11 Jul 2017

Two charter schools to open in Rotorua and Taupō

4:51 pm on 11 July 2017

Two new charter schools targetting Māori students have been given the green light in Rotorua and Taupō.

University or secondary school students study in a classroom.

Photo: 123RF

The Rotorua school will combine a science and technology focus with Kaupapa Māori aspirations and will be run by local iwi Ngāti Whakaue.

Te Rangihakahaka Centre for Science and Technology will open next year with 80 students across years 1 to 10.

The second, Blue Light Senior Boys High, has links to the police and will have a strong outdoor focus.

The boarding school will open in 2018 with a roll of 30 mainly Māori boys across years 11 to 13.

Under-Secretary to the Minister of Education David Seymour said the charter schools would help students "under-served by the state system".

"In education, one size does not fit all," he said.

"Educational innovators and community leaders like those in Ngāti Whakaue and Blue Light have valuable on-the-ground experience in working with young people."

Mr Seymour said the schools had the flexibility to meet the specific needs of their students in different ways to the mainstream education system.

"For example, one of the schools has at the core of its curriculum a focus on STEM - the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics disciplines - and infusing it with Kaupapa Māori principles to create an environment that is unique for learners."

The schools, which will join the ten other charter schools already running, will open in the first term of the 2018 school year.

They will have a combined opening roll of 110, growing to a maximum of 290 over four years.

Unions critical: 'It's not going to close any gaps'

Education unions have criticised the announcement, saying the new schools won't raise Māori children's achievement.

The NZ Educational Institute (NZEI) said it was "cynical" to portray the new schools as "some sort of educational solution for Māori".

NZEI matua takawaenga Laures Park said most Māori students were in mainstream schools, with many others in kura kaupapa.

"I have no doubt that the people in the organisations behind these charter schools have nothing but the best intentions for the welfare and future of their tamariki.

"But the fact is, more than 85 percent of Māori tamariki go to mainstream public schools.

"The solution for Māori is in a strong public education system, including resourcing the overcrowded Rotorua kura kaupapa that will now be competing with a cashed-up charter school."

The Post Primary Teachers' Association (PPTA) said it was "disappointed" to hear two new charter schools had been approved.

PPTA regional chair Alex Le Long said it was a case of "ideology trumping evidence".

"It's not going to close any gaps. It's not going to level any playing fields. The only thing charter schools do successfully is reward mediocrity by using scarce education money to prop up private owners," he said.

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