By: Vaimoana Tapaleao

Supporters of the Charter School system protested against their demise outside Jacinda Ardern’s electorate office in Auckland. Video / Jason Oxenham

Dozens of parents and children stood in solidarity outside Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s electorate office, calling on her to keep their charter schools open.

A large crowd turned out to the site on New North Road, Mt Albert, this afternoon with home-made placards and signs bearing the likes of: “Back off closing charters” and “Freedom for the people.”

Another home-made sign said: “Hey Jacinda what happened to children at the centre of everything?”

The protest comes as the Government moves to change the existing charter schools into state-integrated institutions, or close them completely.

Up to 3000 signatures have been gathered in a Save Charter Schools petition due to be given to the Prime Minister.

ACT leader David Seymour, who organised the protest, said many of those children enrolled in charter schools around the country had found a system that had worked for them – something they failed to find in the state school system.

“If they ain’t broken, they don’t need to be fixed.”

Steve Smith is a proud dad to 11-year-old Otis, who is a student at South Auckland Middle School in Manurewa.

The school has a student-teacher ratio of 15:1 and he says that simple fact made it a great environment for his son.

“If he didn’t get into that school, he’d go to [Manurewa Intermediate] and it’s just a gigantic school, big classrooms, lots of kids.

“He’s a quietly spoken boy and he would’ve just disappeared – it’s happened to him before.”

Smith said he had seen many positive changes in his son as a result of being at the school.

“He’s much more confident. He enjoys going to school and the type of learning they do is appropriate for him. He can learn at his own pace, he can do his own things and still come out with the result.”

There are 11 charter schools around the country – in Auckland, Napier, Whangarei and Hamilton.

Lawyer Amelia Schaaf, who helps run a weekly homework centre mainly for Pasifika students in Mt Roskill, was also among supporters.

Much of what she had been told from teachers involved at the centre was that many Pacific and Maori students excelled in a charter school system.

“Our students have been failing in mainstream. And if there’s any policy that will advance them like the ACT Party policy.

“I’m not a supporter of the ACT Party. I have never voted for the ACT Party. I have been a Labour Party supporter and a member previously,” she said.

She acknowledged that in some mainstream schools, expectations of Pasifika and Maori students to achieve were low.

“This is a way to get Pacific students out of poverty. Education is the key as a way for them to be able to succeed and also for them to participate.”

Source: NZ Herald

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