By John Gerritsen of RNZ
Some former charter schools are interested in the Government’s plans to revive the publicly funded private schools.
One principal told RNZ they wanted to escape the bureaucracy of the state system, but another charter school leader was worried about flip-flopping between charter and state status whenever the Government changed.
The incoming Government said it would reintroduce the schools, also known as partnership schools or kura hourua, which ran under contracts with the Ministry of Education for four years before they were abolished in 2018.
Eleven of the schools continued as designated character or state-integrated schools, and it was not yet clear if the Government would allow them to become charter schools again.
The principal of Te Kāpehu Whetu in Whangārei, Raewyn Tipene, said the school - which included a primary school and a secondary school - moved to the state system when charter contracts were cancelled. She said it involved a lot more bureaucracy.
“We came back to mainstream and it was horrendous. Largely it’s a different environment working in the public sector,” she said.
“It’s bureaucratic, the bureaucracy [is] amazing. The thing about partnership schools... it is one of the first times I have experienced what freedom felt like. You were given resources, you were told, ‘Here’s what you need to achieve, how you do that’s your business,’ and we overachieved.”
Tipene said the school’s enrolments and performance had dropped since it became a state school.
“Coming back to mainstream is just a nightmare, that’s probably the nicest way of putting it. An example of that would be that I get emails constantly about little bits and pieces of nothingness. Largely I ignore them because I think they’re just keeping people busy and are of no relevance to what we’re doing.”
She said an example was that the school had been talking to the ministry for five years about suitable buildings, and only recently received two buildings that were late by 12 months.
Another charter school leader said their school board would look at the options once they were available.
And the leader of another school said one of the advantages of the charter contracts was that they allowed schools to concentrate on a niche, unlike a regular secondary school, which had to cover a wide range of subjects and interests and could end up spread too thin.
They said their school was interested in the Government’s plans, but it would need to see more details before it made any decisions. They also worried that a change of government could again result in cancellation of charter school contracts, with the schools required to close or join the state system.
They said their school would never have been created without the charter legislation and its high attendance and NCEA pass rates proved its value.
A 2018 evaluation of the charter schools before they joined the state system concluded their students were being stood down less frequently than at other schools, and parents were happy with the schools’ performance.
However, it did not analyse whether children at the schools performed better than they would have at a regular state school.
The remaining former charter schools were relatively small, the largest having about 330 pupils, and served about 1400 students, most of them Māori and Pacific students.