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.”

Ardern: “Because it was in the agreement and they’re contracts”, except…

Going by the Question Time transcript of the first few questions (there doesn’t seem to be video available yet) it was a bit of a shambles today. Perhaps everyone had been unsettled by a pointless waste of time going on about a baby somewhere else in the word – it could be chaos with a more local birth in a month or two.

One short exchange was more effective than the rest of the shemozzle.

David Seymour: Why is the Government honouring existing irrigation contracts?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Because it was in the agreement and they’re contracts.

David Seymour: Why is that different with partnership schools?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: We’ve given partnership schools an option, and the majority of them look to be taking it up.

That may be ACT’s only questions for the week, but Seymour did a good job with them. Ardern really set herself up.

Partnership Schools had contracts, but the Government pretty much ignored that and gave them a choice of ‘taking up’ one option, or being forced to shut down.

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.

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

Save Charter Schools Rally

ACT (David Seymour) organised a rally to protest against Government (Chris Hipkins) handling of Partnership Schools, commonly referred to as charter schools:

“This Sunday, Jacinda Ardern and Chris Hipkins will hear directly from students and parents who are devastated by their decision to close Partnership Schools”, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“The Government this week decided to disregard the popularity and success of the schools opting instead to listen to the teachers’ unions.

“Partnership Schools are working. Over 1500 students attend the fledgling schools, most of which have had to turn students away due to rapid growth. Struggling kids are having their lives turned around.

“Neither the Prime Minister nor the Minister of Education have visited a Partnership School, nor have they spoken to any of the sponsors of the schools they plan to shut down.

“On Sunday, they will get a chance to listen to the people they have so blatantly disregarded”, says Mr Seymour.

Hipkins seems to be driving an agenda on behalf of the teacher unions who strongly opposed partnership schools, with criticism of a lack of consultation with the schools that currently have contracts to operate.

ACT has a petition here (no numbers of signatories given):

SAVE CHARTER SCHOOLS.

TELL CHRIS HIPKINS TO LEAVE OUR KIDS ALONE.

The kids who go to partnership schools tend to be round bricks in a square education hole.

There was a sizable attendance on a wet day for an issue affecting a small number of people:

Stuff – Seymour: Govt’s ‘weasel’ words on charter school move

ACT leader David Seymour labelled Education Minister Chris Hipkins a “weasel” over legislation to scrap charter schools.

The Labour-led Government was “arrogant” in its consultative approach with charter schools, the MP for Epsom – and the political architect of such schools – said.

Seymour made the comments marching in driving rain with dozens of charter school pupils, their families and supporters up Auckland’s Queen St on Sunday.

Seymour labelled Hipkins a “weasel – so far he’s hiding behind misinformation”.

“He’s refusing to front up to the people that he’s truly affecting”.

“If he thinks making these schools into state schools keeping their special character that attracted the kids in the first place then he does not understand education let alone partner schools.”

“We’re here today to send a message to the government they cannot arrogantly cancel theses kids’ futures.

“If they wanted to be in a state school, they’d be in a state school – why take away their choice?”

Seymour said 12 existing and four planned charter schools officially given the previous National Government’s approval would be affected if the new government’s legislation passes.

“More than 1500 pupils” would lose the schooling their parents had chosen for them, Seymour said.

Several uniformed pupils from Albany’s military academy style Vanguard Military School attended the march.

“I hope the government will realise they’ve made an error that they need to take a take a step back and realise the success of these schools and ask themselves if they shouldn’t be keeping the partnership school model in some form rather than chopping it off the knees before they’ve even really consulted anybody.”

First-time protester Jan Franklin said she was marching “because I believe in these charter schools”.

Despite all his children being educated in state schools, Warkworth resident Barry Houlbrooke said he was there because he “liked the concept of charter schools”.

“I just want to get Jacinda [Ardern] out of education I just want to see people educate their kids outside the state system.”

The vast majority will be happy to remain in traditional type state schools, but they fail a significant number of children who for various reasons don’t fit in to normal education.

Hipkins is determined to deliver a promise made to education unions who support Labour, despite strong concerns of a number of Maori MPs – charter schools are popular as a Maori orientated alternative style of education.

Key questions:

  • Do Partnership Schools provide an effective alternative to kids who have failed in mainstream education?
  • Could ‘special character schools’ do as well within the State system?

 

What now for Partnership Schools?

Dominion Post editorial: How to fix the problems with charter schools

They are officially called Partnership Schools/Kura Hourua in New Zealand, the editorial didn’t refer to them as this at all.

Charter schools pose a number of problems for the coalition government. Labour had made it clear for a long time that it opposed the schools. But now it seems that the government can’t stop some planned charter schools from opening because of contracts signed with the previous government.

Education MInister Chris Hipkins is, as a result, pedalling back from his earlier statement that four new charter schools due to open in 2019 wouldn’t go ahead. It seems fairly clear that the new government can’t renegue on contracts signed by the former one. The law is the law.

