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.

Kaye versus Davis on Partnership Schools

It’s fair to say that Kelvin Davis has been unimpressive as Labour’s deputy leader. He is also in an awkward position over Partnership Schools, last year having threatened to resign if they are closed. Current Government policy seems to be to shut them down.

Davis was questioned by Nikki Kaye in Parliament today in his role as Associate Minister of Education (Māori Education).

@GwynnCompton tweeted:

Wow! just demonstrated in the House that Kelvin Davis may have given preferential treatment to Partnership Schools he’s connected to, and the cold shoulder to those he’s not. Needs to be stood down immediately by pending an investigation.

Not only should Davis had recused himself from any dealings with He Puna Marama Trust due to his role as Associate Education Minister, but he then knowingly ignored another Partnership School in his electorate!

3. Hon NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central) to the Associate Minister of Education (Māori Education): What discussions and visits has he had with schools to discuss Māori education and any opportunities for improved achievement?

Hon KELVIN DAVIS (Associate Minister of Education): I’ve visited schools and have had many discussions as both Associate Minister of Education and as the local MP for Te Tai Tokerau. We are working on ways to improve achievement, including removing national standards and increasing the supply of Māori and Te Reo teachers.

Hon Nikki Kaye: Has he made any undertakings to a partnership school helping young Māori that he would ensure that their school would be approved as a special character school?

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: No.

Hon Nikki Kaye: When he said in relation to a discussion about Māori education, “I’ve been working closely with He Puna Marama Trust, and the CEO and the senior management there and we’re very confident that together we’ll make sure this transition happens very easily with very little fuss.”, was he speaking to this partnership school in his capacity as a Minister?

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: No. And when I was speaking to them, I talked them through the information that the Minister has made publicly available to allay the fears of the scaremongering and misinformation that the Opposition has been bandying around.

Hon Nikki Kaye: When he said yesterday in Parliament in relation to Māori education, “I’ve had communications with some current charter schools.”, has he had any communications with partnership schools that are not in his electorate; if so, which ones?

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: No.

Hon Nikki Kaye: Can he confirm that when he said yesterday that he’d had discussions with charter schools in his electorate that he has given preferential treatment to some partnership schools in his electorate but the cold shoulder to others?

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: The premise is just wrong.

Hon Nikki Kaye: Isn’t it true that he made himself available to discuss education impacting young Māori with He Puna Mārama, but when Villa Education Trust, in his electorate, sent him 50 pieces of correspondence, the only thing they got back was being asked to be taken off their mailing list?

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: I have absolutely no idea what the member is talking about.

Hon Tracey Martin: Can the Minister confirm, or is he aware of, other Associate Ministers of Education who have had interaction with the sponsors of Villa schools or conversations with chief executives of charter schools such as Vanguard—among the other Associate Ministers of Education?

Mr SPEAKER: No, that’s actually not a matter that is the Minister’s responsibility.

Later in the afternoon the Education Amendment act was debated. First up Minister of Education Chris Hipkins referred to Partnership Schools:

The bill provides for the removal of charter schools from the New Zealand education system. This fulfils a clear commitment made by Labour, by New Zealand First, and by the Green Party from the moment the charter school model was first mooted.

The bill does include transitional provisions, which means that the repeal of this legislation will not affect existing charter schools that are currently in operation. This bill has no impact on them at all. In parallel with this legislative process, we are having conversations with those existing charter schools about how they might come into the public education system, and there are a range of options for that on the table.

I think it’s unfortunate that some members of this House have been encouraging schools not to take part in that negotiation process. They would prefer that those schools closed rather than continued to educate and people. They would rather turn those young people into—well, make them into—footballs for their political purposes rather than acting in the best interests of those young New Zealanders.

I am aware, from the feedback that I’ve had so far, that the operators of the existing charter schools have largely ignored those urgings from the members opposite and are engaging in good faith about how they can continue to deliver education for young New Zealanders, and I encourage them to keep doing that. When we said that we were going to negotiate with them in good faith, that is exactly what we meant, and we are going to live up to that commitment.

