“Choice” versus fairness in education

Why is it that this country continues to adopt failed models from elsewhere instead of strengthening our own structures based on our own experience? The schools and communities of South Auckland and Eastern Christchurch are being used to justify ideological experimentation. After all there are many good schools doing their best in these regions and many parents who support their local schools.

I haven’t seen any parents marching for the right to set up a Charter school or demanding more “freedom”. I have seen some of the overseas literature on the failure of the Charter model and it’s a sad and sorry tale about reinforcing inequality.

So ACT as in John Banks has persuaded the Government that Charter schools (a model of privatisation of the public good) will somehow make education work better for all. How this is supposed to happen via performance pay, cheery picking and lack of accountability is anybody’s guess. Undermining the public education system will not fix poverty and inequality but then not everybody really wants to. A low wage economy needs to keep some of its population unskilled and unemployed to keep those wages in their place.

If the Government really cared about education we might have discussed learning models at the Education and Science Select Committee. In the last three years we spent a tiny percentage of our time talking about learning let alone “reforms” like National Standards. We might have seen some mention from the Government of the Charter Schools option during the election campaign. However there was no public signal that privatisation of the public education system was going to be part of the new regime.

Without being melodramatic (or not very) I do find it an evil use of language. They are pushing the idea that low income communities would have more “choice” if the public system was competing with a privatised model of schooling funded from the public purse.

During the election campaign I launched our education policy at a primary school in Manurewa East which celebrates its cultural diversity and has wonderful support for its students. It was a happy place with music, colour, vegetable gardens and a passion for education.

Over the last two years I have been a regular visitor at a low-decile school in South Wellington which has just had a fantastic ERO report and has a very high standard of parental involvement. I could also wax lyrical about the Victory school community hub in Nelson and the incredible achievement record of Te Waiu o Ngati Porou kura in Ruatoria.  These are quality public schools and kura kaupapa. They are flexible and meet students needs without business rhetoric or models. Their secrets include dedicated teachers, community support and cultural respect

The Green Party is not saying the public system has no issues. Schools manifest our society with all its inequalities and challenges, but cannot of themselves fix the growing inequality. We know there are numerous issues that need work and resources. But we know what the word “public” means and what values and benefits it protects, and we are ashamed of what this Government is proposing to do.

72 Comments Posted

  1. And just like saying some have better results than public schools, but but all should be banned because they have the same designation of “charter schools”, therefore they must all be objected to – the good ones and the bad.

  2. nznative says “We do know what works in education and more money needs to be invested in the ‘failing’ kids.”

    Thousands of failing kids aren’t even at school. So it doesn’t matter what you spend at school – you won’t reach them if they’re not even interested enough to be there.

    (NZ has the highest drop out rate in the OECD).

    I talked to someone on Friday night whose two boys (now grown up) had been to a charter school in the US. Rather than a general curiculum available at the local state school, it was allowed to specialize in science subjects, which was exactly what his kids loved, so they excelled.

  3. Lets look at the spin and bullshit that the Nats and act will be pumping out as they push through deregulation and commercialisation of our kids education.

    They might claim we spend more as a % of gdp on education than somewhere like Aussie …………. but their gdp is far greater than ours, they spend more per kid.

    They might say poor schools get more money than rich schools ….. yeah right, the rich kids schools dont have a problem with funding, sports gear, computers in class etc etc .

    We do know what works in education and more money needs to be invested in the ‘failing’ kids.

    Which under National and Acts cap on Govt spending CAN NOT happen ……

    So instead they privatise and deregulate and are going to inflict the same flawed mindset that gave us Pike River and the leaky building disasters.

    Right wing madness … and $uffer the children

  4. The sunday star times has an interesting article on this scheme from national and act.

    First some stats on these money making freestyling pseudo schools,: 37% did WORSE, 46% the same and 17% were better. Do the maths because thats a negative result.

    Also these pseudo schools are going to be able set their own curriculum, hire any bum without qulifications, set their own hours etc etc etc.

    Excuse me but this deregulation is what caused the Pike mine disaster, the leaky building disaster. the financial company disasters …..

    Except this time the lack of rules and regulations will be inflicted on kids …….

    John Banks [frog: deleted – let’s leave MPs’ families out of it] … before inflicting his warped values on others .

  5. SPC, I could spend an entire day listing people who got educated and had everything going against them. People like Frederick Douglass, Alex Haley and virtually every well educated person from the Third World. They didn’t have well insulated homes, they didn’t have three meals a deal, in the case of Douglass, it was probably illegal for him to get an education, so he would not have had support. What they did have though was determination.

    For every one of those there are a thousand equally determined who failed or died trying John-ston. When you finally understand that, figure it out for yourself because there is no way I can explain it to you…. you have to get inside someone else’s skin and see how they see the world in a way. When you DO understand it though, you will understand that you would be listing the ones who were talented, determined AND damned lucky.

    Fair is providing an even chance for the average person in the situation, not indicated by the success of the exceptional.


  6. So you don’t see anything negatively affecting the motivation of students to succeed but the extent of their own determination and will-power to do so? Not a lack of role models, poor home health or hunger, not inadequate support, not an environment without expectation …

    SPC, I could spend an entire day listing people who got educated and had everything going against them. People like Frederick Douglass, Alex Haley and virtually every well educated person from the Third World. They didn’t have well insulated homes, they didn’t have three meals a deal, in the case of Douglass, it was probably illegal for him to get an education, so he would not have had support. What they did have though was determination.

    How do schools deternmine their intake of pupils without zoning?

    How did they determine it without zoning? Or to put the ball back into your court, how do you propose improving the status quo where the children of the rich have the ability to go to good schools and thus do well in life, whilst the children of the poor have no choice but to go to bad goods and not do well in life as a result?

  7. john-ston

    How do schools deternmine their intake of pupils without zoning?

    Would it be like the old 11+ in the UK, people showing their child’s national standard result?

    Now how would access to “good” primary schools be determined?

    By having had good pre school education?

    So there would be competition to get children into the right pre schools so they qualified to get into the right secondary school?

