New Zealand are bringing in US-inspired “Charter” and UK-inspired “Free” schools. For a conference earlier in the year I had to create a timeline of the events leading up to its introduction. It was ridiculously quick.
August 2nd – First announcement of policy. Hekia Parata, the Education Minister, makes a speech announcing that groups will be able to apply to open new schools. They will not follow the same regulation as other schools, the % of teachers who will need to be qualified is negotiable, they will be run by “private entities” and are based on international “best practice”
In the ensuing months campaigners focus on four main concerns:
- The schools might teach creationism (They won’t, says government)
- What about students with disabilities? (They will still be treated same, govt)
- Hurricane Katrina campaigner warns that the way New Orleans was ‘invaded’ by Charters has been divisive among the community
- KIPP’s Mike Feinberg visits NZ and says he does not think charters are a silver bullet – they require more hard work than that!
October 4th – Teacher’s Conference, condemns move
October 15th – Education Amendment Bill first tabled
Nov 25th – So far no “for-profit” schools have registered interest
Dec 21st – Treasury releases official advice outlining concerns about the programme, but also a pathway for going forward
Feb 16th – Chief Ombudsman raises concern that the Education Amendment Bill will put the new schools (by now called “Partnership Schools”) beyond the Freedom of Information Act
Feb 28 – Government announces that the new school application and contracting process will be managed by The Independent Partnership School Authorization Board. There is a mini sigh of relief that they are independent. Then the ex-chief of the ACT Party, Catherine Isaacs, is installed as its chair.
April 13 – Select Committee reports back giving views on amendments
May 3 – Labour have tabled a series of amendments for the Bill’s next reading, due in the second week of May
Of everything in the process the thing that bothers me most is the Freedom of Information move. It is unprecedented, and on the basis of things that happened in the US when Charter Schools were first developing it is a really horrible idea. We’ll have to wait and see how it goes.