Nikki Kaye in response:

Look, the National Party is opposing this bill, and we’re opposing it for a range of reasons. I think my message to the Government is they may be quite surprised at how many people end up submitting on this bill. The number of parents that are writing to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Education regarding the removal of national standards is phenomenal.

I’ve given speeches in this House and, as I said before, I protested on the weekend. I know that there are members opposite, including Kelvin Davis, who threatened to resign if these partnership schools were closed. The reality is—here are the facts.

Kelvin Davis:

So when they’re all open next year, what are you going to do?

Nikki Kay:

The facts are that what this legislation and what the ministry is doing—and they confirmed this at select committee so members can yell all they want, but they actually can’t deny these facts—is that the partnership schools are being given these options: mutually terminate, terminate, or see out your contract. The model is gone. That means that those partnership schools close.

Davis has given a speech in response:

Hon KELVIN DAVIS (Associate Minister of Education): Tēnā koe, Madam Assistant Speaker. Well, that was a waste of breath. The member may as well have not even started speaking.

…Then we get to charter schools themselves, and the model is going. Now I remember in the election campaign, and it’s well documented, that I said that I would resign if any of those schools—the two schools up in the far north—were closed. Now I could say that as the member of Parliament for Te Tai Tokerau, safe in the knowledge—with my educational background—that there were alternatives that would be able to be implemented, because we can close the model but the schools don’t have to close.

Now, here’s the test. All those people over there who are saying I need to resign—

David Seymour: You do.

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: —and I’ll take David Seymour there—if those schools’ doors are open on day one of next year, if the same teachers are teaching in that school, if those same children are there wearing the same uniforms, will that member resign? Will any of these members resign if the school is still operating, albeit under a different model?

Erica Stanford: What about the other charter schools in your electorate?

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: No, it won’t be a charter school. Will that member over there who’s spouting off—will she resign? Yes or no? Put up or shut up. Put up or shut up. You don’t have any moral mandate—

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Poto Williams): Order! Order!

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: —to sit there and bellow your—

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Poto Williams): Order! Order! Do not bring the Speaker into the debate.

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: My apologies, Madam Assistant Speaker. But those people over there do not have any moral mandate to call for my resignation if they’re not prepared to resign for themselves if those schools—the doors are open, the same teachers are there, and the same children are sitting in front of them. They—silence now, isn’t there? Silence now.

Erica Stanford: Go to Vanguard.

David Seymour: Point of order, Madam Speaker.

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: So—oh, “Go to Vanguard.”

Erica Stanford: Why won’t you? You’ve never been.

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: No, I haven’t been, and why would I go to a school where I don’t support the model? There you go.

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Poto Williams): Order! I apologise—point of order, David Seymour.

David Seymour: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I apologise for interrupting the member’s speech, but I just wanted him to know that if he’s happy to yield some time, I’ll happily answer the question.

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Poto Williams): That’s not a valid point of order.

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: OK, so there’s been—

Hon David Bennett: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I’d just like to confirm that I heard the Minister say he would not go to a school that he did not like the model of. Is that true?

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Poto Williams): That’s not a valid point of order. Please sit down.

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. Look, there are hundreds of schools across the Tai Tokerau, and what the members over there forget is that when you are a Māori member of Parliament in an electorate seat—not only do I have my electorate but in the Tai Tokerau there’s 10 other electorates. If they think it’s a hard job getting around the schools in their electorate, well, then, they need to realise that it’s actually 10 times harder for a member of Parliament in a Māori electorate.

But they’re saying, why don’t I go and visit Vanguard Military School. Look, I’ve had my Associate Minister delegation since 5 December. Since 5 December, there were about 10 school days towards the end of the year. Now anybody who has any knowledge of the education system knows it’s not a good idea for some boffin from Wellington to go to a school at the end of the year, because that’s when you’re having teacher-parent interviews, that’s when the teachers are doing reports, and that’s when the school production’s on. Those people over there don’t understand those pressures because they have never ever been in the education system. Now, they’re saying, “Oh, why haven’t I gone to the three”, or whatever number of fingers they’re holding up. They forget that there are hundreds of schools in my electorate, because it’s 10 times the size of their electorate.