    So you don’t see anything negatively affecting the motivation of students to succeed but the extent of their own determination and will-power to do so? Not a lack of role models, poor home health or hunger, not inadequate support, not an environment without expectation …

  8. As for the level of pay for teaching

    What everyone forgets about is the fact that teachers probably have the best job security of any profession in New Zealand. Unless you do something incredibly stupid, you could become a teacher at a school and remain there until the day you decide to retire. I suspect that a fair number of people would be willing to take a shave in pay safe in the knowledge that you’ll never be made redundant.

    A few thoughts – comparing todays education to the past is misleading – in the old days people could leave at 15 – not even start their 5th form NCEA Level 1/SC year. Those that did – well half would fail SC and leave school. Others left school with a SC pass and go to polytech or jobs. The 6th form year (NCEA Level 2/UE was seen as that for those either going onto university or polytech). The 7th form year/NCEA Level 3 for those going onto university.

    However, that was possible because of the quality of the qualification. My guess is that School Certificate back in the 1950s was probably as difficult as NCEA Level 3 today, or even the First Year of University. Certainly having had a look at 19th Century Examinations (they used to publish the questions asked in the Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives), I can see that the expectations were much higher back in Victorian times than is the case today.

    john-ston care to identify the alternative to school zoning – and if there is one why did no party suggest ending that policy?

    The alternative is getting rid of school zoning, and the reason why no-one has suggested ending that policy is because on the left, there is the view that everyone should be equal (even though school zoning really means that rich people get a better education than poor people because rich people can move into the zones of good schools or send their children to private schools), whilst on the right, ending a policy that provides a lovely boost to house values in the likes of Epsom, Torbay and Bucklands Beach would not go down that well.

    Really, it is the same reason why we see no progress on affordable housing. We have the left who are convinced that suburbs and public transport cannot go together, whilst those on the right don’t want to suddenly see the house values of their voters drop.

    What National refuses to do is support food in poor area schools – that would do some good in improving outcomes (as would roll out of rental property insulation that they also do not move on).

    Would it though? I suspect the biggest problem is the lack of determination among those students. You notice all the people that came from poor backgrounds and bettered themselves – they had a lot of determination; they walked for miles to go to school, and so on.

  9. Teachers and medical staff are indicative that we do pay skilled staff less than they do overseas – in these areas is it because we cannot afford to pay more – low tax revenues off low privates sector wages and too much profit going offshore?

    As for the level of pay for teaching


    Base Salary

    The teachers’ base scale is the same for all teachers in kindergartens and in state and state integrated schools.

    The base salary scale ranges from $30,000 to $68,980, depending on a teacher’s qualifications and experience. Many teachers receive an allowance in addition to their base salary.
    •Untrained teachers start at $30,000 a year and make up less than three per cent of the teaching workforce (trained and untrained teachers).
    •Untrained primary teachers can progress to $31,305; untrained area teachers can progress to $36,523.
    •Untrained and unqualified secondary teachers can progress to $36,523 or $65,609 if they have or gain qualifications during their teaching career.
    •Salary Group 1 teachers have a qualification such as a Diploma of Teaching. They start at $33,914 a year and can progress to $54,132. Less than ten per cent of trained teachers are in this group.
    •Salary Group 2 teachers have a qualification such as an Advanced Trades Certificate. They start at $36,523 and can progress to $58,044. About three per cent of trained teachers are in this group.
    •Salary Group 3 teachers have a qualification such as a Bachelor of Teaching. They start at $44,348 and can progress to $65,609. About twenty per cent of trained teachers are in this group.
    •Group 1 and 2 teachers can also progress to $65,609 while they hold permanent units.
    •Salary Group 3+ teachers have a qualification such as a Diploma of Teaching and a Bachelor of Arts. They start at $45,653 and makeup almost sixty per cent of all trained teachers.
    •Salary Group 4 teachers have a qualification such as an Honours degree. They start at $47,610 and represent about five per cent of all trained teachers.
    •Salary Group 5 teachers have a qualification such as a Masters or a PhD. They start at $50,217 represent about three per cent of all trained teachers.
    •The maximum base salary for Group 3+, 4, and 5 teachers is $68,980.

    Teachers move up the salary scale by annual increment, moving to a higher step on the scale when their board is satisfied that they meet the professional standard. About two thirds of teachers have reached the maximum step on the salary scale.

  10. PhotoNZ – wrong end of stick, Sir.

    I wasn’t talking about teachers salaries, but the salaries of those we educate. Employers in NZ do not pay a premium for educated people over lesser educated people, we are the lowest rated country in that regard.

    I’m not convinced its because NZ employers are crap compared to employers everywhere else on the planet, but more that its (as a generalisation) the case that NZ businesses are crap (ie doesn’t do anything that needs well educated people), and dont actually need (and thus value, and thus pay for) well-educated people. Or maybe we don’t have any not-well educated people?

  11. ciaran,

    I’ll repeat my question – how do the charter school trials represent extra spending on poor area pupils? Schools are funded on a per pupil basis so it is a spending transfer to the charter school.

    If I presume you to be inferring that existing schools that charge pupils can seek to become charter schools and end charging – then you mean enabling existing private schools to become bulk funded as per charter schools to end or reduce (more likely as many exist to provide more resources than public schools – and the others have integrated) fee collection. But they would not end fee collection so would still place a barrier to poor parent children. And be a subsidy of those who can afford this now.

    If you do not support adoption of voucher education – a general subsidy of those funding private schools now how would there be a distinction or eligibility test for charter schools?

    If you mean simply enable a few schools like those of Montessori to be bulk funded then demand for places would increase and how many children of poor parents would be in their school areas?

  12. Hi, good debate on the issues, I wish we had these debates in Parliament. And I wish that we would all look at the current system in terms of exitsing flexibility, and Charters and diversity, there’s a lot out there in the public system and we have private schools so what is the rationale?

    Ideology not evidence rules. The education system has issues, one being that schools cannot fix social inequality and that without in depth education such as Kotahitanga Pakeha and other tauiwi teachers don’t always grasp how to work with Maori students. I can think of many changes to strengthen our schools.

