1 Feb 2012

'I can be objective' says Isaac

9:33 pm on 1 February 2012

Former ACT party president Catherine Isaac who is set to lead the trial of two charter schools, says her appointment is not a political one.

ACT MP John Banks, who is Associate Education Minister under ACT's confidence and supply agreement with National, announced on Tuesday that he has appointed Ms Isaac to oversee the trial of charter schools Christchurch and South Auckland.

Her appointment has been criticised by the Labour Party, which is questioning whether she would have any objectivity in overseeing the implementation of the pilot.

Labour leader David Shearer says Ms Isaac's background with ACT means she will push through the schools whether they're a good idea or not.

Ms Isaac says she is not an ideologue as she believes in sound public policy that works in practice.

She says she brings a broad range of educational experience to the role.

She told Checkpoint she believes she has plenty of objectivity on this topic and, while she didn't ask for the appointment, she would be very pleased to serve in the role.

Isaac well-respected says Banks

Mr Banks says Ms Isaac is a well-respected, competent business person who was also a member of a school board of trustees for six years.

He says charter schools have worked overseas and the party is determined to make them work here.

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.

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

PM says no final decision made on who will oversee trial

Prime Minister John Key says there has as yet been no final decision on who will oversee the trial of two charter schools and Mr Banks might be jumping the gun a bit with his announcement.

However, Mr Key says he thinks very highly of Ms Isaac and says she would be a good appointment to lead the trial.

He also dismisses Labour's questioning of Ms Isaac's objectivity saying if people were ruled out of jobs on the basis of their political views there wouldn't be too many people applying for jobs.

Education Minister Harata Parata will be responsible for choosing the remaining members of the working group, which will lead the trial and consult with the public .

She says the two schools will be operating by the end of the Parliamentary term.

Others not happy with appointment

The Green Party says the appointment shows a complete lack of understanding by ACT of how the education system works.

It says experts within the systems should be involved in the trial.

The Post Primary Teachers Association says the appointment has confirmed its worst suspicions about the schools.

PPTA president Robin Duff told Morning Report the appointment of Ms Isaac shows the trial will be ideologically driven rather than being a fair assessment.

He said overseas evidence overwhelmingly shows charter schools are not a success.