Then there’s been all the misinformation. There’s the scaremongering, there’s the misinformation, and there’s members going around and ringing up saying, “The sky’s going to fall in if these schools close.” Look, there’s nothing to stop those same schools delivering what they are delivering now. It’s just a different model, and that’s really what they’re scared about. They’re scared that these schools are going to be successful despite the fact that they won’t be called charter schools. That’s what they’re scared of. They’re scared of our success.

Now we need to look at what the difference is. Oh no—actually, no, sorry. I’m just going to go through some of the propaganda that’s been promulgated in the media and supported by these guys. I see in today’s paper that the Villa school was complaining about “Davis’ visits to another charter school.” Sorry, since I’ve been the Associate Minister, I haven’t visited any other charter schools. So that’s fallacy number one.

Then it says that “Davis had been in negotiations with”—I haven’t been in negotiations. All I did when they rang me up was take them through the information that the excellent Minister of Education has proactively released and talked them through it, and as soon as you talk them through that information, then all their concerns sort of dim down and die away because they’re actually getting the facts.

But, of course, they want to make out like there’s some big conspiracy—that there’s favouritism amongst the charter schools. Well, actually, I’ve reached out to the Villa Education Trust and I got in touch with their academic manager last night, and I said, “Look, give your boss”—whatever his name is—”my phone number. He can ring my office.”, but, no, there’s been no contact. Although I asked him to give my office a ring, there’s been no contact. Now I think that that person is, again, scared that they can be successful without the charter school model. That’s what their real fear is. That’s what their real fear is. They’re buying into the misinformation and the scaremongering of the members opposite, and then they are coming up themselves—

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Poto Williams): I apologise to the member. His time has expired.

Charter school clash between Labour’s education and Maori interests

As Labour’s education spokesperson last term Chris Hipkins always seemed to represent the education unions. They and he have always opposed the Partnership Schools (charter schools) championed by ACT and introduced by the National led government.  But this has clashed with Labour’s Maori constituency who like the educational alternative charter schools have given them.

Hipkins always signalled that a Labour government would scrap the charter schools, but that didn’t go down well with Labour’s Maori MPs. From 2015:

And last July:

Davis threatens to resign if charter schools closed

Labour MP Kelvin Davis has said he would resign if two Northland partnership schools (the media persist in calling them charter schools) were closed down, but he would be happy if they remained but were renamed.

But this week (Stuff): Government moves to scrap national standards and charter schools

The Government has introduced a bill to scrap national standards and charter schools in New Zealand.

However, charter school operators wanting to be involved in education could apply to establish another form of school, such as a designated character school, Education Minister Chris Hipkins said.

The new legislation was introduced by Hipkins on Thursday, who said it was backed by the vast majority of the education sector.

“Both National Standards and charter schools were driven by ideology rather than evidence. Both were rejected by the vast majority of the education sector. The Government’s strong view is that there is no place for them in the New Zealand education system.”

And the opposition to charter schools of Hipkins and the education unions also seems driven by ideology.

ODT editorial: Ideology-driven education changes continue

Education Minister Chris Hipkins made his intentions about the future of New Zealand’s education system very clear before the election. And he is now starting to deliver on his promises.

The changes, although well signalled, are said to have caught some of his opponents unaware.

At the top of the list is Mr Hipkins’ requirement for private charter schools to change direction, quickly.

Mr Hipkins is quick to condemn the National and Act charter schools, despite evidence non-achieving pupils were reaching levels of achievement previously unheard of. It seems wrong for Mr Hipkins to complain about ideology-driven decisions when, clearly, his dislike of the charter schools is a major reason he is demanding changes.

The preferred option for Mr Hipkins is to explore early termination of contracts by mutual agreement. Operators wanting to be involved in education can apply to the minister to establish another form of school, such as a designated character school.

Strong concerns and resistance has already been expressed by some partnership school operators – who tend to be private trusts rather than money grubbing businesses that opponents of charter schools claim.