    But look at who is proposing Charter schools, its not educationalists it’s John Banks and Don Brash. Wake up to the agenda here, its vouchers and “freedom” for parents and performance pay. It’s “client agreements” with 12 year olds to make them perform.

    Listen to the kids for a change, they want small classes, great relationships and equity in public schools – read my report on asking low decile students their needs last year. And read Diana Ravitch who was the Bush administration’s advocate for Charter Schools and has now recanted – calling for co-operation, not more competition in education!

  13. @SPC, I think you answered your own question on funding.

    And while schools such as the Montessori schools generally aren’t ‘run for profit’ the bottom line is that it is expensive to run a school without state funding and so they are obliged to charge students. This puts them out of the range of poorer families.

    And can you please not double post, it makes it much harder to follow your arguments as they become very disjointed and for us to keep track of the responses of other people. Plus takes up a lot of space. Perhaps you could just put a couple of lines between ‘comments’ starting the next response with an @ symbol and the new persons name as other people have done. Thank you.

    Unfortunately I have to withdraw somewhat from this discussion as a homeschool biology project has left us with an urgent problem that will require many days maintenance thanks to a neighbours cat but I will look in to see what people have to say & leave comments if & when I get the chance. It has been a pleasure discussing this issue with you all.

  14. dbuckley says “4/ Of all the OECD countries and beyond, New Zealand places the lowest value on education in terms of salary premium.”

    yeah right.

    $71,000 (the official average pay for a secondary school teacher) is just appalling – they must be starving on that.

  15. ciaranz

    could you specify how National is spending money on poor peoples children by allowing charter schools?

    I realise they are being proposed for Sotuh Auckland and a “relatively poor” area of Christchurch, but schools are funded in ways that mean that any money sent to new schools would be taken from schools that lost pupils.

  16. A few thoughts – comparing todays education to the past is misleading – in the old days people could leave at 15 – not even start their 5th form NCEA Level 1/SC year. Those that did – well half would fail SC and leave school. Others left school with a SC pass and go to polytech or jobs. The 6th form year (NCEA Level 2/UE was seen as that for those either going onto university or polytech). The 7th form year/NCEA Level 3 for those going onto university.

    So called poor underclass educational outcomes are exacerbated by the loss of unskilled manual jobs since the 80’s economic reforms – they are no different to those of the past and actually overall more people are better educated (the misconception otherwise comes from university staff catering to more people going to university than ever before, thus a broader range of ability – they should know better).

    We have a particular problem with Maori educational outcomes – bi-lingual capability would help them improve learning outcomes as this seems to help in that. So would food in poor area schools/rental property insulation) and paying tutors (with assistance from mentors), to do out of school hours classes for motivated Maori children/parents and their children.

  17. cirianz

    The education solution for dyslexia is to train teachers to teach students with this learning disability and then to establish specialist classes for these pupils. In the short term a school in each “area” providing a class in age group for these pupils. The philosophy of mainstreaming is behind resistance to this idea.

    The other issues you raise – different learning types suggest a broader reform to teaching. Whether they could all occur within existing schools I am not sure.

    Already there are some programmes to teach differently – for those who learn better in groups (tables rather than single desks etc) trialled for Maori in the Waikato if I recall it accurately – and some ideas to teach the more active (boys) separately. And of course some independent programmes for solo mothers and those who do not fit in the secondary school system (which is moving to academy options as more puplis stay on longer).

  18. nznative says “We do actually know what works in education but the fixes cost money and National has never been prepeared to spend money on poor peoples children.”

    No, I’m sorry, but no one has ever been able to work out a single schooling system that worked for all children & quite a few have tried and many have theorised. But the trouble is that since different people learn in different ways, at different rates, and in different patterns no single system can cater to the needs of all. The best we can do is to develop a system that will support multiple learning options. Provide the same financial support to schools that teach to different educational needs that is given to schools that teach to the ‘mainstream’. Or are you saying that my children don’t deserve the same chances as everyone elses?

    And as to your second point, well, it seems to me that the National govt, however much I might despise them in other areas, actually does appear to be trying to do exactly what you say they never do, ie “spend money on poor people’s children” right exactly now. And all they’re getting for it is flak.

    Our last glorious Labour govt on the other hand was in office for how long before, despite constant petitioning from individuals & organisations fighting for the rights of people with learning disabilities, not to mention all of the overseas evidence, that they would officially acknowledge that dyslexia existed. Why? Because if they did so they would have to spend money on it, such as is done in other countries such as the UK where every school is required to have at least one teacher who has done a special training course in how to teach people with dyslexia within the last five years. And all schools must have the special resources available that are needed for severely dyslexic children to learn to read. And such as is done here for people with visible disabilities (eg those in wheelchairs) that can’t be denied.

    When my Doctor diagnosed my son as dyslexic he apologised to me. He told me that in nearly any other country in the world there would be assistance, funding & resources to help my child. But in New Zealand the government’s official policy was that dyslexia did not exist. It did not exist….
    It took massive amounts of pressure from many sources for many years to get Ms Clark to finally concede, only 3 years ago, that well, ok, maybe the rest of the world was right & we were wrong in insisting that there was no such thing.
    Do you understand that? It was only 3 years ago, at the very end of their term, that Labour would acknowledge that dyslexia exists. That is, not until it wouldn’t have to be them that would be spending the money. Until then the most common state school policy I encountered was that public humiliation (by forcing such children to read in front of the class) would get them to stop being so lazy. Although I do know of one child who, on repeated occasions, was sent out to sit in the hallway by his teacher because he was “too stupid to be worth teaching”.
    The only school I encountered that had any provision for teaching dyslexic children it was entirely at the headmaster’s instigation and out of her own pocket. All of the other headmaster’s I spoke to stuck to the official policy and insisted there was no such thing.

    And this was with something as definitive & recognised as dyslexia. If our state schools can’t even cope with that, how are they going to handle something as difficult to get recognised as ‘different thinking & learning types’. even though such things are recognised to some extent in adults (I don’t know about you, but I always think best on my feet. Give me a problem, lots of tea, & somewhere to pace & I’m fine.)

