Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Who will go to these Charter/Partnership Schools? And other questions...

We were told that we would know in July who the successful organisations were that would "win"
the right to start a Charter/Partnership  School/Kura Hourua.  Then we were told it would be in August.  We're close to half way through September and the lucky winners still have not been announced.

But with the timeline being somewhat dragged out and a bit secretive until an official information request was enforced by the Ombudsman, I started considering the following questions:

  • Who will go to these Charter/Partnership Schools?  It seems they are only being opened in Auckland.  We have yet to see which parts of Auckland. 
  • Will they be where the so called "failing" kids are?  
  • What if the kids don't want to go? 
  • Who's going to make them? 
  • What if their parents really don't give a rats that their kid is "failing" or that a Charter School is available to apparently improve their lot?
  • Where are the rights of the parents in all this?
  • Will kids, who were never at risk of failing in the first place, enrol and dominate the schools?
  • How will untrained/unregistered teachers succeed where trained/registered teachers have "failed"?  (Looking forward to the answer to this one!)
  • What are these schools going to teach these kids?
  • What if on day one not one kid enrolled in one of these Charter Schools?  (Wouldn't that be a crack up!!)

So here is a little timeline of links of the last few months that have teased the left and the right wings of the political and educational spectrums:

New charter schools to be announced 'in weeks'  -  TVNZ  -  5 June 2013 8:03am  -  Gee, that was over three months ago and they still aren't announced.  I guess they are still going through that "a thorough and robust evaluation process".
Charter school applicants turned down  -  Radio New Zealand  -  25 July 2013 5:44pm (updated)  -  this was when we found out that  the Destiny Church, Nga Kakano, a private Maori Christian school in the Auckland suburb of Te Atatu, and digital learning company SchoolSims had all been turned down to open a charter school in 2014.  It really would have been political suicide to grant a charter school to Destiny Church, so that one makes sense at least.
Charter schools: Govt negotiates with final four  -  New Zealand Herald  -  31 July 2013 7:03pm  -  the Herald reported that the military prep school, Advance Training Centres Ltd, which John Banks' son attended was one of the schools in negotiation to set up a Charter School.  The other three in negotiations are  C-Me Mentoring Foundation Trust, Rise Up Trust and Villa Education Trust.  Many names were released for those organisations who had at least expressed an interest as well as those which applied because the Ombudsman ordered that these names should be released.
Just who are the NZ charter school hopefuls?  -  Save Our Schools NZ blog  -  31 July 2013  -  A list of the organisations in full.  And then we find out that only five actually applied, and we know for sure that Destiny Church was turned down.
List of organisations interested in charter schools released  -  Newstalk ZB  -  1 August 2013 9:45am  -  comments that the list of interested parties has been released, quotes NZEI president Judith Nowotarski "welcoming the publication of the list - but says it should have been done months ago.  She says New Zealanders and communities should have been able to have some discussion before final decisions were made."  Provides some links to related stories.
First Charter Schools Likely in Auckland Only  -  The Press (Stuff)  -  5 August 2013 5:00am  -  The Press reveal that no Christchurch/Canterbury Charter Schools will open in 2014.  Although two Canterbury organisations expressed interest, neither took it to the application stage.  PPTA president Angela Roberts expressed relief as the implementation of Charter Schools on hurricane devastated New Orleans had been horrendous.  She indicated that putting Charter Schools into damaged Christchurch communities currently would have been political suicide, and I'm guessing that's why Hekia and her friends haven't pushed it there.
Charter School Applicants Lack 'Calibre'  -  Stuff  -  20 August 2013 5:00am  -  and here we strike gold!!  Apparently at a meeting in May the Partnership Schools Authorisation Board said it was disappointed by the standard of applications and "work needed to be done to lift the calibre".  Yet in June Education Minister Hekia Parata was hailing the "impressive" range of charter school applications.  Then on 19 August Hekia defended her comments, saying they were related to the "broad range of applicants, not their calibre".  Yeah.  Right.  Tui anyone?  Just love how this one has played out.
Charter Schools To Be Unveiled  -  Stuff  -  9 September 2013 5:00am  -  the opening line says that details about the opening of controversial charter schools will be announced by the end of this month.  Well excuse me, I won't be holding my breath. 

Apparently since those organisations, who expressed interest in starting a Charter School and/or applied, have received so called threatening letters from teacher unions stating that they were undermining state schools by making their applications.  Now I have not been able to find a credible news source to confirm this, only two blog sites, one being an oily one, and since these blog sites tend to lean to the right I'm inclined to think it is scare mongering.  It wouldn't surprise me if one of the unions has written to the applicants to argue their case.  But that is quite normal and healthy in a democracy to encourage free speech, exchange of views and to engage in a debate with those on the opposite end of the spectrum (hence we blog).

And reflecting on the four organisations that are currently in negotiations with the MOE to open their Charter Schools in 2014:
Advance Training Centres Ltd  -  a military prep school  -  John Banks' son went there... ok, I'm picking right wing and staunch.  Some kids might respond well, but the hard core will give these guys the finger and be out the door before lunch time.
C-Me Mentoring Foundation Trust  -  these guys seem to have built up a good thing with young people leaving school.  That's great.  But there are many schools already doing a similar thing through Gateway programmes, and the Otorohanga District Council has a successful programme that gets alongside young people before they leave school and helps focus them on their training and employment goals (after achieving zero youth unemployment in Otorohanga, the government took away their funding for being too successful).
Rise Up Trust  -  started after the death of the founder's cousin during a turbulent time in Otara, this trust aims to improve outcomes for Maori and Pasifica youth in education and their parents in their role as parents.  This has included a home schooling initiative set up in 2006 and they are still doing great things in their community.  But I'm sure that these successes are because there are young people participating with family support behind them as well as the trust.
Villa Education Trust  -  have read a bit about this organisation already they do have a great model set up that is working for their students.  However, I suspect their existing students come from homes with great parental/family support (even if they are not financially buoyant) and this will contrast starkly with the kids the MOE and Hekia and John Banks talk about with they talk about Charter Schools.

And for those of you who do not know much about the history or the debate of Charter Schools click here to go to the "Research on Charter Schools QPEC Inc".

To be frank, I consider that the whole process has lacked robustness, clarity and purpose.  I declare that Charter Schools so far have not met the standard, and I'll be surprised if they do met the standard of our existing quality public education system at all.

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