By: Lindy Laird

He Puna Marama Charitable Trust chief executive Raewyn Tipene says Whangarei’s charter school is positive about its future. Photo / File

The chief executive of Whangarei’s Te Kapehu Whetu school is not fazed by charter schools getting a fail mark and the Government shutting the book on them.

Raewyn Tipene, chief executive of He Puna Marama Charitable Trust, said she believed Te Kapehu Whetu had a secure future, although the board had not yet had formal discussions with the Minister of Education.

”We can’t pre-empt the discussions [but] we’re happy there is a process in place to allow us to continue,” Ms Tipene said.

Te Kapehu Whetu had a successful track record and was widely held up as a model of the public and charter partnerships, she said.

It has been the go-to charter school for ministerial, diplomatic and cultural visits — although new Education Minister Chris Hipkins had not visited it or any other charter schools.

”We have been fully aware the current partnership model did not work for all schools, but Te Kapehu Whetu was an example of how well it could work. We’ve always been told how well we’re doing,” Ms Tipene said.

Mr Hipkins introduced the Education Amendment Bill yesterday to formally end National Standards and charter schools.

”The Government’s strong view is that there is no place for them in the New Zealand education system,” he said.

The bill’s amendment would prevent new charter schools opening but allow existing ones to continue while the ministry considered options.

One option is that some could be redesignated ”character” schools on a case-by-case system. Unlike charter schools, a character school is part of the public education system, funded like other state schools, and sticks to the national curriculum.

But Ms Tipene said He Puna Marama Trust did not want to go in the ”character school” kete.

”We’d be looking for some changes in the parameters. When you look back at 150 years of Maori being educated in New Zealand schools, it hasn’t been successful. We’re in no hurry to head back to that model.”

Ms Tipene said school representatives met with Government representatives at Waitangi last week, before this week’s announcement.

”We are the most successful charter school, and we’ve been getting some great feedback,” she said.

On the other side of the charter school experiment is the failed Te Pumanawa o te Wairua, at Whangaruru, which was ordered to close in February 2016 by then Education Minister Hekia Parata.

Closed because of drug use among students, absenteeism, governance issues, low achievement and falling rolls, in its two years in operation the school had received $5,234,149 in establishment and annual payments.

It owned a farm and buildings with a book value of $1.16 million and estimated sale value of $750,000.

Teachers union NZEI Te Riu Roa has welcomed the Education Amendment Bill.

“Charter schools were ACT and National’s failed experiment,” national secretary Paul Goulter said.

There was never a solid evidence-based case for what the charter school model would add to the New Zealand education system, he said.

Source: NZ Herald


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