By: Derek Cheng

Students at the charter school Vanguard Military in Albany, Auckland, which may have to close at the end of the year. Photo / Ted Baghurst

Education Minister Chris Hipkins is closing the door on future charter schools and giving existing ones notice that he can make them close up shop by the end of the school year – though he still hasn’t visited one as minister.

Hipkins introduced the Education Amendment Bill today, which would formally end National Standards and charter schools.

“The Government’s strong view is that there is no place for them in the New Zealand education system,” Hipkins said.

Schools will continue to be required to report to parents, at least twice a year, on their child’s progress and achievement.

The National Party has strongly opposed dumping National Standards and charter schools, and repeatedly called on the Government to visit a charter school, such as the Vanguard Military School in Albany.

A spokesman for the minister said Hipkins had visited charter schools while in Opposition.

The bill would mean an end to future charter schools, and allow existing ones to continue while the Ministry of Education considers options – such as becoming a designated character school – on a case-by-case system.

Unlike charter schools, a character school is part of the public education system, is funded like other state schools, and must adhere to the national curriculum.

Five charter schools were scheduled to open in 2018 and will no longer open. Eleven existing charter schools have a combined roll of about 1300 students.

Hipkins wanted existing charter schools to wind up before the end of their contracts by mutual agreement.

“If, however, early termination is not agreed by both parties, I am reserving my right to issue a notice of ‘termination for convenience’, under charter schools’ existing contracts, by the middle of May 2018. This would take effect at the end of the school year.”

The final cost of removing the charter school model is unknown. Financial compensation for schools that have their contract terminated would likely cost up to $1 million in financial compensation to the schools, according to the Cabinet paper.

Act leader David Seymour said axing charter schools was “juvenile and callous”.

“Struggling kids were having their lives turned around, but this Government will massacre the schools for a combination of ideology and union utu.”​

The bill would also mean that anyone signing up to the fees-free tertiary education policy would have to make a declaration. It would not have to be witnessed, but anyone caught lying could lead to a conviction and a $5000 fine.

This aims to deter people from taking advantage of what National has called an “honesty system”.

The bill would also restore guaranteed places for staff and student representatives on Tertiary Education Institution councils.

Hipkins is also asking for feedback on when children should be able to start school, though he remains committed to abolishing the previous Government’s policy of allowing 4-year-olds to start school if they turned 5 within two months of starting.

National’s education spokesperson Nikki Kaye has described the rolling of the policy as “nanny-state”.

The 50 schools that have taken up National’s policy will still be able to use it until a bill abolishing it is enacted, expected to be in the second half of the year.

In the meantime the Ministry of Education is beginning a consultation process on two options:

  • Allowing a cohort of children five and over to start school once a term, at the start of the term
  • Allowing a cohort of children five and over to start school twice a term; once at the start of the term and again at the term’s mid-point, which would include children who had turned five by that time.

Schools will also be able to continue with continuous entry, which the majority of schools currently choose.

Anyone wanting to participate in the consultation should visit here.

Source: NZ Herald

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