Two formal letters of complaint have been sent to the Auditor-General today outlining concerns around the Government’s handling of the impending potential closure of partnership schools – one from National’s education spokesperson Nikki Kaye and the other from Villa Education Trust, which operates two partnership schools.
Kaye’s letter makes a complaint against the processes taken by Education Minister Chris Hipkins and the Ministry of Education in discussing the future of partnership schools. She believes the processes are “fundamentally flawed”.
“The Minister has made several unfortunate comments that indicate he has a closed mind and there is potential evidence that the schools have undue pressure being put on them to terminate their contracts.”
Alwyn Poole of Villa Education Trust agrees there has been pressure to close. He references a meeting with the Ministry where it was stated that the closing date for applications to establish a Designated Character School is 01 April 2018 – something he claims the Ministry has since denied.
“I would certainly say it is an example of undue pressure and a huge limit to follow good faith and due process.”
The Villa Education Trust’s letter to the Auditor-General outlines concerns about the behaviour of both the Education Minister and Associate Minister of Education Kelvin Davis with regards to Charter Schools. Poole says the Trust is “extremely disappointed” at the Minister breaching his own clearly set protocols.
The second area of complaint in Kaye’s letter relates to “failure of Ministers to manage or declare conflicts of interest”.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins refutes this.
“Neither the Minister nor the Ministry of Education have any knowledge of any such claims that have been passed to the Auditor-General by a member of the Opposition.”
Kaye believes there is public interest in investigating these concerns, but says ultimately it will be up to the Auditor-General.
“It is important that all of the evidence and paperwork is made available and transparent before any conclusions are reached.”