Partnership Schools: The Path to Quality Education
November 11, 2014
You may find this recent newspaper article on Partnership Schools of interest.
I did, and for this simple reason.
The article fairly presents the difficulties some schools are having in this early establishment phase. As common-sense would suggest, and as recent research shows, the average quality of schools improves over time (e.g. see the US National Bureau of Economic Research: The Evolution of Charter School Quality). Rome was not built in a day.
The article also fairly presents some of the undoubted successes so far in New Zealand.
For many students these schools are proving truly transformative, turning around lives, rescuing them. It is profoundly moving to read of this, even more so to be privileged – as I have – to witness it.
In my Maiden speech in Parliament I mentioned a visit to one of these schools where, as I chatted to the students about their experiences in other schools compared with their experiences at their new Partnership School, one young girl said “I didn’t know I was smart until I came here”.
Who could fail to be affected by that?
Now, consider these accounts of lives being transformed, and weigh that enormous positive against some of the negative comments in this article and elsewhere by opponents of these new schools. For opponents to describe Partnership Schools as part of an “ideological drive to disestablish public education” is not just wrong, it’s childish and daft. Most of our public schools provide excellent educational opportunities - just not to all children.
I am sure these opponents are good people, committed educators, but some of their attitudes are appalling.
Fancy giving parents options; giving them choices which might dramatically improve their children’s chances in life. We should be doing everything possible to facilitate this, not block it.
The opposition to Partnership Schools reflects politics and ideology. Opposition political parties would close down these schools no matter how good they might be. And just tough luck for the kids caught in the crossfire of politics.
That can reasonably be described as an extreme ideological view, one that is hard to defend on any moral or fair-minded basis.
Would those politicians be prepared to visit these schools, and tell the children and their parents, face-to-face, that they intend to close the school? And tell them why.
Leader, ACT New Zealand
“Green MP Catherine Delahunty is acting as a spokesperson for the unions in her latest attack on partnership schools” said ACT leader Jamie Whyte today.
“The teachers’ unions are not concerned that five partnerships schools might fail. The unions are scared that the partnership schools will succeed and encourage the creation of dozens more partnership schools.
“The parents of nearly a thousand mainly Maori children have welcomed the chance to attend a partnership school where the pupils are likely to succeed.
“They know that at state schools their children have almost no chance of success. Those are the brutal facts of the latest international educational league table.
“All the teachers at the failing schools that Ms Delahunty wants to force the partnership pupils to attend have been approved by the Education Council - and yet the pupils still fail.
“It’s true that partnership schools don’t have to report to the same bureaucrats as public schools. They are instead directly accountable to the parents who choose to send their kids there, and can pull their kids out whenever they choose.
“Around the world partnership schools are a fast growing movement because the children succeed in them.
“As part of our coalition agreement with National, ACT will insist that more pupils have the opportunity to succeed by attending partnership schools, if their parents wish.
“If we have a Labour-Green government these children will be thrown back onto the educational scrap heap to meet the teacher union’s demand for a continuation of the present state monopoly that is serving Maori and low-income families so poorly.”
“The Labour Party must stand up to its teachers' union members and back down on its promise to scrap the partnership schools programme,” Jamie Whyte, ACT Leader-Elect said today.
The PPTA, which funds Labour, has led a determined campaign to close the new schools with recent reports of the possibility of industrial action by its Whangarei members.
“Labour’s policy to close the five partnership schools, which was announced before they even opened and have had a chance to prove themselves, has nothing to do with education and everything to do with a political party being a hostage to its union funders," said Dr Whyte.
“Having attended the opening of Whangarei’s partnership school Te Kura Hourua o Whangarei Terenga Paraoa, I can say that I was impressed. The school has great ethic and is ambitious, not only for their own students, but for all students in mainstream education who, over time, will benefit from the innovation possible in partnership schools.
Dr Whyte urged the teachers' union representatives and the teachers who were being called upon to boycott any involvement with partnership school students to visit the school and see for themselves what it is about.
“I can understand the insecurity expressed by the PPTA, who fear they would lose members when teachers switch from state schools to partnership schools, but this is only a problem for them if they believed that a significant number of parents would choose partnership schools over state schools . They obviously can see merit in partnership schools and that is why they are afraid.
