4 Jun 2015

Charter schools report top marks

1:24 pm on 4 June 2015

NCEA pass rates of 100 percent and surpluses as high as $600,000 are detailed in the first ever charter school annual reports and financial accounts.

Student at Linwood Primary School.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The five schools set up last year had to report publicly on their 2014 performance before the start of this week.

The reporting was billed as an important part of the transparency and accountability arrangements surrounding the schools, which are a new arrangement that essentially sees the Government contract out schooling to third parties.

But by the middle of this week only three of the schools had published their information on their websites, and the remaining two - the Rise Up Academy and Te Pumanawa o Te Wairua at Whangaruru in Northland - had not sent theirs to Radio New Zealand despite requests.

Vanguard Military School's annual public report runs to 40 pages, including nine devoted to parent and student testimonials, and one to rebuttals of criticism of the charter school model.

The report highlights Vanguard's NCEA pass rates of 96 percent at level one and 100 percent at level two. The school had just over 100 students last year including 33 it says had previously failed NCEA.

It also shows the Auckland school expelled or excluded four students, made suspensions totalling 15 days and stand-downs for 25 days - all outside the ministry's targets for a school which had just over 100 students.

But the school's chief executive Nick Hyde made no apology for that.

"The way we set up the school, we just couldn't tolerate certain things, because part of our contract with the Government is we must provide a safe learning environment for all and some things certainly tilt that over the edge," he said.

Mr Hyde said the expulsions were not for trivial matters that might have been ignored at other schools.

"The cases for suspensions, the exclusions, were at the extreme level of what you'd expect at a school. They're not someone forgot their pen or something stupid. There was an assault and drug use."

The school provided its financial accounts on request, and they showed a surplus of five percent or $110,000 last year.

Mr Hyde said the money will be reinvested in the school and in a trust to help students in hardship.

The report for the 53-student Whangarei school, Terenga Paraoa, showed it had no expulsions, suspensions or stand-downs last year.

It said it had NCEA pass rates of 100 percent at level one, 86 percent at level two, and 100 percent at level three.

The school's audited accounts are on its website and show it made a 28 percent or $600,000 surplus last year, which it said was needed to cover planned spending.

South Auckland Middle School's report said the 100-student school excluded two children, suspended one, and stood-down four last year.

The school's academic manager Alwyn Poole said that was within the ministry's targets.

"We've got absolute minimal truancy. Yes, we've had to go through two processes with students, and you do that, I think like every school does, with tremendous regret when that comes up. But we're happy from a discipline procedure perspective that we're doing things well, correctly and in close relationship with the ministry."

The report said students' academic achievement is improving, but did not say how many finished the year at or above the national standards in reading, writing and maths.

The school later provided this information to Radio New Zealand. It shows 63 percent of the school's Year 7 and 8 students were at or above the reading standard last year, 50 percent of Year 7s and 79 percent of Year 8s were at or above the math's standard, and 69 percent of Year 7s and 50 percent of Year 8s were at or above the writing standard.

Only the Year 7 math's achievement rate was below the performance standard required of the school, but most were below the national averages for schools in 2013.

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