The Government has reaffirmed its keenness to implement charter schools despite a damning study which says they may do more harm than good to the under-achievers the Government is targeting.

Under a National-Act agreement, charter schools will be trialled in areas where education achievement is low - South Auckland, Christchurch East, and possibly Wellington.

A group of education experts at Massey University has investigated similar models to the proposed charter schools - Sweden's "free schools", England's "academies", and privatised schools in the United States.

Convener Professor Emeritus Ivan Snook said the group used similar sources of evidence to the Government but came to different conclusions.


"The evidence is clear that charter schools have the potential to cause harm to the very groups of students they are supposed to help," he said.

The group welcomed the Government's focus on the need to address educational achievement through wider social and economic policies.

But they found that the narrow focus on educational achievement data could increase the inequalities that charter schools aimed to reduce.

Professor of Teaching Education John O'Neill said the evidence showed that a few highly motivated individuals and families would benefit, but charter schools did not provide choice for most families. Worst of all, the schools failed to eliminate the "long tail" of under-achievement that the Government was focused on.

Act Party leader and Associate Education Minister John Banks was undeterred by the study, saying its criticisms were unfounded.

"There are many different models of charter schools worldwide. For our New Zealand model we are taking the best of the best ideas from the most successful charter schools, as well as from the most successful schools in New Zealand."

The study criticised not only the way charter schools failed to help underperforming students, but also the way they undermined core principles of education.

"Education does not exist solely to promote financial or employment success: it serves highly important social purposes including the promotion of equality of opportunity and informed citizenship."


It said charter schools were a "radical departure" from the principles of social democracy and civic participation because, unlike state schools, parents were not represented by a board of trustees.

PPTA president Robin Duff said the study showed the Government should proceed with caution.