Stop experimenting on kids

The trouble with the Charter school model is that it is a publicly funded experiment on children. The National Government has consistently put its desire to open charter schools ahead of the safety of the children in them, ignoring repeated warnings by the Ministry of Education.

Some Charter schools may have small classes, more support, and more cultural affirmation than a state school, but for others the unnecessary experience is one of chaos, with less educational choices and less cultural affirmation. In this small country it is impossible to suppress the stories coming out of the first couple of rounds of Charters and some of it is very worrying.

The KFC bribery news about Middle School West Auckland (run by Villa Education Trust) is not the sort of publicity any Government would want for a flagship education policy.  I have been reflecting on my own experience of the Villa Education Trust because New Zealand First MP Tracey Martin and I did respond to an invitation from Villa’s Alwyn Poole to visit his Mt Hobson Villa School, which is a private school.

He said it was the model of the kind of schools he would build if his Charter school applications were accepted. It was a cosy villa with small classes using standard educational methods which he seemed to think were particularly advanced. The students appeared to be mainly Pākehā middle class kids. However his plan was to extend into South and West Auckland and work with students from Māori and Pasifika cultures. I remember thinking it was one thing to run a private school in Remuera but quite another to use public funds to set up supposedly similar schools in very different cultural contexts.

What expertise did this private education trust led by Pākehā have in meeting the cultural needs of Māori and Pasifika students? Charter schools were set up to specifically address these concerns, and yet are failing these students badly. Villa Education’s initial assessment for suitability from the Ministry of Education says that they “did not always demonstrate … competency in educating Maori and Pasifika students.”

Last week the Minister announced she was keeping the Whangaruru Charter School open, which may just prolong the problems that school faces. This is a very sad story of the best of intentions but it has not worked for struggling kids who need the best we can offer. The Greens believe in innovation in state education but not privatisation via charters. It is time to stop this experiment at kids’ expense.

6 Comments Posted

  1. so you’re saying that poor management in the Ministry of Education means that the private provision of schooling should be stopped. Perhaps we should close down private hospitals too, as the lack of affection in the Ministry of Health sets the standard for the public service (no pun intended).

  2. Your agreement with me about the poor management allowing the bad schools to start confirm my affirmation that it is an experiment based on a belief and not good practice. The claim of numbers of established charter schools around the world affirming credibility is a stretch. These schools come from different roots so any claim of consistency is only maintained by a consistent assessment of process, and the US model doesn’t inspire me about accountability as does the waver of public scrutiny in NZ. This all means it is an experiment based on closed ideaology..

  3. oldlux

    the place i am coming from can be found in the title of the thread, specifically the words “experimenting on kids”.

    As there are several thousand Charter Schools around the world, I don’t think what is being done in New Zealand can be termed an “experiment”.

    WRT the cultural issue, there are many cultures that need affirmation, and not having Maori or Pacific Island culture at the heart of a school is not necessarily a bad thing. many of our citizens ensure the continuity of their culture through means that have nothing to do with schools. to be clear, people from, for example, Sri Lanka, do an excellent job of perpetuating their language, art, dance, music, beliefs, etc., through their children by means of social and cultural clubs; they do not expect state schools (or private ones,) to do it for them. IMHO the only cultural affirmation that should be part of the responsibility of schools is those cultural attributes that form a common basis for all NZ residents. The UK has, in recent times, gone overboard in facilitating immigrant cultures into their social fabric, and some of the consequences of that facilitation are, to put to mildly, frightening

    as regards “any assessment done by a department management should have picked up a lack of process or experience at the start”. I thoroughly agree. Our Departments, in this case the MinEdu, have, and continue to let us down through displays of incompetence such as this. Someone should lose their job for this failure, but we both know that won’t happen, it is easier to blame a politician than address the root cause of the problem.

  4. Dave, I feel you miss the point of what Catherine is saying and I can’t get where your assumption about not sorting out state schools if they were malfunctioning. The points I see are the missing of cultural awareness and content in one set of schools, and the support of another having trouble being assisted by state funding when any assessment done by a department management should have picked up a lack of process or experience at the start. It means political ideaology for this model went ahead of sound assessment and this is playing with the kids education needs.

  5. so nowhere in the world has this approach been tried before? – – – – Yeah Right

    You want one charter school with problems closed down RIGHT NOW, but don’t think its right to consider closing state schools that have the same or worse problems. Seems like pedantic adherence to outdated political philosophies appeals to you more than pragmatic equity.

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