8 Dec 2011

Christian schools support plan for charter schools

5:18 am on 8 December 2011

Christian school leaders say the Government's plan to trial charter schools could give them a way to reach the most needy families.

Charter schools are part of a movement in the United States and Britain to get business and non-profit organisations to run government-funded schools free from many of the rules that govern regular state schools.

The schools are not allowed to charge fees, but can set teacher pay and their own school day and year.

A trial for such schools in South Auckland and central and eastern Christchurch was part of the confidence and supply agreement reached between the National and ACT parties on Monday.

Christian school leaders say the proposed schools might give Christian schools a way round current restrictions on their enrolments.

Most are integrated schools and must focus their enrolments on Christians. Charter schools would get the same funding, without those restrictions.

Christian school leaders say that will interest schools that want to help poor communities.

They say the schools would be fulfilling a Christian mission and would not try to convert people to Christianity.

However, they also say the Government might be better off simply freeing up the regulations that govern integrated schools.

Christchurch principals, other groups opposed

Principals say the Government should not go ahead with a plan to trial charter schools in eastern and central Christchurch - areas where the February earthquake caused the most damage.

The Canterbury-West Coast Secondary Principals Association says the idea should have been raised in consultation on the future of schools in the area.

It says charter schools will increase competition and it seems that the consultation was a waste of people's time.

Meanwhile, IHC, private school teachers and Youth Law are the latest organisations to criticise the plan.

Organisations representing principals, teachers and school trustees already oppose the proposed trial.

The IHC says research shows children with disabilities get a raw deal in charter schools overseas.

The Independent Schools Education Association says New Zealand does not need another type of school.

Youth Law, a free legal service for children and young people, says the Government should not make guinea pigs out of children in poor communities.