“But the PPTA is a teachers' union and so serves teachers' interests. Teachers should be motivated by what is best for the country’s children, not their own coffers. The union, aided by its mouthpieces Chris Hipkins and David Cunliffe, would cut short the bright opportunity being offered to kiwi kids. It would send these kids trudging back to the very same schools which have failed them for years.
“I have a lot of respect for the skill, dedication, and patience of teachers. Teaching is an honourable profession, which the union should not demean by threatening the education of students with industrial action.
“At the opening of Te Kura Hourua o Whangarei Terenga Paraoa on Saturday morning, one speaker used the analogy of the school being a new baby that needed protection because, as with births in the wild, the wolves were gathering. I urge the teachers of Whangarei not to play the role of rules.
“Partnership schools are a reality, with five now open and making history. They are one of the most exciting innovations in our education system ever.
“Let's give partnership schools and the kids enrolled in them the opportunity to prove themselves.”
The ACT Party is delighted with Saturday's opening of the partnership school Te Kura Hourua o Whangarei Terenga Paraoa.
Whangarei-based ACT Board member Robin Grieve, and Jamie Whyte, ACT Party leader-elect, were pleased to attend the dawn ceremony and opening of Whangarei’s first partnership school, Te Kura Hourua o Whangarei Terenga Paraoa. They were very impressed with what they saw and excited for the future of the school, and for the students who will benefit from this new dawn in State funded New Zealand education.
Partnership schools, an ACT Party initiative, were introduced as a result of the party's coalition agreement with National.
“This is an historic day, students in Whangarei now have another choice when it comes to choosing the best educational option for them,” said Grieve.
“The feedback we have received from people involved in the school is that they love the flexibility of the partnership school model."
Jamie Whyte was thrilled to see first hand the result of the ACT Party’s policy.
“ACT's education policy is focused on lifting life outcomes for all by liberalising the supply of education - allowing for more innovation and variation of what is offered to parents and students, and making it easier for new schools to open and good schools to expand,” said Dr Whyte.
There are two partnership schools operating in Northland and Mr Grieve hopes that with the expansion of the scheme recently announced by the Government, we will receive many more.
“The ACT Party supports the empowerment of the individual through education and believes offering students alternative educational sources is the best way to provide this for more students," said Mr Grieve.
"A good education is the key to better life outcomes and is the answer to addressing issues of poverty, inequality, welfare dependency and crime. ACT wants all children to benefit from an education that provides them the opportunity to live out their aspirations.
"Te Kura Hourua o Whangarei Terenga Paraoa is now open and is doing just that.”
Almost 25 years ago, Parliament passed the Education Act 1989 which put the Picot report into effect giving us Tomorrow’s Schools.
Parliament wanted to empower educators and school communities. It wanted to de-centralise and liberate the compulsory education sector.
The then Labour Government said the reforms would address the inequality of achievement.
But the unions cried foul.
The unions said that only education experts, not parents, would be able to govern schools – sound familiar?
In fact, the unions said Tomorrow’s Schools was the first step towards privatisation.
That Tomorrow’s Schools was right-wing ideology.
The same arguments that are ringing in our ears today.
The truth is the union opposition to Partnership Schools has been straight out of their old playbook. The same lines they trot out on any attempted reform of the education sector.
It’s tired. It’s cynical. It’s unconvincing. Educators deserve better.
The unions now say our education system is world class and ‘how dare anyone change it’.
Yes it is world class for most learners - but not all.
We have a long tail of underachievement in New Zealand.
And that failure is institutionalised and inter-generational.
It compounds the deep trauma in these families.
It is shocking that any system could take a child though their formative years and, after 13 years in the system, turn out a student who is functionally illiterate - in no way prepared for the modern world.
Partnership Schools can make a real difference to New Zealand’s most disadvantaged students.
We want to give five out of five students the opportunity to get a world class education.
This policy is not an attack on our teachers who by and large do a fantastic job. I acknowledge their contribution.
I also acknowledge the contribution of the 35,000 support staff in our schools, who are so frequently belittled by the Opposition.
