Prime Minister called a ‘liar’ over charter school transition process

The AM Show 14/05/2018

A charter school operator says while the transition to state system won't affect the quality of education his schools offer, the process has "made a liar out of our Prime Minister".

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said all 12 existing charter schools have applied to join the state system - 10 as designated character schools and two as state-integrated.

"The Ministry of Education will now take some time to consult on and assess the applications and will report to me by the end of June," said Mr Hipkins. "I expect to be in a position to make my decisions on all of these applications by the end of July."

Alwyn Poole of the Villa Education Trust, which operates charter schools in Auckland, told The AM Show they were already meeting the three conditions laid down by the Government, so they shouldn't have a sword dangling over their heads for another three months.

"Both the Minister of Education, Deputy Prime Minister... and Prime Minister told us [it would be] an easy transition if we do three things," he told The AM Show on Thursday.

"Those three things are teach the New Zealand curriculum - always have, registered teachers - always have, same level of funding - actually had less. Much less for start-up, but the same level of ongoing funding - always had that. They said as long as you do that, easy transition. Those are the only three conditions.

Mr Poole explained that the Trust sat down with the ministry, and one of the ministry officials immediately said there will be additional conditions.

“[The official] immediately made a liar out of our Prime Minister, Minister of Education, Deputy Prime Minister. That's the stuff that we're battling."

He said the process so far has been awful.

"We had this meeting on February 13, the ministry then took until April 11 to feed back to us and then on that day, said you've got to get your application in by May 1. We're a tiny, under-resourced trust, so in the end we begged for another week. They gave us until May 7, and then yesterday Mr Hipkins told us it's going to take a ministry of 3000 people with a CEO who earns $630,000 a year and all those resources to take three months to tell us yes or no... The minister kind of [said], 'I've made you walk the plank, and in three months' time I might fish you out.'"

Jacinda Ardern previously called charter schools "broken".

Charter schools were introduced by the National-ACT Government about five years ago, and allow for-profit enterprises and other groups run schools outside the state system.

A recent report found while parents and students surveyed were largely happy with how the schools were being run, there was not enough evidence to say if they delivered better educational outcomes than state-run schools.

Most of the responses used in the report came from two schools operated by Villa Education Trust - South Auckland Middle School and Middle School West Auckland.

"What the MartinJenkins report says is the families and children who come to our schools love it, they become more aspirational, they're improving in their academic work and they're doing things that weren't happening for them elsewhere," said Mr Poole, who's confident his schools will be just as good after they've transitioned to the state system - provided they're not shut down.

"We will because we'll be really creative and we'll work some things out, but it should be the easy transition that they promised."

National has promised to bring back charter schools when it's next back in power.

Watch the full interview with Alwyn Poole above.

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