Since the government announced its Partnership School | Kura Hourua policy in late 2011, considerable debate has rightly focused on what it will mean for children, and their academic achievement in particular. I believe that in time Partnership Schools will also come to be seen as an opportunity for teachers and the teaching profession. The policy aims to succeed for children not in spite of teachers but by offering them greater autonomy.
The most fundamental difference between Partnership Schools and state or state-integrated schools is that their relationship with the Ministry of Education will be contractual rather than regulatory. Partnership Schools will be contracted to deliver engagement and achievement outcomes in return for per student funding. The government will still be safeguarding taxpayers’ interests, but with more emphasis on what results are achieved and less on managing how they are achieved.
Achievement and other performance expectations specified in the contract and monitored through a combination of the ERO and the specially appointed Authorisation Board, will use National Standards, NCEA and other recognised measures set out in a performance measurement framework. Learning can be customised to engage students, but academic outcomes must not close off any future pathways to higher learning. Failure to reach agreed targets will lead to a comparatively short path of intervention and, in extreme cases, closure.