As part of the process, applications will need to meet the relevant and so-far unspecified requirements.

It sounds like Hipkins is rushing into this.

The establishment of charter schools gave parents the right to decide how their child was to be educated. Unions criticised the amount of money used for establishing the schools, ignoring the fact it was much less than to establish a state school.

A lot of criticism has been wrong, if not deliberately misleading.

And the Opposition has waded into it: Bill English attacks Labour ministers as ‘the worst kind’

Opposition leader Bill English has lashed out at Government ministers Kelvin Davis and Willie Jackson and their stances on charter schools, accusing them of being “the worst type of politician” by turning their backs on the pupils they used to serve.

Davis, who is Labour’s deputy leader, said last year that he would resign if the charter schools Te Kura Hourua O Whangārei and Te Kāpehu Whetū in Northland closed down.

Labour MP and Employment Minister Willie Jackson has also shown support for charter schools. He used to run the Manukau Urban Māori Authority (Muma), which sponsors Te Kura Māori o Waatea in South Auckland and last year successfully applied to open a second charter school.

English lashed out at the ministers today, saying the decision to close the door on charter schools was “nasty and vindictive, and the victims will be the kids”.

“The people in those schools will be very disappointed to find that Willie Jackson and Kelvin Davis didn’t mean a word of it. Despite the fact they went to set up the schools, now they’ve become politicians of the worst sort – turning their backs on the people they used to serve, and worst than that, shutting down the schools they founded.

“For a Government that says that children are at the heart of everything they’re doing, the Prime Minister has not been able to give one reason why it’s good for those kids to have their school closed. It’s a disgrace.”

He took a swipe at the Prime Minister’s Waitangi Day barbecue.

“This is complete contradiction to everything the Prime Minister has said. That’s why she won’t go to these schools. It’s all very fine to make a show of cooking sausages for people on Waitangi Day.

Ardern spoke fine words about a new era in government relationships with Maori at Waitangi, so the timing of Hipkins rush to close charter schools is awkward.

“I challenge her to go to the schools and cook some sausages for the kids, and tell them, ‘It’s the last one, because I’m going to close the school’.”

Hipkins has refused to visit a charter school.

One charter school operator said that a scheduled meeting with the Ministry of Education next week may be pointless now that Hipkins has acted before consultation.

Davis declined interviews today and would not be drawn on his previous promise to resign if the schools closed.

In a statement, he urged the two Northland charter schools to transition into the state school system.

​”If they want to continue delivering kaupapa Māori education, they can – as a special character school.”

Davis, Jackson and Heeni will be under pressure to represent the interests of their Maori constituents – which could clash with Hipkins representing the interests of the teacher unions (I think he’s an electorate MP but his focus seems to be as a union lackey).

Davis threatens to resign if charter schools closed

Labour MP Kelvin Davis has said he would resign if two Northland partnership schools (the media persist in calling them charter schools) were closed down, but he would be happy if they remained but were renamed.

Labour have always strongly opposed the setting up of partnership schools.

RNZ: Davis threatens to resign if two charter schools closed down

Te Kura Hourua O Whangārei and Te Kāpehu Whetū are both charter schools in Northland.

The MP Kelvin Davis said Māori wanted a measure of autonomy over the education of their children.

“So if they were to close they would no longer exist, that would be a bottom line for me, so the fact is they can exist as special character schools, that’s the bottom line to me.”

Mr Davis said the Labour Party wouldn’t close schools that were performing well.

The partnership schools have also been strongly opposed by teacher unions, and Labour education spokesperson Chris Hipkins seems the be a virtual spokesperson for the unions.

Partnership schools are a contentious issue in Labour. High profile candidate Willie Jackson is involved with one in Auckland and supports them.

RNZ: Jackson at odds with Labour’s charter schools policy

Mr Jackson said he saw no reason why any of the charter schools operating now should be closed under a Labour government.

Mr Jackson also questioned why any charter school should be closed under a Labour government.

“I think just about all the schools are doing well, there’s been one or two hiccups, but there would be no reason, from my observation, to close any schools.

