Nicholas Jones

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

Extra money for charter schools

Document reveals why Destiny Church missed out, and why Parata's cash allocation isn't enough

Hekia Parata. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Hekia Parata. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Extra money may be needed to set up the first charter schools as official documents reveal more about the contentious schools and why some applicants, including Destiny Church, were rejected.

Documents outlining the decision process behind the charter or "partnership" schools' approval were released by the Ministry of Education yesterday.

Five organisations in Northland and Auckland successfully applied to run New Zealand's first state-funded, privately run schools from next year.

But a report given by Education Minister Hekia Parata to the Cabinet before the schools were approved shows the $18.95 million set aside may not be enough.

"This funding is a sufficient envelope for about four schools opening in 2014 with particular student roll levels," the July 12 document notes.

"During contract discussions we will gain certainty about the total funding required. Additional funding will be required if I approve five schools."

Last night a spokeswoman for Ms Parata, who is overseas, said the issue of additional funding was under active consideration. That has angered education unions, who are strongly opposed to the schools.

New Zealand Educational Institute national secretary Paul Goulter said the Government seemed to be making it up as they went along.

"It [any additional funding] will come out of taxpayers' pockets and directly into the hands of private interests."

Post Primary Teachers Association president Angela Roberts said it was a "kick in the guts" to know more public money might be needed for "an experiment".

The same document to the Cabinet also details risks associated with some of the approved schools.

A secondary school to be established in Whangaruru, Northland, by Ngatiwai Whangaruru Whenua Toopu Trust might not have suitable premise in time, and "there are some risks around developing a sound curriculum and financial skills".

The Villa Education Trust, which runs a private school in Newmarket and will establish a middle school in South Auckland, "has no direct relationship with the communities of South Auckland and little experience with priority groups".

The Authorisation Board received 35 applications to run partnership schools. Of those, 13 made a final short list, and the documents reveal why each was accepted or rejected.

An application by Destiny Church to turn its private school into a partnership school was declined primarily because, from the Government's perspective, there was little to be gained from doing so.

A June 28 board report noted that the application "appeared to represent the integration of a well-performing and financially strong private school into the state system".

The board also had concerns about the enrolment of non-Destiny members, as 98 per cent of current students were church members.

In announcing the first schools this month, the Government promised they would have publicly released performance targets, a high proportion of registered teachers and will not be able to stray too far from the national curriculum.

There will be a range of sanctions for schools which performed badly, including closure, but they will be given time to bed in and have been awarded six-year contracts.

The documents reveal discussion on a "performance management regime" for schools, under which 1 per cent of payment could be linked to meeting performance indicators.

Bonuses for best teachers on agenda

Yearly government appraisal of teachers and bonus payments to the best are likely to be among suggestions offered to improve New Zealand's school system.

Education Minister Hekia Parata has invited a delegation including representatives of unions and principals groups to travel to Hong Kong and Singapore in mid-October.

Students from both nations outperform their New Zealand counterparts in influential international comparison tests - and the Government wants to know why.

Hong Kong and Singapore are top-performers, and do not have as much disparity between their best and worst pupils, something Ms Parata said was a reason for the visit.

"We cannot be complacent and must respond to data which shows that our system is not performing well for everyone, in particular our Maori and Pasifika boys."

The delegation will be led by the Secretary for Education Peter Hughes and include representatives from the PPTA, NZEI and other groups.

In a model similar to New Zealand's coming partnership or charter schools, the Hong Kong Government subsidises non-government school-sponsoring bodies (such as churches and charitable organisations) to form a public school system.

Parents have a powerful influence on schools through their choice of schools, and sit on school management committees and parent-teacher associations.

The New Zealand delegation has been asked by Ms Parata to report on how Hong Kong and Singapore had strengthened the status of teachers.

In Singapore teachers are given 100 hours of professional development per year.

They are also appraised annually.

Click here for information on the MoE's plans

- NZ Herald

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