The controversial charter school model will be scrapped under a Labour Government - but existing schools won't necessarily close.

Labour leader Andrew Little has been questioned on Labour's policy after new candidate Willie Jackson on the weekend said the principle of charter or "partnership" schools would remain under Labour.

As chair of the National Urban Maori Authority Jackson has been a driving force behind the charter school Te Kura Maori o Waatea, which opened in 2015.

He has previously publicly criticised Labour and its education spokesman Chris Hipkins for campaigning to get rid of them, writing in a Manukau Courier opinion piece that Hipkins' opposition "rates an E".


On the weekend Jackson told the Q+A programme that Labour would get rid of the partnership school name and model, but the core principle of helping children would remain, "so call the school whatever you like".

Today, Little said that position was consistent with Labour policy and did not reveal tension within Labour over charter schools.

Labour would have "adult" conversations about each existing charter school when in power, Little said. If they met minimum conditions like having registered teachers and teaching the national curriculum then the school could stay open but become another type of school, such as a special character school.

Partnership schools are privately-run but publicly-funded and set their own curriculum, school hours, holidays and pay rates.

They were established under the Act Party's confidence and supply agreement with National and are strongly opposed by education unions and Labour, the Green Party and New Zealand First.

There are 10 partnership schools operating, two of which opened this year.

Act Party leader David Seymour, also Under-Secretary to the Minister of Education, said Labour's position on partnership schools "goes to the heart of Labour's identity crisis".

"The party cannot decide if it is the party of middle class teacher union representatives who want to maintain an education monopoly, or its Maori candidates who want competition and choice in line with the official position of the Iwi Leaders Forum."

In 2015 Labour Maori electorate MPs Peeni Henare and Kelvin Davis - then the party's associate education spokesman - attended a fundraiser for a Whangarei partnership school, despite Little having told them it was his preference they not do so.