From May  Labour committed to anti-charter school policy – Little

The Labour Party remains opposed to charter schools despite new candidate Willie Jackson being involved in running one.

Labour Party leader Andrew Little told Morning Report that Labour’s policy was clear – it opposed charter schools. He said the funding model for the schools was a “con”.

“Willie Jackson is a Labour Party candidate and he signs up to Labour Party policy, that’s it, that’s a fact and that’s what has happened and is going to happen.”

He said he and Mr Jackson shared the same view – they wanted Māori children to succeed in schools.

“But we do have some bottom lines which is that the people who stand in front of our children need to be trained, registered teachers, and they’ve got to teach to the national curriculum.”

If Labour won the election it would continue to support Kura Kaupapa schools and special character schools, Mr Little said.

RNZ:  Labour MP backs Jackson on charter schools

New Labour Party list candidate Willie Jackson has received backing from a party Māori caucus member, Peeni Henare, who also says not all charter schools should be shut down under a Labour government.

Peeni Henare, the Labour MP for the Auckland Māori electorate of Tamaki Makaurau, was described as having made an error of judgement by Mr Little when he attended a fund-raiser at a charter school in 2015.

Mr Henare said Labour had been keen to see if some charter schools could continue to operate as special character schools.

“The bottom line is, why would you stop something that is working.”

He said there was some discussion within the caucus about this issue, but he did not believe it would cause any internal conflict.

The Maori MPs and candidates are speaking to their constituency in favour of the schools, while Little and Hipkins seem to be staunch in their and the teacher unions’ opposition.

Labour’s Maori MPs and candidates will be wanting to do maximise their vote as well as well as supporting schools that are potentially life changers for Maori pupils, which puts their party in an awkward position.

Partnership Schools:

Partnership Schools | Kura Hourua are an opportunity for communities, iwi, philanthropists and business organisations to partner with educators to raise achievement among Māori, Pasifika, students from low socio-economic backgrounds, and students with special education needs. The schools contract with the Government to meet specified, rigorous educational standards in return for freedom to innovate to do so.

Charter school threat from National MP

Alfred Ngaro is a normally low profile National list MP. He has recently been promoted to Cabinet as:

  • Minister for Pacific Peoples
  • Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector,
  • Associate Minister for Children
  • Associate Minister for Social Housing

Tim Murphy at Newsroom reports that Ngar has threatened that criticism of the Government during the election campaign could affect decisions made about establishing Partnership (Charter) schools. If accurate this is an insidious political threat.

Newsroom: People in glass houses start throwing election stones

The associate housing minister Alfred Ngaro led the charge in a presentation laced with political menace against those who question National’s performance on housing.

He even suggested Labour list candidate Willie Jackson could expect to lose Government support for his Manukau Urban Māori Authority interest in a second charter school, and its Whānau Ora contract should he “bag us” on the campaign trail.

“We are not happy about people taking with one hand and throwing with the other,” Ngaro said.

“Do not play politics with us. If you get up on the campaign trail and start bagging us, then all the things you are doing are off the table. They will not happen.”

The MP’s extraordinary blurring of party politics and government policy implementation came after he claimed to have told Jackson of the risks directly.  “I even went to see Willie Jackson at Waatea Marae.

“He has put another application for another Kura that is a Charter School. Their MUMA has taken a contract with Whānau Ora.”

If accurate this is an insidious political threat. Political campaigning should not be used to threaten outcomes of policy implementation. Decisions on whether partnership school applications are successful or not must be independent of political arguments.

Maori-Labour charter school differences

Members of the  Labour Party continue to openly air differences over partnership schools (charter schools).

This is an interesting situation for Labour, who last week were promoting the strength of Maori in the Maori electorates and on their party list, with predictions that a quarter of the MPS will be Maori after September’s election.

But Maori MPs and candidates are taking advantage of their growing strength and their importance to Labour, which is highlighting some differences, especially on partnership schools.

This started in the weekend on Q&A – see Labour to ‘rename’ Partnership Schools?

Yesterday at RNZ: Labour committed to anti-charter school policy – Little

The Labour Party remains opposed to charter schools despite new candidate Willie Jackson being involved in running one.