  19. photonz,

    What National refuses to do is support food in poor area schools – that would do some good in improving outcomes (as would roll out of rental property insulation that they also do not move on).

  20. photonz you say we spend a higher level of GDP on education – that is a deceptive statistic and you must know this, but you think you can sneak this by some people so push it anyway.

    We have lower GDP per person – we actually spend less for each child being educated and certainly pay teachers less.

  21. john-ston care to identify the alternative to school zoning – and if there is one why did no party suggest ending that policy?

  22. And, to add to Photo’s list

    4/ Of all the OECD countries and beyond, New Zealand places the lowest value on education in terms of salary premium.

  23. nznative says “We do actually know what works in education but the fixes cost money and National has never been prepeared to spend money on poor peoples children.”

    Completely wrong on several counts.

    1/ Schools funding is by deciles. The lowest decile schools get the most money. The highest deciles get the least.

    2/ We spend a higher percentage of our gdp on education than Switzerland, US, Canada, UK, Australia, Finland, Belgium, France, Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Germany, Austria, Hong Kong, South Korea, Ireland, Italy etc

    3/ If we know what the fixes are, why do we have the worst school drop-out rate in the OECD?

    (hint – if you really want to find solutions, you actually have to look for them – rather than grasping at any old nonsense simply to fuel your hatred).

  24. Catherine, and other commentators opposed to charter schools, choose to ignore that NZ had had charter schools (in effect) for a few decades now: Catholic Schools, Steiner Schools, Maori Schools, and Khrishna Schools are all examples of the Charter Schools model, are demonstrably successfull, and to argue otherwise as Catherine is doing is is to continue to argue from a position of demonstrable ignorance.

  25. I dont think the word ‘fairness’ is in the Key-party manifesto.. it was replaced by other words : Greed & Greedier !


  26. Good point on charter schools made by Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn:

    …not even their supporters believe the schools will work – or at least, not strongly enough to risk the future of their own children (or their political career) on it. So instead we have the usual story: the children of the poor get to be guinea pigs for the crackpot theories of the rich. And if it doesn’t work out, well, its not as if anyone important suffers, is it?

    If Key and Banks want to run this experiment, they should put their money where their mouth is: run the trial in their own electorates, and send their own kids to them. The fact that they won’t speaks volumes.

  27. They pull the rug out from under the poor people

    Nznative, Labour did the same thing when they introduced school zoning. That made it impossible for the children of the poor to attend good schools, whilst it made the people of Epsom, Bucklands Beach and Torbay rich because their houses were suddenly more desirable because they were in the right school zone.

  28. Scott @ Emperator Fish:

    “Over at Kiwiblog David Farrar writes:

    The teacher unions insisted national standards should be trialled before implementation, yet are furiously against charter schools being trialled.

    Are they worried the trial might be a raging success?

    What are the problems with this analysis?

    * The teachers unions don’t want National Standards at all. They don’t want a trial. But because they don’t much like the policy and think it will fail, they believe that a limited trial would have been a lesser evil than a full rollout.
    * It’s entirely possible that opposition to charter schools is based on a dearth of evidence that they will lift the achievement levels of those most in need.
    * Based on overseas evidence, which is mixed, it would take an incredible optimist to expect charter schools to be a “raging success”. It’s unlikely that such fears are behind teacher opposition.
    * The charter school plan is also opposed by principals and school trustee groups. Not just the teacher unions.

  29. ….. of course there are no charter schools performing better than state schools in NZ …… Its a right wing experiment which will allow ACTs or Nationals backers to get there hands on public education dollars.

    Its about people making money off kids going to school.

    We do actually know what works in education but the fixes cost money and National has never been prepeared to spend money on poor peoples children. They’d rather sterilize the poor .

    The Nats spend money on the rich and their kids. The nice national people.

    They pull the rug out from under the poor people …………

  30. Photonz says: We need to look at what works best, and what doesn’t, and move in the right direction.

    Janine says “I agree. But that doesn’t mean you look at the private sector and ignore the advice of the professionals.”

    If there are charter schools performing much better than state schools, then of course we need to look at them.

    If we don’t then we’re putting ideology ahead of what’s best for our kids.

  31. @Janine I am really and truely glad for you that you are lucky enough to have access to a school that has all of these options available for children & families with different learning needs/goals. The point I’m trying to make is that these options are not there because of the state school system, but in spite of it and because of a great deal of hard work and dedication from people outside of the system or working outside of their system generated manifesto. Unfortunately most schools simply do not have that degree of externally available support & resources.
    The idea here is that we try and make the opportunities that children at this school you describe available to ALL children, rich & poor and allowing for various cultural backgrounds and learning types and regardless of your local level of community involvement, and parental dedication, not dependent on it because it just isn’t there in many communities. Give ALL of us the opportunities YOU have. I don’t know if the Charter schools system is the answer. What I do know is our current system is failing a large number of our children really really badly. Simply pouring more money into it is not enough.

  32. As far as I can see the charter schools are all about letting the rich have access to state education funds.

    The private schools and rich parents did very well and recieved more money from the nats over the last three years.

    Now the rich are going to get the chance to make money from poor kids going to school …

    The education budget needs to be increased and more money invested in poor areas but thats not going to happen with the Nats and Acts shrink government & privatize everything way of governing.

    National is more known for pulling away the ladders that allow poor people to climb out of poverty …..

    The charter schools are about making money and attacking the teachers union.

    Typical National really ……..

  33. Why is it that nobody on the right of center gives a sh!t about equality?

    What about those on the left of centre when it comes to education? All that Labour’s school zoning policy did was make it easier for rich people to give their children a better education; after all, a rich person has the choice of either purchasing a house in Grammar Zone/Macleans Zone/Rangitoto Zone/Insert Good School Here Zone, or of forking out the $10,000 per annum necessary to send their children to St. Kentigerns, Kings, or Diocesan.

