Maori leaders have filed a Treaty of Waitangi claim against Education Minister Chris Hipkins’ decision to close 11 successful Partnership Schools.
The claim by renowned educators Sir Toby Curtis and Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi alleges Minister Hipkins’ unilateral decision breached key principles of the Treaty. In particular, his termination of the contracts between the Partnership Schools/Kura Hourua and the Crown at his convenience, without any prior consultation with those affected, is contrary to any concept of partnership or active protection. The Minister has also failed to consider evidence confirming the educational effectiveness and cost efficiency of Kura Hourua.
E Tipu e Rea, the charity set up to provide independent support to existing and new Partnership Schools, strongly supports the claim.
“The Minister’s own Cabinet Paper and the Ministry of Education’s Regulatory Impact Statement specified these omissions and deficiencies,” says E Tipu e Rea Chairman and former Ernst and Young CEO, Rob McLeod.
“The Education Amendment Bill, which is set to block the opening of new Kura Hourua, has similarly been drafted without consultation and ignores the evidence of the success of Kura Hourua. Kura Hourua have been left with no choice but to accept the Government’s demand to either convert to a state-run model or close their doors permanently in December,” he said.
“The claim by Sir Toby and Dame Iritana cites the lack of consultation by the Crown with Māori and the wider community over the closures and highlights how this Government has overridden key Treaty of Waitangi principles on an ideological viewpoint rather than on an evidence-based assessment of educational outcomes.”
He said the Government’s action in shutting down the schools without consultation with teachers, students or whanau seriously blights the interests of the 1500 students concerned, the large majority of whom are Maori.
“No single system including our state system can address every aspect of Maori educational under-achievement. Choice across the system gives individual Maori the opportunity to self-select into a tailored offering that works for the person or whanau. This Treaty claim by two prominent Māori educators on behalf of the affected parties is a timely reminder to the Crown that Maori self-determination and the provision of educational choice to Maori parents are key to educational success.”
In addition to Mr McLeod, the E Tipu e Rea board includes Dame Jenny Gibbs, Sir Michael Jones, former Auckland secondary school principals Ken Rapson and Bruce Ritchie MNZM, and Dame Tariana Turia as a board advisor.
Mr McLeod said each of the schools had signed contracts in good faith with the Crown for an initial six-year term with two further rights of renewal of six years each.
“For these contracts to now be terminated for no good reason is very disappointing. These schools reach sections of the community that have been ineffectively served by mainstream education up until now,” he said.
“Six of the 11 Kura Hourua are operated by private Māori education providers in partnership with the Crown, catering to ‘priority learners’ (Māori, Pasifika, and students with additional learning needs) and have between 87% and 100% Māori enrolments,” Mr McLeod noted.
“The 1500 students currently attending the eleven schools are collateral damage in an ideological argument and their voices need to be heard.
“Even at this late stage we would urge the Government to pause all of the processes it has commenced related to the termination of contracted Kura Hourua contracts, to include pausing the progress of the Education Amendment Bill, in order that full consideration can be given to both the impacts on those affected by this change, and the full consideration of all available evidence of Kura Hourua success,” said Mr McLeod.
Rob McLeod (Ngati Porou) is an East Coast born lawyer, accountant, scholar and business leader with a passion for Maori development. He led the Treaty settlement between Ngāti Porou and the Crown, and was a member of the Māori Economic Development Taskforce in 2010 and the establishment unit of Te Puni Kōkiri (the Ministry of Māori Development). He is a former Commissioner of Te Ohu Kai Moana, former Chair of Aotearoa Fisheries Limited and Sealord Limited and former director of Tainui Group Holdings Limited.
As a former chief executive and chairman of accounting and consultancy firm EY, Rob is a recognised international expert in taxation practice and policy, and led a number of major initiatives including the Government’s 2001 New Zealand-wide tax review. He has also served on numerous Government task forces and advisory groups, ranging from defence to tertiary education to infrastructure and capital markets.