Minister of Education Chris Hipkins announced today that he has approved Vanguard Military School’s application to become part of the state system under section 156 of the Education Act 1989.

“The application met the requirements of the Act and demonstrated that students who choose to enrol will get an education of a kind that differs significantly from the education they would get at ·an ordinary state school.”

The application was assessed by the Ministry of Education, and consultation with the boards of schools in the Auckland network whose rolls might be affected has taken place.

“The school will use the ethos and training methodology of the military across the curriculum and in the day-to-day running of the school, to achieve attitudinal and academic excellence. This will form part of its designated character. It will also continue to have a special focus on ‘second chance’ students,” says Hipkins.

Vanguard Military School will open in Term 1 2019 for Year 11-13 students initially, before growing to Year 9-13 once the Education Review Office has confirmed it is ready to provide schooling for students in Years 9-10. An Establishment Board of Trustees has been appointed to ensure that the new school is ready to open in 2019.

The new school will initially be located at the site of the current school, while the Ministry works with the Establishment Board of Trustees to locate a permanent site.

Hipkins confirmed that all 11 charter schools have applied for designated character school status. He said he was pleased with the willingness of Vanguard’s sponsors to work with the Ministry to convert to a designated character school.

However, other charter schools are unhappy with the process.

Alwyn Poole of Villa Education Trust, which operates two charter schools, says Minister Hipkins needs to acknowledge that they had no choice but to apply for designated character school status.

“There has been the absolute minimum of consultation and he has refused to talk to us at all, or respond to emails, telling us through the press to ‘close or be closed’.”

Hipkins says he expects to make decisions on all applications by the end of July, which Poole says is unacceptable.

“The stress from the way he has done things so far has been more than significant on our, predominantly Maori, Pasifika and low decile families,” says Poole.

Regardless of whether the schools’ applications to become designated character schools are successful or not, their charter school contracts will end at the end of the 2018 school year. Hipkins has given formal notice today of the intention to finish the contracts. Contracts with the sponsors of three unopened charter schools, due to open this year and next, have already been ended.

“My preference is still to reach mutual agreement with the charter schools on ending the contracts, and the Ministry of Education will continue to discuss this with the schools.  A formal notice would only take effect if they are unable to reach agreement.”

However, National’s Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says the Minister has engaged in a “terrible process” over partnership schools, ruling out changes to allow the schools to maintain aspects of the partnership school model that enable the success of their students before the Select Committee has deliberated on the matter.

“What’s the point of the Select Committee hearing submissions if the submissions are just going to be ignored?” asks Kaye.

“It is also clear that he is signing off some partnership schools under new models ahead of the Select Committee deliberations which, with his announcement today that all schools have received termination notices, makes a mockery of the Select Committee process.”

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