8 Feb 2018

Early end on cards for charter schools

6:27 pm on 8 February 2018

Charter schools could be shut down by the end of the year after the government said it wanted an early end to their contracts.

The charter school about a week before opening in February.

Whangaruru School opened in February 2014 but is among the schools now facing an uncertain future Photo: RNZ / Lois Williams

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said the Education Ministry would negotiate with each of the privately-owned, publicly-funded schools on a case-by-case basis.

The government had introduced a bill to Parliament that stops the creation of new charter schools but allows the 11 existing schools to continue while they discuss options with the ministry.

The bill also introduces an offence for anyone who makes a false representation about their eligibility for the new tertiary fees-free policy.

Mr Hipkins said charter schools could now apply to him to become a different type of school, such as a designated character school.

But his preference was early termination of the schools' contracts by mutual agreement, he said.

The legislation also formally marked the end of National Standards, Mr Hipkins said.

"Both National Standards and charter schools were driven by ideology rather than evidence. Both were rejected by the vast majority of the education sector.

"The government's strong view is that there is no place for them in the New Zealand education system," he said.

Post Primary Teachers' Association president Jack Boyle said the bill marked a "great day" for New Zealand schools.

"Many public schools are using the creativity of NCEA and the New Zealand curriculum far better than any charters and it is no surprise well-supported and skilled professional teachers are more likely to be innovative," he said.

"We don't need charter schools for innovation."

But the ACT Party, which was the architect of the charter school policy, was scathing about the new legislation, saying it showed the "juvenile and callous nature of a government led by ex-student politicians".

Leader David Seymour said it was "ideology over evidence ... and payoffs to union backers as the government seeks to massacre partnership schools despite their popularity and success".

The government had no clear alternative, Mr Seymour said.

"They know that Māori and Pacific achievement is abysmal, a stain on the promise of opportunity for all, but they are so focused on helping the 'sector,' read unions, that they have forgotten about the kids."