3 Jul 2018

Teacher union opposes charter school application

5:48 pm on 3 July 2018

Two Auckland charter schools should not be allowed to join the state system because they are little different to other schools in their area, the Educational Institute says.

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Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

In a submission to the Education Ministry, the primary teachers' union said it strongly opposed the Villa Education Trust's application to turn its schools in South Auckland and west Auckland into designated character schools.

The schools are among 11 that would shut at the end of the year unless the government allowed them to join the state system.

The NZEI submission said granting the schools designated character status would make it difficult for the Ministry of Education to maintain an effective network of schools in the two areas.

"The lack of any ability to direct a special character school to adhere to a zone is part of the problem along with the transport arrangements that allow students to bypass their local school. Also a factor is a special character school's ability to sit outside the restructuring that can take place," the submission said.

"NZEI Te Riu Roa also opposes the application on the basis that neither of the proposed schools offer an education that differs from what is already operating in existing schools serving the two areas," it said.

Alwyn Poole from the Villa Education Trust said the schools had been singled out because the trust had been such strong advocates of the charter school model.

"I actually think they've got a bee in their bonnet because we're outspoken," he said.

Mr Poole said only eight schools made submissions on the schools' application. He said two of the submissions were supportive, two were mixed and four, from west Auckland, were opposed.

Educational Institute national secretary Paul Goulter denied the union had targeted the trust's application because of its stance on charter schools.

"Our concern about the Villa application is that the ministry's required to require an effective network in the areas where these schools are and we don't think that the addition of Villa schools adds to the ministry's ability to provide that network of schools in those areas," Mr Goulter said.

The union's also made submissions on nine other applications covering ten other schools. It told the ministry it did not support four of the applications and had concerns or reservations about three others including that of He Puna Marama Trust, which owned two Whangarei charter schools.

The trust's chief executive, Raewyn Tipene, said aside from the NZEI's concerns, the opposition the schools faced in their early days had disappeared.

"We actually got rung by quite a few of the primary schools who were very happy and we had two of the high schools write in and submit supporting our application and only one objector and that was from the NZEI.

Ms Tipene said Auckland's high house and rental prices had caused many families to move to Whangarei and that meant there was no longer any concern about the trust's primary and secondary schools draining students from other schools.

The schools were expecting a decision on their applications in the next few weeks.

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