7 Sep 2017

Four new charter schools announced by govt

3:55 pm on 7 September 2017

The National government has announced four new charter schools, including the first in the South Island and Gisborne.

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The new schools will include the South Island's first charter school. Photo: 123rf.com

Under-secretary of education David Seymour said they would open in 2019.

They include a Christchurch outpost of Auckland's Vanguard Military School, and an iwi-run junior high school for children in years nine to 11 in Gisborne, Tūranga Tangata Rite.

The latter would be run by Te Runanga o Turanganui a Kiwa, which represents the interests of Rongowhakata, Ngai Tāmanuhiri and Te Aitanga a Māhaki.

There will also be a Māori bilingual secondary school to go with the primary school run by the Manukau Urban Māori Authority in South Auckland, and City Senior School, an inner-city Auckland school with a focus on science, technology, engineering, maths and arts.

There are currently 10 charter or partnership schools, with two more scheduled to open next year.

Mr Seymour said the announcement could not be delayed until after the election because the schools needed time to set up.

David Seymour

Act Party leader and Under-secretary of education David Seymour Photo: RNZ

"The number of applications that we have and the number of partnership schools that are now over-subscribed shows there is a need for this and why shouldn't we get some more opened," he said.

Asked if the schools were being set up in areas that needed more schools, Mr Seymour said that would be proven by parental demand.

"These schools get paid for the number of students that choose to attend them and whether or not there's a need for them is up to those students and parents."

He was confident the schools would survive any change of government that might follow this month's general elections, noting strong Labour Party connections to two of the schools and general support for the schools among Māori.

"I think they would be mad to do anything to these schools because fundamentally, they are succeeding academically," he said.

Teacher unions were critical of the announcement.

Post Primary Teachers Association president Jack Boyle said Ministry of Education figures showed only 59.7 percent of charter school leavers from charter schools left with NCEA level 2 or above last year, compared to a system-wide figure of 80.3 percent.

"Opening charter schools is not going to raise the achievement of our children. 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.

Educational Institute president Lynda Stuart said the money spent on charter schools should be spent on support for children with special needs.

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