The Education and Workforce Select Committee today heard arguments for and against charter schools as people made their submissions on the Education Amendment Bill, which seeks to remove the provisions relating to the partnership school model and National Standards from the current legislation.

NZEI Te Riu Roa President Lynda Stuart told the committee that their members welcomed the end of the “charter school experiment”.

“Our education system is already hugely diverse and most of these schools could have been established under the special character model, which is what most of them will now switch to.

“They were set up based on the flawed notion that competition and choice improves educational outcomes, and that the private sector can run schools better – even while they could hire unqualified teachers and the trustees could cream off large administrative payments from their generous operating grants,” she said.

ACT Leader David Seymour gave a contrasting submission, and challenged members of the Education and Workforce Committee to visit a charter school in their area before they decide to close them down.

“No Government member of the Education and Workforce Committee has visited a charter school to see the outstanding results they are achieving.

“I believe these MPs are capable of changing their minds after experiencing for themselves what is going on inside charter schools.

“The interests of the students and their whanau have not been taken into consideration in the Government’s decision to close charter schools. Nor does the decision take account of the evidence, including the independent MartinJenkins evaluation.

“1500 mostly disadvantaged Maori and Pasifika children will suffer if the Government forces them back into the state system that failed them in the first place,” says Seymour.

But Lynda Stuart argued that kura kaupapa and bicultural options in mainstream schools made a huge difference for Māori and Pasifika students, and more funding should be going into supporting those schools, rather than setting up a privatised and low-accountability system funded by taxpayers.

In her submission, Stuart also voiced the NZEI’s support for ending National Standards, due to their “negative impact on quality public education”.

“We’re so happy about this Bill. National Standards did nothing to lift student achievement – all it did was narrow the curriculum and force teachers to label children as “below standard” when they didn’t hit an arbitrary target at a certain point each year,” she said.

“Research shows this led to increased anxiety in children, but no overall lift in student achievement.”

“Teachers are delighted to see National Standards dumped. We’re looking forward to being able to embrace the entire curricula and build children’s capabilities from where their strengths lie, rather than being pressured to “accelerate” children towards arbitrary targets for reading, writing and maths.”

The Education Amendment Bill was introduced on 8 February 2018 and makes a number of amendments to the Education Act 1989 and the Education (Update) Amendment Act 2017. In addition to the changes concerning National Standards and charter schools, the Bill also makes amendments to the new strategic planning and reporting framework for schools. The Bill also creates a new offence of making a false representation in relation to an application for fees-free tertiary education, and restores guaranteed places for staff and students on the councils of tertiary education institutions.

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