Rebecca Quilliam

Rebecca Quilliam is senior reporter at the NZME. News Service office in Wellington.

Charter schools on track

John Banks said there had been interest from iwi, church groups, industry-based groups and existing schools in the partnership school programme. Photo / Thinkstock
John Banks said there had been interest from iwi, church groups, industry-based groups and existing schools in the partnership school programme. Photo / Thinkstock

Act Party leader John Banks says there won't be any changes to legislation around the controversial partnership schools despite opposition parties continuing their objections to elements of the bill such as allowing unqualified teachers.

The Education Amendment Bill, which would establish charter schools, known as partnership schools, was expected to pass in Parliament with the support of National, Act and the Maori Party.

Mr Banks told TVNZ's Q+A programme today it was not insignificant the Maori Party would want to support the bill.

"Because every second young Maori leaves school after 12 years of schooling without NCEA level 2, no numeracy or literacy."

He said the Maori Party had not asked for any changes to the bill in exchange for their support of it.

Mr Banks said there had been interest from iwi, church groups, industry-based groups and existing schools in the partnership school programme.

"This is going to be a paradigm shift for some of our poorest families in this country - particularly Maori and Pacifica."

There would initially be just a handful of partnership schools, but that number would increase to 50 or 60 across the country in ten years time, Mr Banks said.

He could not say where the first of the schools would be set up, but legislation stopped them from "cherry-picking" the best students.

"This is going to be a contract between the Government and the private provider of this education to make sure they have flexibility but high levels of accountability around results."

While the schools would not be subject to Official Information Act requests, they would be monitored by the Ministry of Education and expulsions and suspensions would be subject to the ombudsman, Mr Banks said.

But the Green Party said people who believed every child deserved a free, quality public education, with a national curriculum and trained and qualified teachers, should be very worried about the bill.

"The Act/National Government is dead set on an education system where the quality of school your child goes to depends on how much you are able to spend on it," Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said.

"The so called choice they are offering poor kids with charter schools is one that wealthy parents wouldn't touch with a barge poll.

"Parents don't want unqualified teachers, no representation on a school board, no limit to their kids' school day or class sizes and a made-up curriculum," Ms Turei said.

Earlier this month the Labour Party tabled a series of amendments to the partnership schools legislation, including a requirement for teachers to have formal qualifications.

Labour education spokesman Chris Hipkins tabled eight amendments to the bill.

One amendment would ensure that charter schools were not exempt from having to employ registered teachers.

Mr Hipkins also wanted to make that the new schools used a curriculum that fitted national guidelines, and were accountable to the Official Information Act.

An explanatory note to the amendment said that if a national curriculum was not followed, it could result in subjects such as science being distorted to fit the beliefs of school owners, instead of ensuring that students learnt established scientific principles.

The bill, which is part of the Act Party's confidence-and-supply agreement with National, passed its first reading by 63 votes to 56.

- APNZ

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