It's as if Whangarei won second prize in one of those joke raffles where the first prize was one charter school and the second prize was two.

Whangarei, like many New Zealand provincial cities, has suffered rural depopulation over recent years, meaning school rolls are reducing.

When this happens, teaching jobs are lost and, for secondary schools, that usually means some subjects are dropped. That can cause the rolls to drop further as students go elsewhere to find the subjects they want to study. A school may enter a spiral of decline and become so small it cannot deliver a satisfactory range of subjects and may have to close.

When a community is facing the challenge of falling rolls, the most destructive thing a politician can do is open a new school (or two). That's like trying to fix a burn by liberal application of boiling water.


Whatever the good intentions of the promoters of the Whangarei charter schools, their very existence will, over time, diminish the opportunities available to all other students in the town.

For this reason PPTA members nationally have determined they will not make professional expertise or experience available to help the management and running of these charter schools. They want to put all their energy into the students who have enrolled at the school where they teach because that is where their responsibility lies.

It hasn't helped that in their applications, the Whangarei charter schools were heavily critical of the same local schools that they now expect to pick up the burden of curriculum delivery for them.

If you want co-operation from others it's always best to consult first rather than take their acceptance and approval for granted.

It would also be nice to recognise the huge efforts secondary schools have made and continue to make to address the needs of Maori students.

For example, the success of A Company could not have been achieved without access to high-quality teaching at local schools.

The pity is that there was a niche for the Leadership Academy in the collaborative State network of Whangarei secondary schools, but by becoming the flagship for a John Banks/Act Party experiment in privatisation of public schools, they have gone beyond the pale.