    Meanwhile, the children of the poor are forced to go to their local school, which also happens to be poorer quality.

    I am personally agnostic when it comes to charter schools, but I do think that something needs to be done to arrest the decline of our schools – for decades now, we have designed our education system to cater for the lowest common denominator and we are reaping the rewards of that; reduced literacy rates and children that leave school far less intelligent than their grandparents were.

  34. I am not one to assert that the schools are doing alright as they are. There are several problems.

    The most severe one, for a “failing” school is almost always an impoverished community environment. The teachers can do all in their power during the 6 hours they have the kids, and have it all undone in the other 18. The issue is not simply the school… it is the weight of poverty of a community.

    To fix it requires a police presence in the area. It requires a library associated with the community and school that provides “a place” where kids can go. A center that is secure and support for those whose parents fail them. That stuff isn’t handled by any of the current “approaches” to the schooling problem.

    The second problem is chronic underfunding for basic maintenance of buildings and grounds over many years and various administrations.

    The third is that in such environments of poverty there is a higher prevalence of crime and criminals, gang members as parents, and disadvantaged single parent households. Supervision of children inside the homes is seldom ideal. In such an environment the schools and the state in all its various manifestations, needs to be taking over much more of the load. The purpose is to make the lot of the child easier. The parents may or may not succeed in getting out of poverty, most of them will not have much chance, but the children can be given a fair chance IF we have the will do do so. Won’t happen with privatized schools any better or more than public ones. The real solution is not amenable to the “less government” approach

  35. No, you are right sorry, Catherine doesn’t say that the state school system is perfect, she says that the fair thing to do is to hope to be lucky enough that our kids end up in schools with

    “dedicated teachers, community support and cultural respect”

    & if not, well, tough luck. Oh, & that means ALL of it’s teachers. The teacher my daughter had for the previous 2 years was an extraordinary woman & I have nothing but respect for her. The teacher she had in her last year once stood, arms folded, in the hallway watching while a group of boys grabbed my daughter’s schoolbag, flinging her to the ground & dragging it off her before throwing it away. When the teacher turned & walked into the classroom the boys were still standing in a circle around my daughter kicking her. You probably guessed by the boys behaviour, but I’ll spell it out anyway, yes, the teacher had witnessed the bullying of my daughter before on more than enough occasions for the children in her class to know she would not interfere or report them.

    The thing Catherine & others seem to be ignoring here is that quality private education based on alternative learning models is already available in this country. If you are rich. Because, since these schools are usually not publicly funded you have to pay to attend them.

    And I am not arguing as a politician or a statictician who is interested in demographics & percentages. I am a psychologist with training in education & when I talk about the different ways people learn & think & the fact that our state school system only caters to one very small group who happen to learn in a particular learning type I mean exactly that.
    People who think visually, conceptually or intuitively or who learn tactilely or by creative experimentation (finding out for themselves) are failed by our system. And children who need to be active & moving, ‘doing’ while they are learning are frequently falsely diagnosed as ADHD and medicated when in actuality we are talking about a failure of teaching, not learning (yes, ADHD is a real disorder, I am not saying it isn’t, it’s just that misdiagnosis is a significant problem in most western countries).

    And most of the time it is not even about bad teaching. A teacher can be an effective & even gifted teacher in one learning format. But if s/he has not been taught how to teach different learning/thinking types or the system does not have the flexibility to allow the teacher time to teach the same things in different ways to different children. And no system based on providing exactly the same education to all children can do that.
    Or, indeed, if s/he is a verbal-linear thinker (and most people who go on to become teachers in our system tend to be people who did well within it, ie, verbal-linear thinkers) then s/he might not even be capable of teaching in other learning styles. And a child who learns by ‘doing’ or who thinks in a primarily visual/conceptual manner will not turn into a verbal-lineal thinker if the teacher says things louder, harder or more often no matter how gifted or dedicated the teacher might be in other formats. These children will almost always fail in our system & usually leave it with minimal qualifications and believing themselves to be stupid. But these same children will frequently do brilliantly in perhaps a Montessori school. Or maybe a Rudolf Steiner school. Or some other alternative that caters to their learning needs.

    The irony is that many of these children come from families who are far too poor to afford an alternative school because the system failed their parents & their parents etc in the same way.
    And alternative schools that try to fit in with the requirements for state funding, such as the Rudolf Steiner schools, teeter on the brink of extinction continuously because their methods do not produce the results that state schools require at the the same ages that the state system requires them at.

    So, here we have a proposal that might allow the same educational choices that already exist for the rich to also be available to the poor. And who are fighting it? The right wing money-grubbers? No. It’s the parties who claim to be representing us. And most ironic. They say they’re doing it in OUR name.

    To anyone who is interested. These & other different learning styles have been studied repeatedly & documented extensively by psychologists and have been known about for decades, some for more than a century, and we, along with many educationalists in many countries have been trying to get state school systems to acknowledge this & incorporate this into their teacher training & school educational practices. It has failed. No single state school system has the flexibility to cater to different learning/thinking styles and most governments are not even willing to admit that this is a problem. It would simply be too time consuming and (since the financial cost of not fixing it is not calculable so can’t be deducted from the equation) too expensive to fix it. So they ignore it, hoping it will go away and we pay for it, both socially AND financially, in other ways.

  36. Photonz says: We need to look at what works best, and what doesn’t, and move in the right direction.

    I agree. But that doesn’t mean you look at the private sector and ignore the advice of the professionals. It means you include all genuine stakeholders: children, parents, teachers, community, and go from there. Where communities need support (and I live in such a one) then it should be available so that all the kids get a fair opportunity. At our local school one group of parents, with help and advice , were able to set up a different stream within the mainstream that offered another approach to teaching and learning that involved the parents more. Another group created a Maori immersion stream, again with community and parent support. Our children had choices of three different styles within the one state school.

    We now have a kura kaupapa Maori as well, which is doing extremely well.

    The government should be looking at good examples of teaching and learning around the country, and using those as ways to improve the quality of schools. Certainly, removing funds from enviro-schools was not a good start – quite the opposite.

