As charter schools await a decision on their future this week from the Education Ministry, concerns resurface over the way the process has been handled.
The schools received contract termination letters in early June from the Education Ministry, before many found out if their applications to remain open as designated character schools had been approved. A decision from the Ministry is expected by July 31.
Alwyn Poole, academic advisor of Villa Education Trust, which operates two charter schools, says his students, families and staff want an end to the uncertainty.
Poole says there has been very little consultation – just one formal meeting with the Ministry on Feb 13th this year.
“The Ministry has not been prepared to share the advice they have given to the Minister but he has not asked for any additional information beyond our comprehensive applications so we trust that all is on track,” he says.
The lack of consultation has driven Sir Toby Curtis to lead a Treaty of Waitangi claim against the Crown over its failure to lead effective consultation on the closures of New Zealand’s charter schools.
Sir Toby says that in the past few days he has personally undertaken “more consultation with the affected schools than Minister Hipkins has done during his entire term in Parliament”.
“What I discovered shocked me. School leaders have been given clear signals from government that they are to keep quiet now or risk being cut out of consideration for starting an alternative state-controlled school for their students next year,” he says.
Sir Toby is scathing about the designated character schools.
“The Minister has been fooling the New Zealand public into believing the kids will be just fine, and a ‘designated character’ school is something different to what it actually is. Call them what you want, he is putting Māori children right back into a state school system that has failed them over and over again,” he says.
Sir Toby says one school leader described the school closure as “the biggest kick in the face”.
“They act like these 1500 kids are just a drop in the ocean and nobody will even notice what happens to them,” the leader told him.
Sir Toby is calling for the Minister to halt the closures, put the proposed Education Act amendments on hold, and instead undertake genuine consultation with everybody who is affected.