14 Feb 2018

Māori charter schools safe - Labour's Māori MPs

5:04 pm on 14 February 2018

Labour's Māori MPs, including associate Education Minister Kelvin Davis are confident Māori charter schools will be able to successfully transition into the mainstream education system and remain open.

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Kelvin Davis Photo: RNZ

The government wants to terminate the contracts of all 11 charter schools but has given the schools the option of applying to become designated character state schools.

There's been a mixed response from the heads of two Māori charter schools in Auckland and Whangārei about their likely future.

Raewyn Tipene, chief executive of He Puna Marama which helps to run Te Kāpehu Whetū in Whangārei, said she was shocked by Education Minister Chris Hipkin's announcement.

"To be so aggressive in his desire to close down what are effectively schools and children and families - you know we're not prisons, we're not doing something abhorrent."

Ms Tipene said she could not understand why the current government wanted them to change.

"Here we are four years on and our results are year on year spectacular - why would you get rid of a process like that?"

She felt more assured about the future of the school after speaking to Te Taitokerau MP Kelvin Davis, Ms Tipene said.

"I think Kelvin's very very keen to reduce that angst that's occurring and get us all to the table and work through it."

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Labour MP, Willie Jackson Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Tania Rangiheuea is the principal at Te Kura Māori o Waatea in Māngere in South Auckland, which was set-up by the Manukau Urban Māori Authority led by her husband, Willie Jackson, who is now a Labour MP.

She said the authority wanted to turn around low levels of education achievement for Māori.

"They got sick of seeing our young children, our Māori people failing at education and then seeing this failure creeping through and presenting quite disturbingly at primary school level."

Ms Rangiheuea said she could see the benefits of becoming a special character school and coming under the mainstream system.

Currently, she said the kura was funded as a decile three school - however, students at the school come from decile one backgrounds.

She believed becoming part of the mainstream system would allow for more appropriate funding.

"I don't want to undermine anything that the other charter schools are choosing to do collectively because they're all great schools.

"I'm just conscious that I have to do the best for my school."

The school was currently in discussions with the Ministry of Education over its future direction Ms Rangiheuea said.

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