Charter schools exemption from OIAs defended

By Kate Shuttleworth

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Associate Education Minister John Banks has defended a proposed law change that would exempt charter schools from scrutiny under the Official Information Act, saying they will be more accountable than other schools.

Chief Ombudsman Dame Beverley Wakem told a select committee yesterday the provision in the Education Amendment Act 2012 was unconstitutional and could be "catastrophic".

Today Mr Banks said there were 5000 early childhood facilities that were not subject to the Official Information Act and he didn't believe the public-private partnership charter schools should be subject to the acts.

"The Government respects the views of the Office of the Ombudsman. However, it would be inappropriate to extend the jurisdiction of one of the Ombudsman to partnership schools.

"They are not crown entities, they will be private organisations - they are similar to the 5000 licensed early childhood education care centres, independent schools, private training establishments and industry training organisation who are not subject to the Official Information and Ombudsman Act.

Mr Banks said the ultimate safeguard for ensuring charter schools were accountable was that the Secretary for Education could request any information from any charter school and that information would be subject to the Official Information Act.

Labour's deputy leader Grant Robertson asked Mr Banks during question time if he was aware the Ombudsman found violence and bullying at Hutt Valley High School were inadequately dealt with through Ministry of Education and Education Review Office processes and only came to light as a result of an Ombudsman's investigation.

"The health and safety of children is of the highest importance at all schools. There will be a higher level of obligation on partnership schools, than other schools," Mr Banks said.

"The Government will ensure the health and safety of all children at partnership schools through a specific statutory duty that will be enforced through the partnership schools contract -and all information sought by the Ministry will be sought and given and subject to the OIA.

- NZ Herald

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