Our education system nowadays has many different types of, let's call them, clients.

We have a duty to those clients - our kids - to give them the best education possible, tailored to their needs.

The client base has changed drastically in recent years, and it's an ongoing challenge for our schools and the curriculum to keep up.

Schools don't just teach - at the interface with kids, schools and staff have become advocates and social workers. If a child is not achieving or struggling, it is often linked to what is happening at home. And sometimes, these kids would rather be at school than at home.


Northland has two proposed charter schools - Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru and Te Kura Hourua ki Whangarei te Renga Paraoa. Both will have a strong tikanga Maori flavour and are all about raising Maori kids' achievements.

This isn't happening in mainstream schooling, so why not try a different approach? These new schools will connect kids with their culture, a rich vein of sometimes untapped pride for any Maori kid.

And to be blunt, it will take them off mainstream school hands, which will improve some individual schools' NCEA figures etc.

Here's the rub. Rolls will drop which means fewer teachers, hence the PPTA "we will not co-operate" stance.

No one likes seeing people lose jobs, but if these kids are our clients, then the corporate metaphor would extend to cost analysis and restructure, ultimately, for the betterment of students' education.

Optimists believe that in a few years, Ngapuhi will have settled its Treaty claims, and will have a structure of investment in health and education. I see a future where kids can choose to go to private schools run under tikanga Maori principles. Full immersion? Perhaps partial.

But charter schools are an opportunity to test the popular theory that Maori students will benefit from closer association with their culture. Rather than judge charter schools before they have commenced, let's judge them by their achievements.