to let the Prime Minister answer it, but I am also going to remind the father of the House that in the last couple of weeks I’d like him to set a very good example, which involves succinct questions, and just to warn people, especially sitting very close to him, if they ask one that long, it will be ruled out.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: That assumes that I haven’t met and spoken to students from charter schools and those who teach there before—I have. In fact, just a few weeks ago, I had a conversation with someone who works in a charter school where they said they were absolutely confident that because they have registered teachers and teach the curriculum, they could transition and will.

Rt Hon Bill English: Is the Prime Minister aware that as part of this shambles, education officials told a select committee this morning that the closures could cost up to $15 million?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, the constant framing from the Opposition around closures when this Government is working—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: It’s your law. It’s your bill.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Let me explain to Mr Smith, if he listens closely: we will not enter into any future contracts. We will negotiate with existing schools to try and transition them. It is that side of the House that is scaremongering and trying to cost the taxpayer money.

Rt Hon Bill English: So is the Prime Minister unaware, first, that her legislation guarantees the closure—legislates the closure—of the schools and, secondly, that the Government will have contractual obligations of up to a million dollars per school if the schools are closed as partnership schools, regardless of the nature of a transition?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I know that the member understands this. We’re ending the model. That doesn’t stop the ability of a school to start operating as a school of special character.

Hon Nikki Kaye: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

David Seymour: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: A point—was Nikki Kaye’s a point of order or a question?

Hon Nikki Kaye: A point of order. The Prime Minister did not answer the question by the Leader of the Opposition. There were twofold points there, and she should answer the question.

Mr SPEAKER: I think she addressed the question, which is the requirement.

David Seymour: I seek your guidance: at what point—

Mr SPEAKER: No. The member will sit down. It’s not the Speaker’s role to do tutorials here; I’m willing to give the member one in my office later.

David Seymour: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I’m not seeking your guidance. I want to know: at what point is the Prime Minister misleading the House when she introduces legislation—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat, and he’s lost his supplementaries for this week. He knows well that to accuse a member of misleading the House in the House in that manner is disorderly. If he’s got any supplementaries left for this week, he doesn’t anymore.

Of note is Chris Hipkins adding a question that was disallowed. He had an opportunity to push his case for his actions as Minister of Education  on Partnership Schools in the General Debate that followed, but he chose to waste Parliament’s time with pettiness instead – see Petty Parliament