Mr Jackson, the new Labour list candidate and Māori campaign director has been a vocal support of the schools.

The Te Kura Māori o Waatea charter school in Auckland comes under the Manukau Urban Māori Authority, of which Mr Jackson is the chief executive, although RNZ understands he intends to step down from that role.

He spoke on TVNZ’s Q and A at the weekend about Labour’s charter school policy.

“Well, 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 … all of Labour believes in,” Mr Jackson said.

“So call the school whatever you like.”

Labour Party leader Andrew Little told Morning Report that Labour’s policy was clear – it opposed charter schools. He said the funding model for the schools was a “con”.

“Willie Jackson is a Labour Party candidate and he signs up to Labour Party policy, that’s it, that’s a fact and that’s what has happened and is going to happen.”

But Jackson responded: Jackson at odds with Labour’s charter schools policy

Mr Jackson said he saw no reason why any of the charter schools operating now should be closed under a Labour government.

Mr Jackson said that could be an option for the charter school, Te Kura O Waatea, that was run by the Manukau Urban Authority, which he heads.

“The area has seen clear benefits from the work that we do – so obviously I’m not going to sacrifice anything we do just for a seat in Parliament.”

Mr Jackson also questioned why any charter school should be closed under a Labour government.

“I think just about all the schools are doing well, there’s been one or two hiccups, but there would be no reason, from my observation, to close any schools.

But that was not viewed as a conflict to party policy by Mr Little.

“No I don’t think so, he’s expressed his view, but the Labour Party policy is the Labour Party policy – that’s what we’ll take to the election and that’s what we’re going to do.”

This is another example of Labour not sorting out obvious differences privately so it has become an open rift.

And this morning RNZ reports that Labour MP backs Jackson on charter schools

Labour MP Peeni Henare has backed fellow party member Willie Jackson’s call to dump the party policy of shutting down all charter schools.

Peeni Henare, the Labour MP for the Auckland Māori electorate of Tamaki Makaurau, was described as having made an error of judgement by Mr Little when he attended a fund-raiser at a charter school in 2015.

Mr Henare said Labour had been keen to see if some charter schools could continue to operate as special character schools.

“The bottom line is, why would you stop something that is working.”

He said there was some discussion within the caucus about this issue, but he did not believe it would cause any internal conflict.

This poses quite a challenge for Little and Labour. They have policy development processes that slowly work through their systems, but if they really want to be seen as a party that strongly supports Maori then they may have to give more attention to policies and positions that reward the Maori support they desperately need.

The Maori caucus and campaign team seems to be in a bit of a power play with the party.

This could turn out badly for Labour.

But it could jolt them out of their 9 year malaise and do them some good. A party that openly debates issues of importance isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as they end up being handled well.

Jackson’s up front and brash manner makes a refreshing change in a way, this has been badly lacking in Labour for a long time.

Labour versus Maori and Partnership Schools

When announcing two new partnership schools ACT’s David Seymour blasted ‘relentless negative attacks’ on the education alternatives.

…they had also found themselves “the constant focus of relentlessly negative attacks” from other sectors of the education system who seemed to believe that the education system was funded for them, rather than for kids.

“I don’t think it is entirely fair that our Partnership school sponsors have had to be their own PR agents while also setting up schools in quite heroic and successful ways but nevertheless that is part of the reality they face.”

The Labour Party has strongly opposed partnership schools (aka charter schools), led by education spokesperson Chris Hipkins who seems to be closely associated with teacher unions.

The two new partnership schools that will open next year both aim to provide education leading to employment for Maori children. If Labour was serious about representing their Maori constituency they would recognise the potential benefits of fixing parts of our current education system that are failing many Maori kids.

Hipkins:

HipkinsEducationStatement

From a closing address Hipkins gave to Te Ara Whakamana Pathways and Transitions Forum:

Our education system needs to prepare our young people for a world we can’t yet imagine. We might not be able to imagine ‘what’ they will be doing, but we can predict with a reasonable degree of certainly some of the attributes they’ll need if they are going to succeed.