That, however, is a passing problem born out of the transition between governments. In future, Labour will prevent any new charter schools, as it is entitled to do. It has campaigned against charter schools and promised to stop them.

In that, it has a far better mandate to stop further schools than the National-led Government ever had for introducing therm in the first place. The charter schools were cooked up in a deal between National and its helper party Act.

The charter schools represented a major shift in education policy promoted by a tiny far-right party whose voter support was negligible.

Agreed to by a majority in Parliament in 2011, passed by five votes. That’s more than the three vote majority that the current government has, so it was a better mandate.

The coalition has a political problem with charter schools because some important characters in its ranks, such as Willie Jackson, have previously been outspoken supporters of the schools.

And some eminent Labourites such as Michael Cullen have wondered how a progressive government might allow for more choice and experimentation in education than under the present system.

The motivation of Māori leaders such as Jackson is understandable enough. The education system is clearly still unsuited for too many Māori students. The gap between Pakeha and Māori achievement in schools remains disturbingly large. So some Maori leaders turned to charter schools as allowing a new and freer way of aiding poor Māori students.

The system certainly needs enough flexibility and scope to allow experimentation and new approaches to this fundamental problem. The question is: how to allow this while removing the grave problems associated with charter schools?

Grave problems?

David commented:

Have to rank as probably the stupidest editorial ever, I think it was dictated by the teachers union. Inevitably Charter schools will remain and be given a different name, as will National Standards, the TPP etc etc. because they are popular with Maori, with parents and with the people who make the money that funds all the extravagance.

If a government wants to shut down what has now proven to help the most disadvantaged in society for no other reason than their key donors demand it then that is a betrayal to all you told us all you stood for.

 

 

Busy education agenda

The incoming Labour led Government is promising big changes in education, with some measures requiring urgency so things are in place for the start of the tertiary year next February.

Minister of Education Chris Hipkins has some challenges putting everything into place. Of particular urgency is making the first year of tertiary education free next year.

Already contentious is his handling of Partnership Schools, which he has promised to scrap, but Labour Maori MPs in particular will have some concerns about how this is done.

NZH: Government fast-tracking its free tertiary education campaign promise

New tertiary education students wishing to have one year of free education are being encouraged to apply by December 16.

The Government is fast-tracking its tertiary education campaign promises, with the Cabinet now in the detailed planning stage to introduce one year of free tertiary education for new students, and a $50 weekly boost to the student allowance as well as a $50 weekly boost in student loans for living costs.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said the policies will come into force by January 1 next year.

“Prospective students and tertiary education organisations should continue to make arrangements for study and enrolments for next year as they normally would. This includes starting, or continuing, any applications for study and/or for student loans or allowances,” Hipkins said.

The fees-free policy will apply to new university students, as well as apprenticeships, industry training and polytechnic students – anyone who has not previously studied at tertiary level.

There isn’t much time to do this. Parliament will sit nearly until Christmas to try to get this and a number of other urgent measures legislated for.

Stuff: Education minister’s shakeup will scrap National Standards and review NCEA

The Labour-led government is hitting the ground running on a number of promises, including making the first year of tertiary education or training free from January 1 next year.

In addition, student allowances and living cost loans will increase by $50 a week as well.

There’s nowhere near enough time between now and the festive season to completely remodel the tertiary funding system, which is why newly appointed Education Minister Chris Hipkins has had to sit down with officials this week to work out an interim solution.

Next year a longer-term redesign of the model will be done to ensure Labour meets its promise of three free years of tertiary study by 2024.

While recruiting enough staff seems to be one of the biggest hurdles for Labour at the moment, there’s plenty of work already under way in the ministries to ensure Labour can fulfil its commitments.

Labour have predicted a 15% increase in enrolments. While this may not all be straight away it must make planning difficult for tertiary providers.

National Standards to be scrapped:

Labour policy already plans to reduce teachers’ workload, such as through its scrapping of National Standards, and increase professional development and resolve retention issues.

Hipkins is clear he doesn’t want to leave a hole and there has to be a transition process for teachers, parents and students.

Ultimately it will mean a lighter workload for teachers and more time to teach. There’ll be less assessment, but Hipkins insists the quality of it will be better.

NCEA reassessed:

NCEA isn’t on the cards to be scrapped but it will undergo a full review on Hipkins’ watch. After 15 years it needs to continue to evolve, he says.

At the same time teachers needed to be trusted more and just because something wasn’t being assessed didn’t mean it wasn’t happening.

There’s a real “paradigm shift” needed as part of the NCEA review and that means moving how students and teachers think about NCEA, which is currently credits and subjects, to what employers care about – that’s skills.

One contentious issue is Partnership Schools:

And all those teachers outraged by the introduction of charter schools under a confidence and supply agreement between National and ACT, can sleep easy knowing there won’t be any more new doors opening, with the exception possibly of the two due to open next year.

As for the four scheduled for 2019, Hipkins says he can say with some confidence they won’t go ahead. And he’s still in the process of working out how to bring the 10 already in operation into the mainstream fold.

