14 May 2024

Watch: Charter schools to get $153m in new funding in Budget 2024

11:53 am on 14 May 2024

Up to 50 new or converted charter schools will be funded out of Budget 2024, the coalition government has announced.

It has set aside $153 million of new funding for the publicly-funded private schools over the next four years.

The money will establish 15 new charter schools and convert 35 state schools in 2025 and 2026, depending on demand and suitability.

Associate Education Minister David Seymour said there had been overwhelming interest from educators exploring the charter model.

"We've heard from potential applicants such as TIPENE St Stephen's Māori Boy's Boarding School, and AGE School.

"By focusing primarily on student achievement, charter schools allow sponsors and communities to take their own path getting there.

David Seymour makes an announcement regarding charter schools at Vanguard Military School.

Photo: RNZ/Nick Monro

"They can, with some restrictions, set their own curriculum, hours and days of operation, and governance structure.

"They also have greater flexibility in how they spend their funding as long as they reach the agreed performance outcomes."

He told media on Tuesday "the idea that there's a no-holds-bar curriculum is not a fair assessment of what charter schools will be".

"They will be required to teach a curriculum that is as good or better than the New Zealand curriculum.

"We are going to demand higher standards. Charter schools will be the only schools that contract that and say 'if you don't do it, your funding is at risk and you may ultimately be closed down'."

David Seymour makes an announcement regarding charter schools at Vanguard Military School.

Students at the Vanguard School in Auckland, where the announcement was made on Tuesday. Photo: RNZ/Nick Monro

He said state schools that were not performing could be turned into charter schools.

While the school would continue, in some cases there might be the need for new management, he said.

Charter schools will have autonomy and not be forced to follow the cellphone ban.

"They won't be forced to do things such as the cellphone ban, but if you look at a school like this, you don't see any cellphones, and I expect that by and large they will operate the same way."

The schools will have contracts requiring high performance, Seymour said.

An application process for prospective charter schools will open after legislation is passed in Parliament.

It is expected the first charter contracts will be signed before the end of the year, so the first schools can open for Term 1 of 2025.

David Seymour makes an announcement regarding charter schools at Vanguard Military School.

Photo: RNZ/Nick Monro

Seymour said the changes would lift declining educational outcomes.

"Charter schools provide educators with greater autonomy, create diversity in New Zealand's education system, free educators from state and union interference, and raise overall educational achievement, especially for students who are underachieving or disengaged from the current system."

"They provide more options for students, reinforcing the sector's own admission that "one size" doesn't fit all."

Seymour said a new departmental agency - independent of the Ministry of Education - would be created to monitor the performance of charter schools.

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