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Charter schools 'motivated by profit' - education expert

Published: 10:04AM Friday August 03, 2012 Source: ONE News

An education expert says the Government's planned charter schools are "motivated by profit".

Auckland University Associate Professor Peter O'Connor told TV ONE's Breakfast this morning that there is no educational logic behind 'partnership' schools, merely financial reasoning.

"The strange logic of charter schools is that taxpayers will pay for it, but private industry will take the profits," he said.

O'Connor's comments follow Education Minister Hekia Parata's announcement that the Government hopes to have the legislation in place that would allow charter schools to begin operating in less than two years.

The proposed charter school programme will be run by third party private organisations, however, such schools will not be able to charge tuition fees, instead relying solely on Government funding.

Charter schools will also be able to negotiate the number of registered teachers they wish to employ and will negotiate salary levels directly with employees.

But O'Connor said the motivation behind having non-registered teachers in front of classrooms is to lower salaries.

"The key cost in a school is obviously the teachers' salaries," he said. "If you can drive down salaries...that is where you can make a profit in the schools.

"And if this is about making schools more attractive for private companies to invest in, than possibly that is the reason. But there is certainly no educational value in having untrained or unqualified teachers in front of the classroom."

He also said that having non-registered teachers "defies logic" and that teacher training is "absolutely vital."

"We know from all of the international evidence. If you look at all of the most successful education systems in the world, they all have highly qualified, highly trained and highly valued teachers.

"The Minister said yesterday she wanted to focus on outputs rather than inputs. It is illogical, as outputs are driven by inputs. What other reason can their possibly be other than de-professionalising, de-unionising the teacher workforce?" O'Connor told Breakfast.

O'Connor also voiced concerns regarding the expertise of hiring teachers and management teams who do not have a background in the education sector.

"If you think about where charter schools are planned for, the most disadvantaged to deal with the long tail, why would you put someone in charge of these schools who isn't an education expert? It defies logic," he said.

O'Connor says parents will be concerned about whether or not they have a qualified teacher in front of their children.

"I think the Prime Minister has misunderstood what parents want - and is making a political mistake. The teacher unions will be incensed."

Charter schools designed to be a "partnership"

Parata has emphasised charter schools will be a "partnership" between the Crown and a school's sponsors where it will be up to the sponsor to negotiate the details of its contract.

"Partnerships schools or Kura Hourua will be based on international best practice and will ensure high levels of accountability and flexibility, while being tailored to New Zealand's education environment,'' Parata said.

Charter schools must accept all students who apply, regardless of background or ability.

They will also be required to make student achievement levels publicly available and report to the Government on an annual basis.

However, they will be able to determine whether they operate under the National standards programme and offer NCEA qualifications or adopt an "alternative curriculum framework".

Yesterday's announcement comes less than a year after the Act Party and National Party first negotiated the details of the programme in their coalition deal.

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