17 Sep 2013

Military, Maori among first charter schools

6:20 pm on 17 September 2013

The Education Minister has announced the first five charter schools, with one to use a military training ethos and two to be Maori bilingual.

The schools - effectively publicly funded private institutions - are in Northland and Auckland and will initially enrol about 370 students. They will open next February and their rolls will eventually grow to more than 800.

Vanguard Military School will be set up in Albany, Auckland, and use the ethos and training methodology of the military.

Two secondary schools will be Maori bilingual - Te Kura Hourua o Whangarei Terenga Paraoa in Whangarei and Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru in Northland.

South Auckland Middle School will offer project-based learning based on Christian philosophy and values.

Also in South Auckland will be the only primary charter school, the Rise Up Academy.

No obligation for parents

Education Minister Hekia Parata said the applicants were assessed against criteria including their ability to improve the education results of children currently being left behind.

The schools would attract students whose parents felt their needs were not being met at their current school, and parents had no obligation to send their children there, she said.

They would have more freedom than regular state schools, using registered teachers to teach the core curriculum and unregistered staff for other subjects.

The Government allocated $19 million over four years in the Budget for the schools but said more would be needed, and it would have to dip into its education funding.

Barking mad

In July, Labour's then-leader, David Shearer, announced it would ditch the charter schools legislation immediately if elected. New leader David Cunliffe did not go that far today but made it clear Labour Party policy would not include charter schools.

"The idea that public funds would be used to fund schools which neither teacher the curriculum nor employ, as a requirement, fully qualified staff, nor are subject to the OIA (Official Information Act) is barking mad, and we will not have it," he said.

But associate Education Minister John Banks said it would be a foolish move for any future government to do away with charter schools.

"It would take a very brave government to go to the people of Whangaruru, in Northland, that I know very well, and say 'we're from the government, we're here to close you down'," Mr Banks said.

"It's going to be a very silly government that does that."

Vanguard success

Vanguard Military School in Albany will take 108 Year 11 and 12 students from next year, providing daily military and physical training.

The school is run by Advance Training Centres and has a roll which is is 52% Maori and 15% Pasifika.

Advance chief executive Nick Hyde said it offered courses to 16-and 17-year-olds who typically had low educational achievement.

"We have an 85% success rate, and around 60% of those students will go on and join the New Zealand Defence Force," Mr Hyde said.

The Government received 35 applications from organisations wanting to run the charter schools.