Education Minister Chris Hipkins intends to cancel the contracts of four new charter schools signed off by the previous government weeks prior to the election.
Hipkins says the signing of these contacts contravened pre-election protocols. He says those responsible knew that a change in government would likely mean these contracts would have to change.
The four schools, set to open in 2019, included an Auckland school focused on Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths and a new Vanguard school in Christchurch.
Last week, Hipkins said he was in no rush to make decisions about charter schools.
“There are currently about 1,200 young people attending charter schools and we want to take the time to work to find a solution that works for them. We will look at each charter school on a case by case basis,” he said.
However, news that he would now look to cancel the newly signed contracts has come as a shock to the charter school sponsors.
National Party’s education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says Hipkins’ approach to the issue as “disappointing”.
“As I understand it the Minister hasn’t even met with the sponsors and several of the sponsors found out their contracts would be cancelled via the media,” says Kaye.
“Regardless of the Minister’s ideological opposition to partnership schools they deserve a fair process and good communication with the Minister and the Ministry. The public also deserves to know any costs to the crown of cancelling these contracts.”
ACT Leader David Seymour believes the new government won’t find it straightforward to cancel contacts the Crown has already entered into. He’s also questioned the Minister’s approach.
“Mr Hipkins has previously said that he will take schools on a case-by-case basis. Why then is he opposed to Vanguard Military School, whose Auckland campus is among the top ten high schools in Auckland, from opening their second school in Christchurch, where they have demonstrated demand for their offering?”
Chief executive of Vanguard Military School Nick Hyde said they were looking forward to having conversations with the new Minister about the future of their schools.
“We’re looking forward to Chris Hipkins touching base and helping us change whatever we need to fit with the new requirements, but until they come to us there’s not a lot we can do.”