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Labour vows to ditch charter schools

Published: 8:04PM Monday July 29, 2013 Source: ONE News

Labour will repeal the legislation allowing the creation of charter schools if it becomes government.

Labour Party Leader David Shearer said today it will repeal the legislation immediately if it wins power next year.

The National government is expected to announce candidates for the first charter, or partnership schools, this week after the legislation allowing them was passed last month.

Thirty-five applications have been made to run the independent schools, which will be state funded and run by community, church or business organisations.

Mr Shearer says charter schools will not be good for education because they will not have to have registered teachers, teach to the curriculum or be subject to the same accountability as state schools.

"They are an ideological experiment inflicted on the country as the result of a dodgy cup of tea deal between John Banks and John Key," Mr Shearer said.

Labour has been working with groups in the education sector to draft a bill repealing the recent Education Act changes that allow charter schools to be established, he said.

"We're not going to wait until we're in government to get to work on this, we'll be ready to go on day one.

"I'll be releasing a draft Bill soon, but in the meantime I want to send a clear signal to anyone considering establishing a charter school that there is no future for them when Labour returns to government."

Mr Shearer said: "Any government that I lead will make decisions in education based on what's best for kids and learning. The charter schools experiment fails at the first hurdle."

'Failed experiment'

The primary teachers' union, NZEI, says parents and teachers will welcome Labour's rejection of charter schools.

NZEI President Judith Nowotarski said putting focus and taxpayer resources on improving quality public schooling for all children was the right direction for any government, not introducing "a failed experiment" from overseas.

The charter schools legislation poses risks to children's learning and the quality of the public education system because the schools will not have to hire or be led by qualified and registered teachers or principals, Ms Nowotarski said.

"They could be run by private companies, creating the risk of putting profit ahead of meeting children's needs."

The Government has made charter schools exempt from the Official Information Act, meaning the public has no assurance they will operate in a robust or transparent way, Ms Nowotarski added.

The schools could "cherry pick" students and were less likely to enrol students with special needs, judging by overseas experience, she said.

"Charter schools have no electoral mandate and are the result of a 'cuppa tea' deal, not evidence about what could improve New Zealand's already world-leading education system," she said.

Destiny Church was informed last week that its application to become a partnership school had been unsuccessful.

"We saw partnership being an ideal fit in terms of what the Government is trying to do to close the gaps, particularly for Maori and Pacific students," church spokesman Richard Lewis said.

Destiny's school in Wiri, south Auckland, now has 150 students from year one to 13, 80% of them Maori.

Parents have to pay fees and the church also puts many resources into the school.

Under the fully-funded partnership model, Destiny School would have been able to grow.