Far from having a ‘job for life’ they can expect to chop and change careers on a regular basis. They will probably undertake a range of different types of work, some salaried, some contracted, some in a workplace, some from home.

Subject specific knowledge and technical skills will be a lot less important, transferable skills will be essential. Attitude and aptitude will be just as important, if not more important, than qualifications.

That poses enormous challenges for the education system and here, as around the world, we’re only just beginning to grapple with those.

The current focus on standardisation and measurement works against adapting the education system to the needs of the modern world. Those policies seek to refine a system that was well suited to the last century, but simply won’t cut it in the future.

Our focus has to be on a much more personalised learning experience, one that brings out the best in each and every individual. No two people are built exactly the same so we should stop forcing the education system to treat them as if they are.

One way to stop forcing the education system to provide more personalised learning experiences is through partnership schools. They provide an alternative for the many kids, by some counts a quarter, who are failing in the state system.

I want young New Zealanders to undertake courses of learning and study that leave their options as wide open as possible. Closer partnerships between schools, tertiary education providers, and industry will be vital.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean kids should be learning job-specific skills at school.

Job-specific skills are best learnt where they will be used – on the job. But a closer partnership between education and industry will result in a much greater emphasis on transferable skills, and less of an emphasis on subjects and credit accumulation.

One of the new partnership schools just announced:

  • Napier – Te Aratika Academy: a single sex (male) senior secondary school for years 11 to 13. It will have a vocationally-focused kaupapa Māori special character, and will target male Māori students. Sponsored by Te Aratika Charitable Trust. An opening roll of 67, with a maximum of 200 by 2019.

Te Aratika Charitable Trust is a new charitable trust formed by Te Aratika Drilling, a civil construction firm across the North Island.

Ronnie Rochel, the director of the company, said that since 1998 she had been working and mentoring young men.

“I am passionate about providing a platform for change,” she said.

She saw many young boys come in to apply for jobs and although they had been through the school system, they were were not employment-ready.

Sounds a lot like what Hipkins suggests – except that it isn’t under the control of the teacher unions that seem to have Hipkins as their spokesperson and seem to oppose diversification of education.

Partnership schools are one way of providing more personalised education and vocational preparation. Maori groups in particular see them as a more effective alternative for kids currently failing.

Will Labour put kids and Maori educational interests first?

Or do they have too close a partnership with teachers’ unions and don’t really want diversification beyond their control?

New Partnership Schools

ACT MP David Seymour has announced plans for more partnership schools (often referred to as charter schools). Via Twitter:

Proud to announce two new Partnership Schools to open in 2017, Te Aratika Academy in Napier and Kopuku High in Hamilton. These schools are generating new options for Kids and are a great ACT success story.

This links to Seymour: Two new charter schools approved for 2017 (NZ Herald):

Two new charter schools, one in Hamilton and one in Napier, have been approved to open in 2017, adding to the eight already operating.

Education Under-Secretary and Act leader David Seymour said only two were chosen from 26 applicants, both of which would have a special Maori character.

But he knew of several that would be applying again in 2017 for 2018 openings.

Quality was more important that quantity, he said.

The two new schools:

  • Hamilton – Te Kōpuku High: a co-educational composite secondary school for years 7 to 13. It will have a late immersion kaupapa Māori special character, and will target Māori students. Sponsored by Kia Ata Mai Educational Trust. Opening roll of 90 with a maximum of 300 by 2021.

Cath Rau for Kia Ata Mai Educational Trust said Te Kopuku High would be the first partnership school in Hamilton.

The trust was both the sponsor and deliverer of the curriculum. The trust had for the past 20 years supported kohanga reo and kura wharekura.

“We saw an opportunity through the partnership school initiative to use the cumulative knowledge and experience that we have gained in the Maori medium pipeline and provide an educational opportunity for Maori students in Hamilton who have not yet had the opportunity to learn te reo Maori or to learn in a kaupapa Maori context.”

She said the Partnership school would give the trust a lot more control than it had before.

