By Simon Collins
All but perhaps one of the 13 charter schools set up by the National Government now look set to stay open in some form, after two more were approved today as special character state schools.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins has announced that Middle School West Auckland and South Auckland Middle School have been approved to reopen as designated character state schools next year.
The two schools, both run by Alwyn Poole’s Villa Education Trust, complained loudly when they were left out of a first batch of six charter schools that were approved as designated character schools last month.
One other, Vanguard Military Academy, won its designated character approval in May, and three others, Māngere-based Te Kura Māori o Waatea and a proposed Waatea High School, and a proposed new school, Tūranga Tangata Rite in Gisborne, are expected to become state-integrated schools.
Only the Rise Up Academy, a mainly Pacific school in Māngere East, is still waiting for approval as a designated character state school.
Poole, who started a private school in Epsom before opening his two charter schools, said he was “delighted” to be approved to run two state schools.
He said the change meant his teachers would now be paid at centrally-negotiated state rates, but he hoped to “look after” them using the school operations grants.
“We are convinced that we can manage to keep a few of our key points of difference,” he said.
“One is that our parents won’t pay a donation. Two, our class sizes will be restricted to 15. And we will work out ways of really looking after our staff.”
Hipkins said he deferred deciding on Poole’s two charter schools in July “because more information was needed to demonstrate that they meet the legal requirements for designated character schools”.
“An independent evaluator has since reviewed the schools’ planned curriculum alongside their proposed character,” he said.
“As a result, I am now satisfied that the curriculum will reflect the schools’ designated character, and that their students will receive an education that is significantly different from an ordinary state school.
“Accordingly, I have decided to approve the sponsor’s application. I have also appointed the Establishment Board of Trustees who will be responsible for both schools. They include members of the existing Villa Education Trust Board, to provide continuity for the schools and support their special character.”
Poole said the trust had nominated five of its six trustees to sit on the new establishment board and requested permission to co-opt one other member.