The Government has promised that the first charter schools in New Zealand will have publicly released performance targets, a high proportion of registered teachers and will not be able to stray too far from the national curriculum by teaching creationism.
Five organisations in Northland and Auckland successfully applied to run New Zealand's first state-funded, privately run schools. The organisations had a range of backgrounds including military-based training, bilingual schooling and faith-based teaching, and all but one were established entities that had run educational courses or a school.
Education Minister Hekia Parata said the "partnership schools" would be expected to meet the same NCEA and National Standards targets as public schools, and the targets in their contracts would be made public.
There were a range of sanctions for schools which performed badly - including closure - but they would require some time to "bed in" and have been given six-year contracts.
The announcements provoked a strong response from critics. Teachers' unions said they would consider boycotting the new schools, and new Labour leader David Cunliffe emphasised that his party's policy "excluded charter schools, full-stop".
"The idea that public funds will be used to fund schools which neither teach the curriculum nor employ ... fully qualified staff nor are subject to the [Official Information Act] is barking mad and we will not have it," he said. Ms Parata said yesterday that in one of the schools - a Mangere primary school targeting Maori and Pacific students - all of the teachers would be registered. In the others, registered teachers would teach core subjects and non-registered teachers would take subjects such as carving, hospitality, and engineering.
At least two of the charter schools planned to have some level of religious instruction. Ms Parata said that like integrated schools, they would have to teach the national curriculum. Asked whether creationism could be taught, she said: "Not in any of these schools."
Government has put aside $19 million for the first charter schools, and Ms Parata said the allocation for each school would be equivalent to similar schools in the same region.
Critics such as the New Zealand Educational Institute said that the funding was wasteful given the small rolls in the five schools - 369 students in total at first, rising to 800 within four years.
One of the new schools, the South Auckland Middle School, promised a teacher-student ratio of 1:15 - a better ratio than state schools.
University of Auckland Associate Professor of Education Peter O'Connor said parents in South Auckland might question why a state-funded public school had larger class sizes than a state-funded charter school in the same area.
Five prepare to open in 2014
Vanguard Military School (Albany)
What: Secondary school with military ethos and training
Size: 108 students, rising to 192 in 2017
Teachers: Registered teachers for core subjects and non-registered for engineering and defence force studies
Sponsor: Advanced Training Centres Ltd, which runs military preparation schools in Kaitaia, Kaikohe, Auckland and Hamilton
South Auckland Middle School
What: Middle school with small class sizes, some faith-based teaching
Size: 90 students, rising to 120 by 2015
Teachers: Registered teachers for core curriculum
Sponsor: Villa Education Trust, runs a middle school in Newmarket
The Rise UP Academy (Mangere)
What: Primary school focused on Maori and Pacific students, bilingual
Size: 50 students, rising to 100 by 2016
Teachers: 100% registered
Sponsor: Rise UP Trust, which runs after-school mentoring in South Auckland
Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru (Whangaruru, Northland)
What: Secondary school targeting Maori and Pacific students, bilingual
Size: 71 students, rising to 128 by 2015
Teachers: 80% of teachers registered or holders of Limited Authority to Teach, non-registered teachers for other courses such as tourism, hospitality
Sponsor: Nga Parirau Matauranga Trust
Kura Hourua o Whangarei Terenga Paraoa (Whangarei)
What: Secondary school
Size: 50 students, capacity for 300
Teachers: NCEA subjects taught by registered or holders of Limited Authority to Teach, non-registered teachers for carving and engineering
Sponsor: He Puna Marama Trust, which runs four early childhood centres and a Maori leadership academy for 40 boys