  37. toad – the problem is you’re applying that not to a single entity/egg, but over 4000 quite different schools that operate in different ways.

    Because they have the same name, you group those performing “substantially better” than state schools with those performing the same and worse, and condemn the whole lot.

    Our children deserve far better than that. We need to look at what works best, and what doesn’t, and move in the right direction.

  38. The editorial was wrong.

    The protest about this is not fear that it will succeed, but fear that it is an unsubstantiated, ideological, profit-driven Trojan-horse that will be used to disrupt and undermine the present educational system in favour of private industry and to the detriment of New Zealand communities and our children’s future.
    Photonz, by pushing relentlessly on with the promotion of this farce, is thereby an enemy of the people 🙂

  39. Catherine says/sneers “I haven’t seen any parents marching for the right to set up a Charter school or demanding more “freedom””

    Should people have to march for basic freedoms, Catherine, or should their voices be enough?

  40. toad says “The evidence from overseas shows that charter schools perform, on average, slightly more poorly than public schools in terms of academic growth”

    Toad DOESN’T want you to know the charter schools –

    – perform “significantly” better in many states
    – better for poor children
    – better for elementary schools
    – better for middle schools
    – better for children learning english
    – better for children who are in their 2 and 3 year at charter schools (but not first year)

    But toad would like to throw all this away even if it means children will be worse off, because it doesn’t fit an ideology.

    The editorial was right.

    The protest about this is not fear that it will fail, but fear that it will succeed.

  41. Cirianz – a more sound approach to fixing the problems that exist in the system we have now, would be to take heed of the professionals we already have, who know the system through long association, know the problems that come with it, and have been involved all along with making the education system in New Zealand what it is presently. Taking pot-luck with a new system that’s favoured, not by educationalists, but by politicians and ideologues from the extreme right of New Zealand politics, is to my mind, a mistake.
    Do we know what solutions our best educationalists propose?
    Why isn’t our Government looking to our own experts for answers to the problems that exist?
    Those are more valid questions to ask. Wondering whether a partially successful American model might work here is gambling where the odds are against you.

  42. The point is not that all state schools are doing a great job, clearly some are not, but that if MONEY is needed to improve them – smaller classes, better teaching training, training for boards of trustees, better resources – then it should be found for them. The problem with charter schools is that the private sector expects a financial return on investment, whereas for a school system the return should not be monetary but social and educational.
    I do feel for the commentators above whose children have suffered (as have mine at different times) in the state system – but our education system already allows for a wide range of different kinds of schools, from kura kaupapa to church-based, to be supported by the state in return for having properly-trained staff and offering a good level of education as well as public scrutiny.
    It really is not easy for a community to demand a better school but it is possible – this is what the government should be looking at supporting, not taking away all community control of their children’s schooling and handing it to a private organisation for which profit is the main motive.

  43. @cirianz 7:30 AM

    I don’t think anyone in the Green Party is arguing that the current education system is near perfect and “just needs a bandaid or two”. If that were the case, the Greens wouldn’t have fourteen A4 pages of Education Policy setting out their proposals to improve it.

    I’m all for flexibility and schools being able to best meet the needs of particular demographics and levels of learning ability. But the policies to achieve this should be evidence-based.

    The evidence from overseas shows that charter schools perform, on average, slightly more poorly than public schools in terms of academic growth, despite having the apparent advantages of being able to pick their own students and set their own teachers’ salaries. So why pick this particular model to trial here?

    I’m also deeply suspicious that National were not prepared to subject this proposal to the scrutiny of public debate in the election campaign, but instead suddenly decided to include it in the sham that is their confidence and supply agreement with their glove puppet John Banks immediately after the election. If it were such a great idea in terms of enhancing educational achievement and could stand up to public scrutiny, surely they would have been shouting it from the rooftops during the election campaign.

  44. Just so as I understand. The state school system is spiffy & caters to most kids. Only a small percentage fall by the wayside (because no single school system can possibly cater to all the different needs, abilities or learning styles of all children). And that percentage aren’t worth helping, after all they’re probably poor because if they weren’t they’d already be going to a private school. So therefore we should not invest money or time into investigating possible alternative education formats that might cater for the needs of those outside of [what is actually a very narrow] norm because what does it matter if a few thousand poor people’s kids grow up uneducated & without opportunities because the current system failed them. I mean, there’s plenty of spare space in our prisons isn’t there, we can just store them there. Did I get it right?

    Gods I never in my entire life thought I would find myself agreeing with that smiling trader who’s running our country now but when all I’m hearing from my own party (Green) is that “everything’s OK really, it just needs a bandaid or two” I feel sickened. I had to take my children out of this wonderful system because my daughter was being bullied so badly that she tried to kill herself by jumping out of the classroom window. She was 8 years old. My son is dyslexic, something our state school system simply cannot deal with at all. After all, it’s only just acknowledged that dyslexia exists.
    I teach them at home now because I literally do not trust you to do a competent job. IF you can ever prove to me that my kids will be safe and well educated in your care then I MIGHT consider entrusting you with them again, but as long as you think our school system is already doing such a spiffing job just as it is then that’s obviously not going to be for a very long time.

  45. “Every effort to do this in the past has been an ideologically driven attempt to dismantle the public schools from the right.”
    bjchip has, as is his way, cut to the chase and described the nub of the issue. Just as the opponents to national standards said, ‘this is the thin edge of the wedge. League tables will follow, as will performance pay for teachers etc.” and have been proved correct, despite the howlings of the photonz’s, the charter schools proposal is more of the same and another brick in that Neo-Liberal wall. Quibbling about examples from overseas where these sorts of schools has succeeded, obscures the fact that we have a stable and successful schooling system already in place here in New Zealand. That it’s one the Right-wing don’t like is makes it vulnerable to the sorts of corrosions that national standards and charter schools represent, and photonz champions so vehemently.
    Those who are in the best position to judge the value of what we have already got, against those proposals coming from this Government, the education professionals, are sidelined and decried by the Conservative ideologues, who know so little, but shriek so loud, on topics they are bottom of the class in.

