General policy statement
Purpose of the Bill
The purpose of this Bill is to abolish partnership schools kura hourua (
“charter schools”) in New Zealand. Charter schools are a threat to New Zealand’s world-leading public education system. These schools undermine teacher quality and threaten student safety by permitting unregistered and unqualified people to teach children. Parents and the public at large have a right to expect that their children will be taught by teachers who have undergone rigorous professional training and a robust registration process. Students at charter schools lack this assurance.
Charter schools should therefore be abolished entirely. All students in New Zealand deserve to be taught by qualified and registered teachers and have access to the broad, innovative, locally relevant and child-centred curriculum that is reflected in the New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga. Parents and whanau deserve to be full partners in their school communities through democratically elected Boards of Trustees.
The best school for the vast majority of New Zealand students should be their local state school. Rather than choosing to divert resources into an experimental charter school scheme, the Government’s focus should instead be on making sure that every state school is a great school.
Risks with charter schools
No transparency or accountability: Charter schools are less transparent in their governance and educational practices than existing state schools and therefore less accountable to parents, whanau and communities. For example, charter schools are exempt from the provisions of the Official Information Act 1982, despite being taxpayer funded. These schools also lack a Board of Trustees. Partnership between schools, family and whanau is an important factor in students’ success. Removing the right of parents to be involved in school governance via a Board of Trustees is anti-democratic and removes one of the key ways that schools are accountable to the communities they serve.
Education quality dubious: Charter schools are also not required to teach the New Zealand Curriculum or Te Marautanga. This raises serious concerns about the quality and direction of charter schools. There is a serious risk that students at charter schools will be delivered narrow curricula of a low quality that are irrelevant to the society to which they belong.
Wrong motivations: The ideology behind charter schools is also flawed. Ostensibly, the schools are aimed at raising the achievement of underperforming students in New Zealand. Yet the evidence to suggest that charter schools will in fact improve educational outcomes does not take into account the high results that New Zealand is already achieving for its students through the public education system. The charter school scheme overlooks the widely accepted understanding that educational underachievement is inextricably linked to poverty and increasing income inequality.
Charter schools therefore represent the privatisation and commercialisation of an important public good. We do not support a system that puts profit before kids and the interests of the community. And we are not alone. Allowing charter school sponsors to profit from the public funds provided for the education of our young people is not supported by the majority of New Zealanders.
Under this Bill, charter schools will first undergo a disestablishment period before being completely abolished from 1 January 2016. This provides a reasonable opportunity for students and families at these schools to make alternative arrangements to continue their education. It will be the responsibility of existing charter schools to seek an alternative legal status (and meet the legal requirements to run) as a school before that date if they wish to continue operating.