Charter schools should have Ombudsman scrutiny - committee

By Kate Shuttleworth

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Charter schools, which will not be subject to the Official Information Act, should be able to be investigated by the Ombudsman, a parliamentary committee has recommended.

Proposed changes to legislation bringing in charter schools will go before Parliament during its second reading this month.

Under the original legislation, charter schools were free from the scrutiny of the Official Information Act but under the proposed changes will be required to have an independent dispute and complaints process and be made subject to the Ombudsman Act.

But that scrutiny would be limited to suspensions, expulsions, stand-downs and exclusions.

In a submission to the education and science select committee, Chief Ombudsman Dame Beverley Wakem called for charter schools to be subject to the full Official Information Act and Ombudsman Act like all other Crown entities and like other schools.

The committee has also recommended clearer guidelines on the surrender and retention rule changes set out in the Education Amendment Bill.

Schools will be able to require students hand over any item that threatens the safety of another or affects the learning environment.

Students could be required to hand over electronic items, bags or other containers to be searched

If there's an immediate threat to the safety of another person and the student refuses to surrender it, the school can ask the student to remove a jacket and clothing, head covering, gloves, footwear or socks.

Drug dogs will be allowed into schools to search school property such as desks and lockers, but not students.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei opposed the legislation but said at least there would be a new provision allowing for the application of the Ombudsman Act.

"Sadly this slight improvement is not enough to save some deeply flawed legislation,'' Ms Turei said.

Labour's education spokesman Chris Hipkins said the committee spent a lot of time debating the issues.

"I think the position we reached is sensible.

"Schools have a very difficult job balancing the rights of individual students with the rights of all student and staff to work in a safe environment.

"The clearer the rules and guidelines are, the easier it will be for schools to tread that fine line appropriately.

- NZ Herald

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