  46. Photonz

    Every effort to do this in the past has been an ideologically driven attempt to dismantle the public schools from the right. I’ve seen it in the US, and it failed, and now I am seeing it here, presented in a surprise policy from the right, again.

    The excuse is that such-and-such a school is failing. Every effort is made to turn it around, piles of money that would never be released to a public school are poured into the private enterprise school by a right leaning “government” and attention is paid to it and it improves (big surprise). Under scrutiny and supervision and with proper funding it improves.

    The program is then a “success” so it can be expanded, and it is. The attention diminishes, perhaps one or two schools are kept on life-support to make it appear to still be working. The now-private schools cream off the best and the rest are stuck with less… again.

    Lets go over the issue in the abstract.

    You have a set of schools of varying quality and students of varying abilities and a pot of money that is NOT your only tool to make the education opportunities the same for every student in the country.

    You have a responsibility to make those opportunities the same.

    You have a responsibility to make those opportunities the best you can make them with your limited pot of money.

    There are 4 (roughly) players in determining the fairness and the opportunity presented to the child.


    The money is apportioned to the various programs affecting these 4. Regulations and supervision is required… but remember the responsibilities laid on the government which IS in control, or would be if the education minister were competent. Note the absence of any strong “profit motive” in any of the players.

    Into this we now bring the privatized Charter school. The Charter owner is a new player, with its own management and profit motive.

    Where is the money to come from to pay for this additional player ? Tell me that the National Party is going to raise taxes on its patrons and stump up the extra cash. I’ve always found it good to have a nice laugh now and again. The money to pay for the change you dream of comes from the kids, or from the support to the parents or from the remaining public schools… we can be sure that it won’t come out of the minister’s salary.

    The cost of managing a “broken” school correctly to get it back on track isn’t any different if it is done by the state or by the private firm. The only nice thing about it is that the government gets out of directly confronting its responsibilities. IT can save money by reducing supervision as a result… except that that is abdicating its responsibilities. Ultimately the situation gets bad enough that it has to be reversed, at no small cost.

    The results I am describing are what happens…. the deterioration into a two (multi is also possible) tier system of widely unequal schools with widely unequal opportunities has happened repeatedly.

    This is part and parcel of the drawn out starvation of the school systems for resources… which is NOT just a National Party problem. Nor is the marginal competence of the collection of “personalities” who have served as education ministers. Those problems aren’t going to be addressed by this effort at all.

    Instead we are going to have another destructive distraction like NCEA.

    The re-run of surprises for schools is suspicious.

    I note too that the money the schools actually need is not forthcoming unless we allow National to sell our asses down the river.

    How convenient that there are no taxes for the wealthy mixed into that… so we “have to borrow” from Key’s good buddies at the banks if we block the asset sales.

    At what point does your crap detector start to function Photonz? Cause mine pegged a long time ago…

  47. bj – you’ve obviously to jump on the bandwagon and have a go – despite not having any idea of what you’re talking about.

    The current schools system will not be dismantled (even in the states only 1.5% of children go to charter schools)

    NZ charter schools are to be free and voluntary, so your claim that poor kids won’t be able to afford them, two tier system etc – is nonsense.

    (why on earth do you think they are being trialed in very poor areas).

    Then you can’t resist topping your ignornace off with a layer of abuse – nice.

  48. Greenfly says “There is no powerful evidence that they are significantly better than our present schools. ”

    Actually there is.

    Toads link (supposedly to shop how bad they are) shows that

    1/ the charter school systems in a number of states show not just better results, but significantly better results than state schools (and some states were significantly worse).

    2/ that there are a some subgroups who universally perform better in charter schools, and they are two of the subgrouips who need most help – one of those being children from poor families, (and the other being children where english is not their first language).

    3/ Other advantages, are where charter schools have started up, the local state schools have improved their performance.

    4/ While in the first year at a charter school, students perform worse than state schools, in the second and third year they perform better.

    5/ Elementary and middle charter schools perform better than state schools.

    So dismissing charter schools outright, without looking at the systems in those states that are significantly outperforming state schools, is to sacrifice our childrens learning because of blind ideology.

  49. Given that the mainstream serves most kids quite well dismantling it and privatizing it in order to pursue some unspecified goal with respect to kids who are already at risk makes perfect sense… to people who want to create ever greater inequality. There is no way that the adoption of charter schools can avoid creating a two-tier system which abandons communities that cannot pay the price of the private sector to a gutted public sector… because the money to pay the private sector has to come FROM something, and we know for damned sure that there won’t be any extra taxes paid in to make it all happen.

    Why is it that nobody on the right of center gives a sh!t about equality?

    They have all turned into social darwinist zombies ???

  50. toad and greenfly – your predudices are showing.

    Despite not having any idea whatsoever about any aspects of the proposed schools will run – you’re adamantly opposed to them anyway.

    That’s real head in the sand stuff.

    The current system is failing a lot of kids. Many aren’t even in the school system.

    We need to look at different models for kids that fail, and are failed by, the mainstream.

  51. Taking anything the editorial media says about this a joke, they report the charter school idea as a victory for ACT and it was not even in their manifesto – and they do their best to avoid mentioning this inconvenient little detail.

  52. Why bother to consider charter schools at all?
    There is no powerful evidence that they are significantly better than our present schools. If there was, then exploring them would be worthwhile.
    Photonz1 – is there powerful evidence that charter schools are significantly better than what we have now? Further, is it worth making the disruptive change to charter schools, even if they were shown to be better?
    My view, you’ll not be surprised to learn, is no, there’s no strong evidence of their superiority, therefore there is little worth in pushing the adoption onto the NZ education system. In fact, it’s likely that it will be a disruptive and divisive process that will result in net loss to the children of New Zealand.

  53. @photonz1 9:28 PM

    If you, or Key, or the dipshit Tolley can come up with evidence as to how the minority of charter schools in the US that have performed better than public schools differ those that have performed worse, I will listen.

    My suspicion is that minority that have performed better have done so either by selectively picking students with more ability, or by paying above-average salaries in relation to teaching experience, which attracts more highly competent junior teachers to a particular school, but few very senior ones to mentor them.

