Changes mooted for contentious charter schools

Most charter schools will be able to merge into the state system once their contracts end, Minister for Education Chris Hipkins says.

The 11 existing schools will stay open while discussions on their future continues, following a government bill to stop the creation of new charter schools in future.

According to Mr Hipkins, the ministry would work on an individual basis with each school although all could potentially be closed by the end of the year.

The privately-owned but publicly-funded schools had been an ideological experiment, distracting from the wider publicly-funded education system, Mr Hipkins said. Nevertheless, closure was not the only option, as some could become ‘special character’ schools within the public education system.

PPTA president Jack Boyle said the removal of charter schools promised in the government’s Education Amendment Bill marked a great day for public schools and their communities.

“Public schools can and do reflect the diversity in their communities and are responsive and accountable to them. Many public schools are using the creativity of NCEA and the New Zealand Curriculum far better than any charters and it is no surprise well-supported and skilled professional teachers are more likely to be innovative. We don’t need charter schools for innovation,” he said.

With the rest of the world turning against privatised, for-profit, education New Zealand can lead the world with real investment and support for public education, Mr Boyle said.

Charter school owners, however, have vowed to fight for the right to stay open.

Speaking to Radio New Zealand, charter school support organisation E Tipu E Rea spokesman Graeme Osborne said the government was jumping the gun.

“The decision seems a bit rushed. We would have preferred that there was an independent review of the effectiveness of the partnership schools to actually justify the government and the ministry’s pathway forward.

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