Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Charter Schools In New Zealand

Small Beginnings

Charter schools are making tepid progress in New Zealand.  This is not a criticism of charter schools per se.  Rather it is a criticism of the Government's half-hearted commitment to such schools.  Only a few have been started and funded.  The Opposition Labour Party has vowed that it will shut down all charter schools in NZ, once elected.  It owes that to its teacher union controllers.  

It's always good news to hear that NZ charter schools are making progress educationally.  The Education Review Office ("ERO") has examined the progress of the three new schools started in 2015 and confirmed that the pupils enrolled in them are making good progress.  This is significant because charter schools, by deliberate design and government intent, typically focus upon kids who are failing in the mainstream government schools.  This, of course, means there is a huge need for more charter schools.

Three new charter schools have made a good start, according to the Education Review Office.  The reports covered two of the publicly-funded private schools in Auckland, Te Kura Māori o Waatea and Pacific Advance Senior School, and one in Whangarei, Te Kāpehu Whetū -Teina.

The reviews were generally positive, but identified problems such as the need to increase enrolments or develop curriculums.  The report for Pacific Advance Senior School said it had 105 students in Years 11 and 12 at the start of this year and the school had done a good job of engaging them in their learning.

It said many students started at the school well below achievement expectations for their age level and to get students confident and able to complete Level 1 NCEA qualification was a significant success for the school.  It said 36 students were awarded Level 1 NCEA, which was 57 percent of the student body.  "Most of these students had been out of school for at least half a year prior to coming here. The ongoing challenge for staff is to accelerate formal student achievement." [RNZ]
Our hope is that the Government will become bolder, now that it has got its model basically worked out.  It has had more than three years of "toe in the tepid waters".  Now it needs to make a serious commitment.   If it is able to do this, it will help prevent the inevitable reversal or removal of charter schools when Labour eventually does get re-elected to government.  The public outcry against the closure and removal of charter schools from NZ's educational landscape would be too great and to politically disastrous.

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