By: Simon Collins
Microsoft, Datacom and the Auckland Theatre Company have signed up as partners for New Zealand’s newest charter school.
The new City Senior School for 300 students near Auckland’s Victoria Park will share space with The Launching Pad, which is for new business start-ups that will work with students on joint projects.
It is one of four new partnership schools announced today by Education Under-Secretary and Act Party leader David Seymour. The others are in Gisborne, Christchurch and Mangere, where an existing charter school run by Labour candidate Willie Jackson’s wife Tania Rangiheuea will open a new high school.
However all four schools will not open until 2019 and could be torpedoed if Labour wins this month’s election. Labour education spokesman Chris Hipkins said Labour would not go ahead with opening any new charter schools.
“The Government should not be entering into new charter school announcements when they know full well that it is a heated and contentious debate during the election campaign,” he said.
City Senior School Ltd and its parent Launching Pad Charitable Trust have been set up by Hobsonville Point Secondary School deputy principal Claire Amos and Brett O’Riley, who was until recently head of the Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development agency (ATEED).
O’Riley’s wife Robyne Walker is also a director.
It is the first charter school to be approved under new criteria allowing schools to specialise in science, technology, engineering, arts and maths (STEAM) subjects. All 15 other charter schools set up or announced to date have been approved under the initial criteria requiring them to serve Māori, Pacific and low-income students.
The school will take students only in years 11 to 13, starting with 100 year 11 students in 2019 and adding year 12 in 2020 and year 13 in 2021.
Amos said students would work on projects with established technology companies and new start-ups.
“The City Senior School at the Launching Pad will be a hybrid of an innovation senior school combined with a collaborative co-working space for innovative start-up companies,” she said.
O’Riley said Microsoft, Datacom, Auckland Theatre Company and the Media Design School had agreed to be foundation partners, and he was also talking to Google, IBM, Cisco, engineers Mott MacDonald, architects Warren & Mahoney, the National Institute of Water and Atmosphere Research (NIWA) and others.
“We want to give our students a range of industry project experience, so we’ll be looking to work with companies in technology and marine engineering and food technology, and the Auckland Theatre Company is bringing in the arts component of our curriculum,” he said.
O’Riley and Amos met in 2013 when Education Minister Nikki Kaye, who was then associate minister, appointed them both to a 21st Century Learning Reference Group‘ to advise her on learning environments and digital literacy in schools.
Amos said she approached O’Riley with the idea for the new school after attending a SingularityU Summit on ‘futures thinking’ in Christchurch last November.
“I was aware that our schools are not currently providing young people with all the skills they need in this day and age, needing to be prepared for exponential changes coming our way,” she said.
“Brett was aware that the partnership schools had STEM as a category so we put in our application.”
She said the Ministry of Education would provide funding to lease a property in the Victoria Park area, and would then fund the school on the same basis as a decile 5 school.
In a blog post, she has set out a draft school timetable with physical recreation from 9am-10am, whanau mentoring from 10am-11am, STEAM subjects, arts tutorials and green innovation projects from 11am-1pm, and self-directed learning for the rest of the day.
The school will be open to students from anywhere in Auckland and has not yet decided on selection criteria if it receives more applications than it can accept.
Source: NZ Herald