  • Napier – Te Aratika Academy: a single sex (male) senior secondary school for years 11 to 13. It will have a vocationally-focused kaupapa Māori special character, and will target male Māori students. Sponsored by Te Aratika Charitable Trust. An opening roll of 67, with a maximum of 200 by 2019.

…a new charitable trust formed by Te Aratika Drilling, a civil construction firm across the North Island.

Ronnie Rochel, the director of the company, said that since 1998 she had been working and mentoring young men.

“I am passionate about providing a platform for change,” she said.

She saw many young boys come in to apply for jobs and although they had been through the school system, they were were not employment-ready.

Seymour told reporters…

…that sponsors of Partnership Schools, the official name for charter schools, were “some of the most heroic people” he had ever known.

They had set up schools in some of the shortest time frames and aimed to raise achievement for students who were not engaged in the state system.

“Vanguard Military School has taken on 60 kids who previously were not attending any school whatsoever when they came to Vanguard.”

Most schools had had positive results, some within their first year.

One of the aims of partnership schools is to provide education for children who currently fail in the current state education system.

Charter school successes

Three charter schools (the ACT Party calls them partnership schools) have received positive reports from the Education Review Office.

Radio NZ: ERO reports on three charter schools

Three new charter schools have made a good start, according to the Education Review Office.

The reports covered two of the publicly-funded private schools in Auckland, Te Kura Māori o Waatea and Pacific Advance Senior School, and one in Whangarei, Te Kāpehu Whetū -Teina.

The reviews were generally positive, but identified problems such as the need to increase enrolments or develop curriculums.

If they are succeeding in what they are doing then they should be able to increase their rolls.

“A good start has been made in determining children’s foundation knowledge in maths, reading and writing. The challenge for teachers is to ensure that strategies to support learners to make age-appropriate progress or better are in place.”

“Students at Te Kura Māori o Waatea are benefiting from focused and purposeful teaching that supports them and their whānau to engage in learning. Effective leadership and shared commitment from the adults on site are helping to make the sponsor’s vision come to life. ”

“Most of these students had been out of school for at least half a year prior to coming here. The ongoing challenge for staff is to accelerate formal student achievement.”

That last comment highlights one of the main points about these schools – they aim to cater for young people who had been failing under the main state run education system.

If the succeed in getting students on track to better future prospects and divert them from paths to failure then they will have been a success.

I wonder if more alternatives for younger children who struggle in the existing state system would help.

Will Hipkins revise charter school ‘failed experiment’ stance?

ERO: “a good start providing education for young Maori”

Peeni Henare: “I’ve seen the outcomes they’ve achieved ”

Chris Hipkins: “The whole charter school concept is deeply flawed”.

Who is right?

Two weeks agop Chris Hiopkins, Labour’s Education spokesperson, posted GOOD MONEY AFTER BAD FOR FAILED EXPERIMENT:

The whole charter school concept is deeply flawed.

“Labour has been very clear. We will direct any additional funding towards programmes that address underachievement in our existing public school system. Throwing money at low quality, hurriedly established, experimental charter schools has to stop,” Chris Hipkins says.

However puts him at odds with two Labour MPs with education backgrounds, Kelvin Davis and Peeni Henare.

Divisions in Labour over charter schools policy

Labour MP for Tāmaki-Makaurau Peeni Henare and his colleague, Kelvin Davis, attended a fundraiser for the He Puna Marama Trust, which has set up a charter school in Whangarei.

Mr Davis told 3News at the fundraiser that his leader, Andrew Little, did not want the Labour MPs to attend the event.

Mr Henare told Radio New Zealand that he knew all the people involved in both the trust and the kura itself, including the students.

“I support that particular charter school, and the reason I do that is that I’ve seen kaupapa grow from the fetal stages all the way to what they have today and I’ve seen the outcomes they’ve achieved and that’s I why I support that particular kaupapa.”

This is also backed by an official review:

The Education Review Office’s report on the kura, released in February, found it had made a good start providing education for young Maori, and that senior students were making pleasing progress.

So the whole partnership school concept appears to not be deeply flawed.

Will Hipkins review his stance on charter schools?