Since the change of government there have been some vested interest adult organisations clearly seeking the closure of a group of schools that are succeeding in improving education outcomes for groups of children in New Zealand that were struggling previously. The people who would advocate closing them are the same group of people who fought desperately to keep a school of nine students in Nelson open, and who fought to keep some of the schools in Christchurch open – in both cases, for excellent reasons.
The organisations would be best advised to look hard at how they can improve what is happening in their 2600 schools rather than deflecting attention onto a small group of schools that are working and showing progressions for the children that are there. There are improvements in our entire New Zealand system that are desperately needed and that affect a massive number of New Zealand children.
We are looking forward to working with the new government for change also. In this case to be able to enhance and expand the great work that is happening at our two Partnership Schools (or whatever they choose to call them). We already teach the New Zealand Curriculum. Our teachers are registered and well qualified. We are not for profit. Our over-all funding levels match relatively small decile 1-3 schools (with the exception of only getting five to seven per cent of State start-up). So there are few barriers to cooperation.
There are areas we hope for immediate change. We would like to be able to be a part of Communities of Learning (Minister Parata denied us that). We would like to be able to apply to the Teacher-Led Innovation fund. We would like to be eligible for the funding increments for vulnerable children (also denied to us) as many of our children fit in that category. We would like to be able to expand and be funded for expansion as State schools are – as opposed to have large waiting lists and having to police ballot families out each year.
The likely education spokespeople in the parties of the new government are passionate and intelligent people who know a successful school when they see it and are keen to see ongoing improvements for New Zealand children. We look forward to working with them.
Charter Schools are not faceless, impersonal entities. For example, South Auckland Middle School (SAMS) is a school of 180 student students whose statistically are decile 1 and 93 per cent are Maori or Pasifika (SAMS has 100 students on the waiting-list).
Middle School West Auckland (MSWA) is a school of 200 students (240 in 2018) with similar demographics to SAMS. At one point at MSWA our stats showed that we were working with 25 students who had been excluded or “Kiwi excluded” from previous schools (some from a number of schools). Twenty of those have fully settled alongside our other students and succeeded over the growing time period. MSWA went through a difficult first year but through 2016-17 has developing into a thriving, vibrant and excellently lead and staffed school.
The New Zealand Curriculum is taught in both of these schools by our expert (qualified and registered staff). The students come to us with a range of developed abilities but on average start with us at Year 7 with 35 to 40 per cent of them “at or above standard” (best approximation is three years behind). Our stats show that they are making 1.5 years worth of progress in Maths and Reading for each year with us. Those are just the basics. They are also excelling through the rich tasks and broad opportunities we provide. We are not-for-profit, our ERO reports are good – and we have just observed some absolutely outstanding data through students and family surveys from an external evaluator.
As we move towards 2018 we will be working with 420 students and we also work closely with their families who are telling us that they are feeling hope for the first time for many of these children and very much feel a part of our schools. Their children are more aspirational and succeeding in breaking out of embedded cycles. They are telling us they want to go to university, to study, to travel, to perform and to both give back and become leaders in their societies.
“Closing charter schools” is not a sterile action against faceless organisations. It would be an action that would deeply affect some families and communities that are beginning to thrive in a way they had lost hope for. Many of these families are those who have resided in the bottom of New Zealand’s education stats for generations and have now found a ladder to get out of the hole.
It is worth having a flick down through this page to get an idea of who we are working with and what is happening for them.
Maybe one of the first things a new Minister of Education could ask from the Ministry is for the Villa Education Trust survey data from the latest external evaluation. We would agree to its release.
Alwyn Poole is director of Villa Education Trust, which runs Auckland partnership schools South Auckland Middle School and Middle School West Auckland.