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Key: Don't worry about unqualified teachers

Published: 10:18AM Thursday August 02, 2012 Source: ONE News

Prime Minister John Key says people should not be "hung up" on the fact that teachers without qualifications will be able to teach New Zealand children at charter schools.

Education Minister Hekia Parata and associate Education Minister John Banks today announced the details of the rebranded charter school programme - now called Partnership or Kura Hourua programme - this morning.

Under the programme, partnership schools will be able to negotiate the number of registered teachers they wish to employ and negotiate salary levels and employment conditions directly with employees.

Key said there will be a certain proportion of teachers that will need to be registered at a partnership school, but he confirmed that teachers who are not qualified could also be employed.

"But I don't think we should be hung up by any one particular angle.

"There will always be a push back by the teachers union that will be fearful of that, but as I say if you look at the history of New Zealand schools we have had plenty of people who have been teaching our youngsters who haven't been registered qualified teachers."

He said the schools will be closely monitored.

"If those partnership schools don't succeed the Government will be just as quick to close them down as we have been to establish them."

The Prime Minister says it is another option for parents to consider, and he would be happy with his children being taught by unregistered teachers.

Charter school critics have however been left unconvinced by the Government's rebranding of the controversial education system.

The flexibility of the programme has outraged Labour who say the programme is a "disgrace".

Labour Education spokesperson Nanaia Mahuta said allowing unregistered teachers into the classrooms of charter schools would only result in a decrease in teacher quality.

"Our kids deserve trained professionals who know how to get the best out of them," said Mahuta.

"You wouldn't let an untrained doctor treat your child, or let just anyone design your house. So why do John Banks and Hekia Parata think it is okay to have untrained teachers in front of children in our schools' classrooms?"

'An insult'

And Post Primary Teachers' Association general secretary Kevin Bunker said the strategic re-branding was an insult to the public and would fool no one.

"It's merely putting lipstick on a pig," he said.

"The features of the New Zealand charter school released today show that teacher, parent and community concerns have been very valid. Essentially this is a Government funded experiment on our children."

Third party private organisations will run charter schools but are unable to charge tuition fees, instead relying solely on Government funding.

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.

"We want all our students leaving school with the skills they need to reach their potential in the modern economy."

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".

Today'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.

Act leader John Banks said today marks a new chapter in education in New Zealand.

Charter schools were originally set up in the United States to bypass strict state laws, and are also used in the UK, but their success remains hotly debated.

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