Two leading Māori educators, Sir Toby Curtis and Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi, have lodged an application to the Waitangi Tribunal alleging that the Crown’s actions in closing partnership schools will have a disproportionately detrimental effect on Māori and calling for a halt to the closures.
Partnership Schools (or Kura Hourua) are schools that are focused on delivering improved educational outcomes for priority learners (Maori, Pasifika, decile 1-3, and Special Needs). The ‘sponsors’ of these schools have entered into a contract with the Crown for an initial six year term, with two further rights of renewal for six years each. This contract also specifies performance targets relating to student attendance, student success, and financial management.
These schools are privately owned but fully funded by Government.
Operating alongside other types of schools, Partnership Schools provide an opportunity for private and community education providers, including iwi, to establish schools and contribute directly to the educational success of young New Zealanders, many of whom have not had their needs met by traditional state-run public schools.
Partnership schools charge no fees, enrol students on a ‘first come first served basis, and are required to have at least 75% of their students classified as ‘priority learners’. That means they currently serve some of the most educationally disadvantaged young people in New Zealand.
No they are not. The funding formula for Charter Schools was designed by the Ministry of Education and they confirm that partnership schools are funded comparably to state schools.
Despite being a young sector, three of the five partnerships schools with published National Standards results in 2017, and greater than 75% of their student roll as priority learners, are achieving results that exceed the national average for all schools.
Te Kapehu Whetu–Terenga Paraoa and Vanguard Military School (two of the three Kura Hourua with published NCEA results), are out-performing comparable state schools. Vanguard UE results are 3rd best in Auckland for Deciles 1-3, and Te Kapehu Whetu–Terenga Paraoa UE results are 2nd best in All Northland for Deciles 1-10.
The Minister of Education, Chris Hipkins on behalf of the Crown has instructed his officials to terminate the contracts of the 13 contracted partnership schools and to close the 11 operational partnership schools by the end of the 2018 school year. Minister Hipkins has given these schools the choice of applying to him to re-establish themselves as state schools, either Designated Character Schools or State Integrated Schools, by December 2018.
Key background documents, such as Minister Hipkin’s Cabinet paper and the Ministry of Education’s regulatory Impact Statement, concede that no consideration has been given to available evidence of these schools succeeding nor was consideration given to a consultation process with those most affected by this closure, such as the parents of students who have chosen to enrol their children at a partnership school.
The Treaty of Waitangi Claim filed by Sir Toby Curtis and Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi seeks redress for the Crown breaching key principles of the Treaty in closing partnership schools. The Claim alleges that the early termination of Kura Hourua contracts is unjust, unprincipled and prejudicial to the 1500 students enrolled in these PSKH and their communities, in particular Māori. Six of the 11 partnership schools are owned by Maori interests and these schools comprise between 87% and 100% Maori students.
The large majority of the students at the schools being shut down are Māori, many of whom enrolled there to get a fresh start in education and to get their lives back on track.
The Claim alleges that the government by its acts and omissions in failing to consult with Māori prior to issuing notices of termination, and in closing partnership schools more generally, is acting contrary to its obligations of good faith partnership under the Treaty of Waitangi and to the detriment of Māori.
The key principles breached are:
Firstly, the Crown’s actions will have a disproportionate affect on Māori.
Secondly, eroding Māori rangatiratanga by exercising kāwanatanga (the authority of Government):
dislocating Māori students currently enrolled at Kura Hourua.
The right of Māori to improved educational outcomes and the ability of Māori to provide education solutions for themselves. This has all been stripped away by the Minister and the Crown without any prior consultation.
The decision to close Partnership Schools is irrational (takes no account of Partnership School success) and prejudices all students, Māori in particular.
6 of 11 schools are owned by Māori entities and have predominantly Māori students:
The Cabinet Paper and the Ministry of Education Regulatory Impact Statement regarding the closures noted:
Sir Toby Curtis and Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi, on behalf of Māori.
Students, their parents and whānau, are distressed at the Crown’s failure to meet and consult with them prior to announcing the closure of their schools. Along with a wide array of business, education and community leaders, they are aghast at the Governments single-minded and arbitrary decision to close their schools or force existing Kura Hourua to convert to a state-model. Sir Toby Curtis, in addressing the Education and Workforce Select Committee pointed out that state education system has failed to address Maori educational under-achievement ‘historically and inter-generationally for the last 178’. John Shewan speaking in support of Sir Toby’s submission suggested the Government’s approach amounted to ‘bullying’.
There have been mixed and misleading messages from MPs and Senior Government Minsters including Kelvin Davis (Labour Deputy Leader & Māori Electorate MP), who before the last Election committed to resigning if partnership schools were closed by his Government. Labour MPs like Willie Jackson also said they were committed to partnerships schools and believed in the model.
On the one hand, Prime Minister Ardern and Minister Hipkins have stated publicly in a number of forums that no Partnership School that is comparably funded (to state schools), that is teaching the NZ Curriculum and that uses registered teachers, will be closed.
Yet they are closing all of them.
Following the application to the Waitangi Tribunal on 3 July 2018, the tribunal will consider the matter and either agree or decline to hear the Claim.
Keep visiting our website for regular updates and information on the Claim and follow/share on social media.
In the meantime, Sir Toby and Dame Iritana encourage New Zealanders from all walks of life and all ethnicities to discuss the issue of partnership school closures, to contact their local media outlets and Members of Parliament to raise their concerns, and to share information & updates with friends and whānau on social media in support of the Treaty Claim.