Nicholas Jones

Nicholas Jones is the New Zealand Herald’s education reporter.

Charter school requests state aid

Director sounds out high school on help with specialist subjects but teachers' union firmly opposed to the idea

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

One of the country's first charter schools hopes to pay a local high school to teach some of its students.

The establishment of five state-funded but privately run charter or "partnership" schools was billed as a way to offer a new, innovative model of education for struggling students.

However, two charter schools in Northland have tried to sign up nearby state schools as subcontractors to teach some specialist subjects.

Fierce opposition from the Post Primary Teachers' Association has helped scupper some of those plans.

But Te Kura Hourua O Whangarei Terenga Paraoa is still hoping Whangarei Boys' High School will agree to host some of its students.

Executive director Dr Nathan Matthews told the Herald that the idea was to offer specialist subjects, such as visual arts, to some students.

Students would travel to Whangarei Boys' for any lessons, with any funding based on enrolments.

With a roll of about 50, such arrangements for specialist subjects would be helpful to his new school.

"Some of our boys have been at that school [Whangarei Boys'] for a couple of years, and they like the teacher and that type of thing. So that's probably the subject that we've got on our radar."

Documents released by the Ministry of Education show that it had also approved Kamo High School and Tikipunga High School as subcontractors.

Dr Matthews said approaches had been made to those schools but nothing had come of them.

"We'll continue to look to have discussions with the other schools, but we're confident that if nothing further develops we're still in a position to offer what we need to."

Dr Matthews said subcontracting to state schools did not undermine the reason for partnership schools.

"I'm comfortable that what we're offering is high quality, and we're actually giving our students everything they need.

"I guess for us it was the idea of looking at Whangarei as a village and we can all help educate these students that have been struggling over a long period of time. But perhaps it doesn't quite end up looking like that in the end."

Tim Robinson, the chairman of Whangarei Boys' board of trustees, said a decision would be made on any arrangement this month.

"The board has got quite an open mind as to what we may end up doing."

The strong opposition of the PPTA was being considered, Mr Robinson said. The union has instructed members to deny charter school staff and management professional, sporting or cultural interactions or support.

PPTA president Angela Roberts said members had collectively decided not to "prop up" charter schools. Staff at Whangarei Boys' had serious concerns about the implications of the memorandum of understanding being considered.

Charting new course

•Charter school hopes to send some of its students to a local state school for specialist subjects.

•Such agreements are strongly opposed by an education union which says members don't want to "prop up" the schools.

- NZ Herald

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