The Government has spent $4.8 million on a charter school it now plans to close.
Education Minister Hekia Parata announced this afternoon she is proposing to terminate one of the country's first charter schools because of poor teaching, low achievement and an inadequate curriculum.
Te Pumanawa o te Wairua, at Whangaruru in Northland, has until January 15 to give feedback on the proposal, but it seems unlikely the school will continue.
Asked if there was a chance the school would re-open next year, the minister said she did not want to pre-determine the outcome of the process. She said giving the notice was required by contract, and following that was "respectful" to those involved.
Today Ms Parata said the school, which opened at the beginning of 2014 and has been plagued with issues ever since, had made some recent progress, but it was not enough.
She said a specialist audit conducted in October shows the current board has made significant progress in addressing the governance and management issues that caused her to issue the trust with a performance notice in February.
"However, the core business of teaching and learning appears to have only marginally improved for some students, not for all, and not in a sustainable way."
As part of the specialist audit, the Education Review Office identified:
• Student achievement concerns remain and the quality of teaching remains poor.
• Inadequate curriculum leadership continues to impact negatively on students.
• The curriculum is not and has not been consistent with the broad ranging curriculum vision articulated in the contract.
• A lack of basic literacy and numeracy underpinning qualification credits achieved.
Ms Parata said even with the resources and support that had been provided, the gains in educational outcomes were unlikely to be significant and future prospects were equally small.
"This is ultimately what partnership schools are about, raising the achievement of students," she said.
"Therefore, having considered all the information provided to me, I have reluctantly concluded that the challenges facing the board and the kura are too great to overcome."
The board now has until January 15 to provide the Minister with feedback on her proposal to terminate the Partnership Schools Agreement on March 7.
If the final decision is to close the school, the Ministry will help the kura's students to transition to other education options and provide practical support to students and whanau.
Ms Parata says her decision is not a reflection on the current board.
"They have done what they could in the time available to install sound governance and administrative control and to stabilise the kura's finances," she said.
However, there had been insufficient progress in teaching and learning and the long term viability of the kura remained uncertain due to its heavy reliance on third parties, the difficulty of attracting suitably qualified teaching staff and uncertainty over the future roll.
At a press conference this afternoon, Ms Parata said it was not yet clear if the money spent on the land and buildings -- about $1.8 million -- could be recovered.
She said the situation was disappointing, and she "made no bones about that".
"But it is one out of 2500 schools and one out of nine charter schools. The other eight are succeeding," she said.
Act Leader David Seymour, the charter school policy's main champion, said he supported the Minister of Education's proposal.
"The possibility of occasional school failures was accepted during both the formulation of the policy and the authorisation of each school," said Mr Seymour.
"The potential for school closure is a strength, not a weakness, of the Partnership Schools model."
Mr Seymour said overseas evidence showed that closing failing schools and allowing successful schools to expand improves education outcomes as the charter or partnership model matures.
"Education innovators should continue to be commended for their bravery, supported in their efforts, be accountable for their failures, and congratulated for their successes."
Green Party education spokeswoman Catherine Delahunty said the Government should now rule out opening any more new charter schools. The Government is planning to open two more schools next year.
"The experience of the children who were experimented on in Northland should never be allowed to be repeated on others," Ms Delahunty said.
"It is particularly concerning that Hekia Parata chose to open Whangaruru in the first place as the Ministry of Education had raised concerns that it was not ready. Those concerns were repeatedly overruled."
She said the resources that went into propping up the school were a waste that could have been spent on supporting these students properly.
Te Pumanawa o te Wairua, located 65km northwest of Whangarei, was among the first tranche of charter schools.
The schools are funded by the Government but set their own curriculum, school hours, holidays and pay rates.
They were strongly opposed by opposition political parties and teaching unions, but were implemented as part of the National Party's confidence and supply agreement with Act.
While the school opened with 61 students, the roll quickly dropped to about 40.
Te Pumanawa o te Wairua
• The school opened at the beginning of 2014 as one of the government's flagship charter schools.
• It faced an immediate range of issues including drug use, poor achievement, a falling roll and poor governance.
• After a special audit in February, the ministry of education advised the school's contract could be terminated.
• Education minister Hekia Parata decided to keep it open until at least the end of the year after finding its students had limited other options should it close.
• Ms Parata has now proposed terminating the school's agreement.