15 Feb 2013

Committee hears opposition to charter schools

5:24 pm on 15 February 2013

A bill proposing charter schools has been overwhelmingly opposed at a parliamentary select committee meeting in Christchurch, with MPs told it is a disaster waiting to happen.

The Education and Science committee is hearing submissions this week on the Education Amendment Bill that, if passed, will introduce the publicly-funded private schools known as charter or partnership schools.

The bill exempts charter schools from the Ombudsman's Act and the Official Information Act, but Chief Ombudsman Dame Beverley Wakem told the committee in Wellington earlier this week that is unconstitutional.

On Friday, the select committee was told over and again by submitters included principals, university students and pensioners, that the last thing schools in the earthquake-hit city need is more uncertainty and upheaval.

Retired couple Edward and Juliet Johnston said the proposals to remove the requirement for teachers to be registered is a disaster waiting to happen.

They said the bill was undemocratic and urged the committee to recommend it is scrapped.

Former principal Peter Allen told MPs his biggest concern if these type of schools are introduced is that teachers would not have to be qualified and that would remove the guarantee to parents of a minimum standard of quality.

Political scientist Bronwyn Hayward said she agrees there is a need for specialised teaching, but not in the proposed form.

Dr Hayward said deregulating the system is no way to go and would expose children to huge risk.

She described having no recourse to the Official Information Act as "extraordinarily negligent".

Second year university student Joe Davies told the committee that placing private schools in the poorest areas is fundamentally dangerous to the education system.

He thinks it is an "absolute disgrace" that these schools would have no boards of directors or community input.

Just one submission supported the proposal on Friday.

The Government intends to have charter schools open by the start of the next school year. The National Party agreed to establish them under its support deal with ACT.