The Government decision to close Partnership Schools | Kura Hourua ignores both their success and the impact of this decision on at-risk students and their parents.
There are presently 1500 students currently enrolled in 11 operational PSKH. The first of these schools opened in 2014, the most recent opened in 2018, two further schools are scheduled to open in 2019.
Each of these schools is required by contract to have at least 75% of their school roll made up of students who have not been well served by mainstream education. The Ministry classifies this group of students as ‘priority learners’ (Maori, Pasifika, decile 1-3) on the basis that the learning success of this group has chronically lagged that of NZ European students.
PSKH all teach the New Zealand Curriculum, although they have flexibility around employment arrangements most are fully staffed by registered teachers, and they are comparably funded with comparable State Schools.
Following the October 2017 Parliamentary elections, the Government has moved to prevent further PSKH opening (by enacting the Education Amendment Bill (2018) on 01 August 2018)) and are presently negotiating the early termination of the contract each school entered into with the Crown.
The Prime Minister, Hon Kelvin Davis, Hon Willie Jackson have all been quoted as saying that in the a PSKH is teaching to the New Zealand Curriculum, is using registered teachers and is comparably funded, then it wont be closed. Despite those public comments, the Government has gone against those assurances and determined to close all existing PSKH by the end of 2018 and to repeal PSKH legislation.
Close or be closed – PSKH have no choice
At Minister of Education Chris Hipkins direction, Ministry of Education officials are seeking the early termination of the contracts each Kura Hourua signed with the Crown. These contracts were signed with the schools for an initial six year term with two further rights of renewal, each for six years. In the event the schools cannot agree terms for an early termination the Minister has indicated that he will exercise his right to terminate these contracts at his convenience, the stated intention being to close PSKH by the end of the 2018 school year.
PSKH have been offered a palliative of sorts by the Government. Sponsors of PSKH that are being closed by the Government They have been accorded the opportunity to apply to the Minister to establish a replacement STATE school i.e. one of a private school, a designated character school, or a State Integrated School.
And its not as if the State Education system has all the answers, it doesn’t.
- There are presently more than 100 State Schools, supposedly staffed by registered teachers, yet under Statutory Management.
- Literacy and numeracy in New Zealand is going backwards according to international benchmarks such as PISA, PIRLS, TIMMS
- There is a crisis in teacher supply and in teacher quality.
- Teaching is increasingly unattractive as a career option for young talent, particularly male teachers.
- Schools that have full rolls are increasingly no longer taking out of zone enrolments – parents have no choice now but to send their child to the local school, whether the child is succeeding or not, whether the school is providing a sub standard service or not. The risk is then of course that mediocre schools will have a guaranteed client base, they don’t need to lift the quality of their offering.
PSKH vs State School
State Schools are not accorded the flexibility of PSKH.
- They are State owned as opposed to privately owned which removes any right to self determination (A key principle of the Treaty of Waitangi).
- The lose the right to ‘fit for purpose’ governance
- They lose flexibility around employment arrangements
- They lose access to the bulk funding of their establishment grants, their operational grants and their property funding
… these key enablers have been vital to the success of PSKH.
There is no sound rational reason for these schools to be closed
In the Cabinet Paper that Minister Hipkins used to outline his intentions to Cabinet, and in the Regulatory Impact Statement produced by Ministry of Education officials, it was acknowledged that the Ministry had undertaken absolutely no consultation with any affected parties, that due to insufficient time no other options other than closure had been considered, that there had been absolutely no consultation that there was insufficient evidence to either support or refute the effectiveness of PSKH (which E Tipu e Rea refutes as the National Standards and NCEA results for these priority learners, especially in the schools that have been opened the longest, are exemplary).
These schools are succeeding with New Zealand’s most at-risk student population, they are proving cost effective compared to comparable State Schools, they are providing second chance education to grateful parents, and enrolments are continuing to increase.
For a Government that has committed to keep the interests of children as a priority focus, the decision to close these schools is unfathomable.
The Government has determined to take away the opportunity for parents of ‘priority learners’ to make positive choices for their children who continue to ‘under-achieve’ in mainstream education.
One size does not fit all, and Charter Schools are succeeding in filling the gap in mainstream education related to ‘priority learners’. To expect the State Education system to be able to meet the learning needs of all students equally effectively is fanciful thinking.
Charter School sponsors have been given notice by the Government that they will be closed by Christmas 2018.
What Partnership Schools | Kura Hourua offered
Since 2014, parents have been able to choose Partnership Schools that best meet their child’s needs and aspirations – at primary, intermediate and secondary school levels.
These schools are monitored by the Ministry of Education’s Education Review Office. They must meet strict performance standards set by the Ministry of Education, and are additionally monitored by the Government-appointed Authorisation Board.
Partnership Schools are not permitted to charge fees and are ‘open enrolment’ schools – first come, first served.
Partnership schools have been tasked with addressing the poor educational success for ‘priority learners’, specifically Maori, Pasifika, students from low income families and those with special needs and with supporting the Government’s technology initiatives in education through the introduction of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) schools. Partnership Schools have been provided the flexibility to apply fresh and innovative approaches to teaching and learning that better fit these groups of students. These freedoms are matched by extremely high levels of accountability.
With this model, schools can design the teaching, language, curriculum and organisational practices that work for their children. – Sir Toby Curtis
‘E tipu, e rea, mō ngā rā o tō ao; ko to ringaringa ki ngā rākau a te Pākehā hei oranga mō tō tinana; ko tō ngākau ki ngā taonga o ō tïpuna hei tikitiki mō tō māhunga. Ko tō wairua ki tō Atua, nāna nei ngā mea katoa.’
‘Grow tender shoot for the days of your world. Turn your hand to the tools of the Pākehā for the wellbeing of your body. Turn your heart to the treasures of your ancestors as a crown for your head. Give your soul unto God the author of all things.’
Sir Apirana Ngata
Introduction from the Chair
I am proud to be the chair of E Tipu e Rea and to be leading a group of governors who bring with them outstanding experience to this vital work. We hope to make a difference in the lives of young people by providing support and services to Partnership Schools in both their establishment and their operation.
Nga mihi nui.