New education minister Chris Hipkins has today confirmed that changing the charter school model will not be done with urgency.
“The new government will abolish the charter school model, but we have deliberately chosen not to make this part of our 100 day plan,” he says.
“There are currently about 1,200 young people attending charter schools and we want to take the time to work to find a solution that works for them.
“We will look at each charter school on a case by case basis.That could see some become schools of special character or state-integrated schools, while others may choose to close. We do not want to rush that process or create uncertainty for those students and their families.”
Under the National government, four new charter schools were given the go-ahead to open in 2018 and 2019, some of which have contracts and have already begun recruiting staff and students.
“I’ve asked for advice on the status of the charter schools, including those that were recently signed contracts with the Ministry of Education and are due to open in the next two years. I don’t want to pre-empt that advice,” says Hipkins.
Nick Hyde is chief executive of Vanguard Military School in Auckland, a charter for students in years 11-13, and says the school had plans to expand.
“Vanguard was definitely looking at the possibility of opening more schools around the country, to assist in communities where there is a need,” he says.
“There’s certainly a group of students and parents who find the style of schooling we offer works for them.
“So it’s still very uncertain at the moment. We’re looking forward to Chris Hipkins touching base and helping us change whatever we need to fit with the new requirements, but until they come to us there’s not a lot we can do.”
“We’re quite happy to have those conversations with the new Minister, we have families and kids we’re very fond of and we’re keen to do right by them,” says Hyde.
The Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) has strongly opposed charter schools from the beginning.
“Right from the get go, PPTA had a clear view about the lack of need for charter schools. It was an experiment on the New Zealand taxpayer,” says PPTA President Jack Boyle.
He supports the Minister’s decision to deal with the existing schools on a case by case basis, but warns that the wellbeing of the students and whānau affected by any changes needs to be paramount.
“We’re happy to hear that no further charter schools will be opened, because they’re just not required. It’s good that the charters and their managers will have the opportunity to work through a process individually with the Minister.”
“The charters should never have been opened, but now that they are, we need to ensure that the young people, their whānau, and the workforce are not badly affected by the upcoming changes,” says Boyle.
President of NZEI Te Riu Roa Lynda Stuart agrees.
“Charter schools were a deal made as part of the National and ACT party coalition pact, and are designed to weaken public education by siphoning resources away from public schools, into private businesses and organisations.
“We welcome the government’s promise to repeal charter school laws, and to come up with a solution that protects public education, and the children who’re enrolled in existing charter schools,” she says.
There are four charter schools that are slated to open in 2018 and 2019, some of which have contracts and have begun recruiting staff and students.
The question of what happens to these four schools is moot, as it is possible that the law allowing charter schools will be removed by the time they are fully up and running.