    Neither of those policies is sustainable if attempted across the whole sector, rather than in just a few schools.

  54. Toad – you prove my point. You admit some charter schools have worked better than normal schools.

    But instead of looking at models that work better, you want to write the whole lot off – all because they are called charter schools.

    That makes as much sense as getting rid any school that is called a state school, because on average schools with the label “State School” do slightly worse than private schools.

  55. Toad – I’m enjoying the right-winger line that the teachers and union are rejecting the charter schools proposal for no good reason, because it hasn’t been trialed yet. That means to me, that any idea that Key can dream up has to be accepted for trial, or charges like those being leveled at the educationalists over this issue (and the national standards issue), will be forever laid. Such a stupid argument, but one the likes of photonz wield like a righteous light-saber. Arguing that it’s a failed system elsewhere, or that our educational experts, whose field this is, advise strongly against it, is pointless, they believe, up against the brilliance of, ‘there’s no reason not to trial it’ 🙂

  56. @photonz1 7:39 PM

    You have obviously been reading the John Key/Steven Joyce Obfuscation Manual.

    You are saying what they are saying – implying the NZ model for charter schools will somehow be different from the failed American one.

    But Key won’t say how it will be different, which probably means he doesn’t know how to make it any different or better.

    We are being played by our Great Leader as suckers here photonz1. I get it. You don’t seem to, or don’t want to.

    If there are differences between the failed US model and what Key proposes re charter schools, he should front up and tell us what they are so we can assess whether they have any better chance of working to improve educational outcomes than the failure in the US.

  57. @Nick C 7:38 PM

    Rob Salmon has cherry-picked a couple of positive results. And I agree there have been some positive results from charter schools – it hasn’t been bad everywhere.

    But the most comprehensive study I am aware of – the Stanford one I cited above – would suggest that, overall, the educational outcomes of charter schools are slightly negative by comparison with public schools.

    So why waste money on something that at best will result in a minimal improvement in educational outcomes, and is more likely on the evidence to result in no significant improvement but a minor deterioration?

  58. toad complains “This is all ideological, rather than evidence-based…”

    Just like the teachers unions objections yesterday – that charter schools are set up for rich kids – whereas in NZ it will be the opposite.

    And just like your own objection to them, without having the foggiest idea of what similarities, if any, they will have with the American models you complain about.

    And just like saying some have better results than public schools, but but all should be banned because they have the same designation of “charter schools”, therefore they must all be objected to – the good ones and the bad.

    Greenfly and toad are quite happy to slam Tamahere and Waipareira, but if there’s a kid whose gone way off the rails in Southland, or Eastland, and they’re lucky enough to be accepted at one of the limited spots at Waipareira, they’ll have a much higher chance of being turned around than virutally anywhere else in the country.

    A very troubled kid just got sent up recently from the SI, and just by being accepted to Waipareira, for the first time in his life he could see he might have a future.

    Mainstream is failing many kids. We need to find alterrnatives.

  59. How about you free your mind Cathrine, the evidence on charter schools is positive. Rob Salmon did a good post over at pundit


    Heres the question no one has been able to answer for me: If these schools really are just profit driven ideological failures, then why would any parent send their kid there? It seems the entire proposal relies on parents making that decision. All you have to do is present the overwhelming evidence that these schools dont improve education, and parents will continue to sen their kids to the public school.

    Unless of course the real fear is that the schools will succeed..

  60. Waiperara have pretended reluctance, Toad, strategically, in view of the distrust other Maori agencies hold for charter schools. Tamihere has been in love with Key since forever!

  61. @greenfly 5:50 PM

    Yep, I suspect Te Whanau o Waipareira Trust, to which Tamihere returned following his ignominious exit from Parliament, will under his tutelage be in like Flynn for the government $$$ they can siphon off under charter schools.

  62. Seems you’re starting to get the picture, though. It’s been a long haul, but welcome aboard, Comrade Photonz1!

  63. Invariably, photonz, and decidedly. John Tamihere is most certainly in the NACTional camp – has been for some time. His support for Charter schools will be inevitably based on yearning for profit, I bet my bottom dollar.

  64. @photonz1 5:38 PM

    John “Frontbums” Tamihere was always a misfit in the Labour Party. His ideology was always much more closely aligned with National and ACT, and when he was defeated in 2005 I suspect most in Labour thought “good riddance”.

    FFS, this was the guy who moved house and abandoned his pet cats, which subsequently had to be put down due to his neglect.


  65. @photonz1 5:18 PM

    Yeah, that was the NZ Herald, and it doesn’t seem the editorial writer looked at the evidence. Here’s the findings of a Stanford study into how charter schools have worked in the US:

    Our national pooled analysis reveals, on the whole, a slightly negative picture of average charter school performance nationwide. On average, charter school students can expect to see their academic growth be somewhat lower than their traditional public school peers, though the absolute differences are small. Charter students trail the academic growth of TPS students by .01 standard deviations in reading, and by .03 standard deviations in math. Though small, these effects are statistically significant. These findings hold for students across the board of initial starting scores, except for students in the lowest and highest starting deciles in reading.

    While some charter schools have been more successful in academic growth than public schools, the majority have not. So why trial a failed model which, at best, performs slightly worse than public schools do?

    This is all ideological, rather than evidence-based, is designed to reduce the State’s role in education, and allow the NACT Government’s friends in the business community to encroach into the education sector as a profit-making exercise. It has nothing to do with the quality of the education of our kids.

  66. greenfly says “She also said that such people invariable come from the NACTional camp”

    So stong supporter and former Labour MP John Tamahere is one of those who “invariable come from the NACTional camp”.

    That’s really invariable.

  67. A passer-by today said that those supporting charter schools did so out of naked greed. She also said that such people invariable come from the NACTional camp and ought to be ashamed of themselves.
    Others within earshot loudly agreed.

  68. An editorial today said the loud protests about charter schools are due to fear.

    Fear not that the schools will fail, but fear they will succeed.

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