Sir Toby Curtis and Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi, who both served on the Partnership Schools/Kura Hourua Authorisation Board, are due to appear at the Education and Workforce Select Committee this morning to argue the case for continuing partnership or charter school status for the kura hourua.

The Government in June terminated the contracts of 10 of the 11 charter schools (kura hourua) who now wait to see whether they can become integrated schools or special character state schools.  The Education and Workforce Select Committee last month started hearing arguments for and against the Education Amendment Bill, which seeks to remove the provisions relating to the partnership school model.

Sir Toby said the Treaty claim was important because the large majority of the 1500 students at the schools being shut down are Māori, many of whom had enrolled to get a fresh start in education and get their lives back on track. Six of the eleven Kura Hourua currently in operation have between 87% and 100% Maori rolls.

“The rights of these students to make that choice and the rights of parents and whanau to choose and support what’s best for their children are being taken away from them”, said Sir Toby who was knighted for 45 years service to education including chairing the Iwi Education Authority for tribal immersion schools.

He said the Government’s plans to offer Kura Hourua the chance to re-establish themselves as regular state schools would not solve the problem.

“What it would do is to strip the schools of the key flexibilities that were allowing them to succeed. Students would be left with no choice but to either leave school or return to a state system that wasn’t working for them in the first place.

“Yes, we have a good state education system, but it doesn’t serve all students’ needs equally well.  Results across the country clearly show that one size does not fit all”, said Sir Toby.

Dame Iritana, a leading advocate for the Kohunga Reo movement, said she took particular issue with the Crown’s total lack of consultation with either the schools or their student’s families and whanau.

“This Government has ridden roughshod over the futures of these young people in spite of claiming that they are placing a priority on helping our most vulnerable children.

“The evidence shows that Kura Hourua have been delivering very positive results for Māori students who for decades have been falling through the gaps.

“Despite years of trying, the state education system has failed to close the gap between Māori and Pasifika learning success and that of all other New Zealanders. Yet here we have eleven schools that have been open for less than four years making the difference we have been looking for, and here the Government is closing them down. It just makes no sense at all”, Dame Iritana said.

Sir Toby said that the Treaty of Waitangi provides a principled framework that was easy to understand and that all could respect.

“The principles of partnership, reciprocity, active protection and equity are derived from the Treaty, and provide a good foundation for us all to work from”, he said.

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