1 Sep 2015

Labour MPs told to toe the line on charter schools

8:04 am on 1 September 2015


Two Labour MPs made an error of judgment in attending a fundraiser for a trust which has established a charter school, party leader Andrew Little says.

Tamaki Makaurau MP Peeni Henare

Peeni Henare is a supporter of He Puna Marama Trust charter school in Whangerei. Photo: RNZ / Demelza Leslie

Labour MP for Tāmaki-Makaurau Peeni Henare and his colleague, Kelvin Davis, attended a fundraiser for the He Puna Marama Trust, which has set up a charter school in Whangarei.

The party has been vehemently opposed to the formation of charter schools and pledged to scrap them if it won the last election.

Mr Davis told 3News at the fundraiser that Mr Little did not want the Labour MPs to attend the event.

Mr Henare told Radio New Zealand he knew all the people involved in both the trust and the kura itself, including the students.

"I support that particular charter school, and the reason I do that is that I've seen kaupapa grow from the fetal stages all the way to what they have today and I've seen the outcomes they've achieved and that's I why I support that particular kaupapa."

The Education Review Office's report on the kura, released in February, found it had made a good start providing education for young Maori, and that senior students were making pleasing progress.

Labour Party Leader, Andrew Little.

Andrew Little (file) Photo: RNZ / Jane Patterson

Party leader Andrew Little told Morning Report today he was confident the MPs' misjudgment would not be repeated.

"We've had a pretty strong campaign against charter schools. It's not a model that we favour, we don't think its a good model for addressing Maori underperformance in education and having them would send, or has the potential to send, a conflicting signal."

Mr Little said he had told the MPs his preference was for them not to go, but they felt they had local considerations to take into account.

"I understand the reasons why they went, I don't think they understood how it would look or the potential consequences of them going. They are now aware of that." It was most unlikely they would go to any more fundraisers, he said.

He said all Labour MPs subscribed to party policy, which is to abolish charter schools.

Mr Henare said yesterday that how the policy played out remained to be seen.

"We are all mature adults, I'd like to think and if we can get the opportunity to sit down and debate the merits for and of these kinds of kaupapa - and I'd expect the same for all policies and kaupapa that the Labour Party has - that the opportunity be given to sit down, to debate the merits on a fair playing field if you like, and I'm sure that'll take place in due course."

Charter schools were set up under the confidence and supply agreement between National and the ACT Party.

David Seymour talking on Northland by-election.

David Seymour Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

ACT leader David Seymour said he thought Labour would realise the schools were making a real difference.

"I actually think it should be a point of pride that they can have discussions, that they can have disagreements and come out supporting better policies, and I obviously believe that partnership schools, Kura Hourua, are one of those policies."

Prime Minister John Key said clearly some Labour MPs were now seeing the merits of charter schools, even if their leader could not.

"Up north there have been some education issues and there have been some children falling between the cracks and I'm not saying partnership schools are for everybody, but they can fill some important missing parts of the equation.

"I think [Kelvin Davis] is quite rightly reflecting that if we continue to do what we've always done, we'll get what we've always got up north and that is not good enough results for all children of Northland."

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