Hipkins was very critical of the poor track record of the Whangaruru school in Northland and the millions of dollars invested in it that the ministry was unable to recoup from the school’s trust when then-Education Minister Hekia Parata shut it down.

He says if he can get the money back he will, he’s just not sure how realistic that is.

How will the state school system to address the bottom 20% of students who have been failing badly? Scrapping alternatives will put pressure on.

Current partnership schools plus contracts already signed for new ones need to be dealt with fairly, not just dealt to.

Newshub: Govt reviews signed charter school deals

The Government is reconsidering contracts for six new charter schools signed before the election.

New Education Minister Chris Hipkins says the National-led Government signed the contracts in the weeks before the election in breach of pre-election conventions.

“This was in clear contravention of pre-election protocols that prohibit one Government committing a future Government in the run-up to an election,” he said in a statement.

“I’ve asked for urgent advice on the status of those contracts and won’t be making any further comment on the matter until I’ve received it.”

All parties in the new Labour-led Government oppose charter schools and Mr Hipkins said anyone involved in establishing a school knew “a change of Government would mean change for them”.

But ACT leader David Seymour – who was responsible for charter schools before the election – said the new schools had already been budgeted for since mid-2016.

“All of that takes time, I don’t feel that the excuse frankly that he’s trying to make cuts water,” he said.

National’s education spokeswoman, Nikki Kaye, said clarity was needed from the Government about what would happen.

“These sponsors have spent time and money securing contracts with the Crown and preparing to open these schools. They deserve better than this,” she said.

Earlier this week Mr Hipkins indicated all existing charter schools would also be reviewed individually to see if they can be integrated into the rest of the education system, or whether they would be shut.

Hipkins will be very busy trying to deal with all of this. He has the advantage of having teacher groups on his side – some say he is on their side – but with such an ambitious programme of significant change it will be difficult to manage without making a mess of something.

In his haste to delver for teachers Hipkins should remember the key thing in education, the kids. Especially the kids who have long been failed by the teacher dominated state system. Hipkins risks leaving big cracks for them to fall through.

More from Stuff:  Labour’s axe hovers over new partnership schools

The new minister of education is under fire from his predecessor after reports of contracts being cancelled for the country’s four new partnership schools.

Chris Hipkins last night said Labour, NZ First and the Greens had campaigned to scrap the charter school model and they intended to honour that commitment.

Hipkins said he had asked for urgent advice on the status of the four contracts. He understood the National/ACT government signed contracts with six new charter school operators in the weeks leading up to the election.

The four new schools due to open in 2019 included an Auckland school focused on science, technology, engineering and maths and a new Vanguard school in Christchurch.

 

Partnership schools “mostly good”

A generally positive report card for the controversial (in the Labour Party) partnership schools (charter schools).

RNZ: 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.

The report (PDF, 2.8MB) by the firm Martin Jenkins for the Education Ministry said most of the children enrolled in the schools were from high-priority backgrounds and many had previous problems with achievement and attendance.

“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.

It also said their assessment practices were good.

“We are confident that all of the schools/kura are either already delivering, or are on a path towards delivering, assessment practice that is ‘good’ or ‘very good’ overall.”

The report said literacy and numeracy dominated the curriculum of all of the schools and most had average or lower than average class sizes.

It said in 2015 most of the schools met or exceeded their contracted targets for student attendance, engagement and achievement.

The evaluation said most of the schools said their reporting requirements were burdensome, and some said they had unresolved contract issues and/or a complex relationship with their key partner, the Education Ministry.

“These issues have at times diverted attention and resources away from delivery,” it said.

This adds to the debate over partnership schools, especially within the Labour Party.

Also at RNZ: Charter school opens for business

A new charter kura says some of its students have come to its classes because they were close to being kicked out of their old schools.

Te Kura Māori o Waatea in Auckland officially opened for business today.

The school is operated by the Manukau Urban Maori Authority, while its head is the broadcaster and former politician Willie Jackson.

“You know, sometimes we’ve got to be bigger than our parties, and it’s not about Labour, sometimes, and it’s not about national, and it’s not about ACT.

“As you said, David, it’s about our kids: the kaupapa is the main thing here.

“You either get involved or you get out”.

The kura’s tūmuaki, Tania Rangiheuea, said some of her pupils had been in trouble with other teachers in the past.

“A lot of our children have come here because they were on the verge of getting kicked out of their school.

“Some of them have behavioural problems – not all of them – most of them are really, really good kids and I love them.

It is her first time leading a school; previously she has been a lecturer at Victoria University.

She said the kura’s philosophical approach to education involves the whole lives of students and whānau – not just the time pupils spent in the classroom.

Tania Rangiheuea said her people were good at finding out what makes the tamariki tick.

“I have a full time Whānau Ora navigator attached to the kura; she goes in and works with the families.

“For example, I had two children from one household who for two days didn’t come to school, and when I found out when they didn’t come to school they had no lunch.”

Labour to ‘rename’ Partnership Schools?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CORIN But can you change his mind?

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

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

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

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

WILLIE No, no, but Labour—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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