Six more applications from charter school sponsors to establish designated character schools next year have been approved, joining Vanguard School, which had its application approved in May.

However, a decision is yet to be made on the applications of Rise UP Academy, South Auckland Middle School and Middle School West Auckland. This is despite the promise of an “easy transition” and a decision by the end of July, says Alwyn Poole, academic advisor for Villa Education Trust, the sponsor of South Auckland Middle School and Middle School West Auckland.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said today that he has sought further information from the three remaining schools, but all other criteria have been met for the schools to become designated character schools. He expects to make final decisions on these schools in September, if not earlier.

But Poole says this isn’t acceptable.

“When we had submitted our applications senior Ministry officials assured us that if any more work/information was required they or the Minister would ask for it to ensure deadlines were met. This has simply not happened,” says Poole.

“Today’s deferral is a massive shock and will be so to all involved in our schools – not least the children.”

Poole says there has been an “absolute minimum of consultation” and claims the report about their applications that was presented to the Minister was “inaccurate and incomplete” as it failed to include an updated “designated character statement” and the information provided on how the schools’ curriculum differs from that of state schools.

National’s education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says the Education Minister has overseen a “vindictive process” to axe the partnership schools model.

“Mr Hipkins has given different treatment to different partnership schools, shown a lack of communication and transparency, and made flawed assumptions about some schools,” she says.

“Incidentally, Villa Education Trust and Te Rangihakahaka have been the most vocal in criticising the Government’s partnership schools policy and approach to axing the model. These schools have received the worst treatment from Mr Hipkins, who appears to have been vindictive and sent a chilling message that those who criticise will be shafted.”

Hipkins has appointed Establishment Boards of Trustees for each of the approved schools; these boards include members of each charter school’s governance board, “to provide continuity and support its character”.

Hipkins has opposed the partnership school policy since it was established and has made it a priority to phase it out since becoming Education Minister.

“Today’s decisions mean that six more charter school sponsors, their students and school communities have certainty for next year, within the wider state system. The Government’s focus is on rebuilding the state education system, so that it meets the needs of every student and supports them to succeed.”

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