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Charter schools model not a fair go for communities

Thursday, January 24, 2013
Charter schools model not a fair go for communities

The Government’s proposed charter school model replicates the worst elements of overseas charter schools, says Massey education specialist Professor John O’Neill.

Submissions to the Education Amendment Bill 2012 close today and if the bill passes through parliament it will allow for public private partnership schools to be introduced.

Professor O’Neill, from Massey’s Institute of Education, was one of 12 education experts who last year conducted a detailed review of international private partnership schools – known as charter schools.

He says the model proposed for New Zealand would simply replicate the worst elements of overseas “charter” or “free” schools.

“Typically, these kinds of schools are given attractive sounding names, but the reality is very different,” Professor O’Neill says. “In New Zealand, they will be called ‘partnership schools kura hourua’ but in fact they are a public private partnership, a commercial contract between the government and a private company or body corporate or body sole.”

Professor O’Neill says New Zealand state schools are pretty democratic and accountable to their local community, with detailed annual and long term planning and reporting requirements to parents and the Ministry of Education.

“It is easy to get official information on how well a state school is doing for its children and the community.
But in the proposed PPP schools, it will be very difficult.”

He says other aspects of the partnership schools proposal were bizarre. “The Government wants to allow unqualified, unregistered people to work with our most educationally disadvantaged and marginalised students instead of teachers.

“The bill proposes to create a new category of school. However, the Education Act 1989 already allows the minister to establish a kura or a special character school within the state system but only when local parents want them.’

Professor O’Neill says with the bill the Government appears to want to open up state schooling to private business interests by giving them “free money” from taxpayers to run private schools even if the local community doesn’t want them.

‘”Overseas this is called corporate welfare or crony capitalism. In New Zealand we certainly wouldn’t call this a fair go.”


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