Plan for charter school lodged

By Zac Yates

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A proposal for a partnership school in Wanganui has been lodged with the Ministry of Education.

Alwyn Poole, who is the academic manager at Mt Hobson Middle School in Auckland, lodged one of 35 expressions of interest in setting up such a school.

Mr Poole is a former student of Wanganui Boys' College, which is now City College.

Partnership schools, also known as kura hourua or charter schools, would not charge fees but would be funded by the government and run by sponsors, such as businesses or iwi. Mr Poole said he had support in Wanganui for such a school although he did not name any individuals or groups who had expressed an interest in becoming involved.

He confirmed he had lodged a proposal for a partnership school in Wanganui with the Ministry of Education.

Mr Poole's Villa Education Trust already runs two small private schools, Mt Hobson and Upper Valley Middle School, and the proposed Wanganui school would be set up along similar lines.

"We're looking at a number of options in Wanganui to locate the school. It'd be a model based on 60-120 students based in a big villa - there are lots of those to choose from in Wanganui. At Mt Hobson we work in a similar building and it's ideal for our purposes.

"We've talked to several groups at three to five locations around the country and we've identified a need in these areas where we could make a difference. We want to co-operate with the community and work with the children who come to us because that's what this is all about," he said.

Mr Poole said the school, like those he has previously set up in Newmarket and Hutt Valley, would be a middle school catering for Year 7-10 students (forms 1-4).

"We have no interest in being a full secondary school including Year 11 students upwards. We have research which shows Year 11s from our schools develop good habits to lead into high school. Our Year 11s succeed and thrive when they reach high school whereas historically after Year 7 they tend to lose their way."

A bill to introduce partnership schools/kura hourua is before Parliament but this week lost the support of United Future's Peter Dunne, leaving the National, Act and Maori parties to vote it into law. Labour and the Greens have strongly opposed the bill, as have teachers and their unions.

Wanganui City College deputy principal Doug Ewing spoke against the model at the Education and Science Select Committee in February, when he said New Zealand teachers were respected worldwide for their dedication, work ethic, caring nature and top academic qualifications. "Yet this ill-conceived, shoddy legislation, which has no mandate from the voting public, completely ignores the number one factor that leads to first-class education and that is teacher quality."

But Mr Poole disputes that. "In our proposal we state our schools will have a negotiated proportion of trained and registered teachers in charge of all courses as it is very important to have them working with our kids. At the same time we will utilise a range of guest speakers and tutors to help out where needed, such as in specific units where the teacher may not have experience.

"The NZEI and the Labour Party always talk about New Zealand's education system being world class but while that's true in some ways generally we're well behind. They also speak to this myth where the freedom and ability to introduce such schools already exist, and this is not true," he said.

The Partnership Schools Kura Hourua Working Group website says 35 parties indicated interest before submissions closed on February 1. Applications closed on April 16, but yesterday the ministry would not confirm how many proposals had been received for a Wanganui school.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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