No one is saying there is a quick fix. Nor is anyone saying there are not a number of ways to address this institutionalised failure.
Partnership Schools are but one option.
They are a natural progression of the philosophy of Tomorrow’s Schools in that they empower educators and school communities, and up the level of accountability.
Partnership Schools will engage with parents and provide them with meaningful input into their child’s education.
It is one of the most important things that will be measured under the contract.
Educators in Partnership Schools will have the freedom to engage teachers who don’t hold registration with the Teachers Council.
The decision will be based on the needs of the students, as it should be - not a one rule for every school approach.
Partnership Schools will have better Alternative Dispute Resolution systems available to them than in most schools.
Both the Ombudsmen and the Human Rights Commission have been invited to work with the Ministry of Education on this.
Thankfully Parliament was not swayed by the Opposition’s attempts to limit the type of organisation that can be a Partnership School.
Achieving educational improvements and being accountable always mattered more than whether a Partnership School is a run by a trust, charity, business or iwi organisation.
I have good news for the House.
The 35 quality applications received demonstrate that there is significant interest from numerous diverse communities and organisations in establishing Partnership Schools.
Successful applicants will be invited to an interview so the Authorisation Board can explore their vision for the new school in more detail.
Following the conclusion of the interviews, the Board will provide advice to the Minister of Education about which applications to approve.
Partnership Schools will be established in areas that experience significant underachievement, where students are underserved by the current system.
The first school will be opened day one, term one, 2014.
ACT is proud to be associated with Partnership Schools. These schools will stand or fall on their results – as it should be.
I want to thank everyone who has helped support the passage of this bill, and who believe, like ACT, that every child deserves a world class education.
Partnership Schools will help make the promise of a world class education a reality for more of our children, so they can take their place as productive citizens.
If the Government were to listen to the PPTA and the results of their clearly biased survey questions it would be the end of the PPTA and the education system in New Zealand.
The PPTA want to take ‘for profit’ organisations out of the New Zealand education system.
This would mean the immediate closure of more than 1900 Licenced Early Childhood Education (ECE) centres and would affect more than 80,000 children. The PPTA profits from education, so it is advocating against itself.
The PPTA wants everyone who is not fully registered with the New Zealand Teachers Council (NZTC) out of our education system.
If the Government were to listen and therefore exclude teachers who are newly-arrived from overseas or are otherwise not fully registered with the NZTC volunteers, support staff, private tutors, and informal tuition by hard working and dedicated parents, siblings and family friends, every education institution would immediately grind to a halt and most could not continue to exist. This too would result in an end to the PPTA.
The PPTA are against Partnership Schools because of the for-profit, teacher registration aspects of the policy, but these features are already part of the current education sector. Removing these features from education would have a detrimental impact on the sector as we know it and students would suffer.
The PPTA also likes to claim that the majority of submissions on the Education Amendment Bill were opposed to Partnership Schools. But, the vast majority of the submissions received by the Education and Science Select Committee received were 'form submissions' from the PPTA, NZEI and their Union affiliates. Excluding these left a balanced pool of properly considered submissions.
Partnership schools, known overseas as charter schools or free schools, are not an experiment. Evidence has shown that the best models of charter/free schools have been very successful in raising achievement for students from disadvantaged areas and those with English as a second language. They were first started 20 years ago in the United States by... you guessed it... the teachers unions.
The PPTA is clearly not much concerned about poor educational outcomes from failing public schools. It is not plausible that it is terrified that some partnership schools might fail; it is more plausible that it is terrified that greater parental choice might improve outcomes.
The PPTA survey can be found here
NZEI National President Judith Nowotarski seems to be confused.
In a press release today (here), she has used the words ‘irresponsible and reckless’ to describe education where for-profit organisations can employ a percentage of fully registered teachers and are not subject to the Official Information Act (OIA).
What she has described is the Early Childhood Education (ECE) sector she works in.
Around 43% of ECE centres are run by for-profits, only a percentage of teachers need to be registered and these are not Crown Entities so are not subject to the OIA.
Is she saying the for-profit ECE centres are inferior?
Does she not value the contribution of the ECE teachers who are not fully registered?
Does she want ECE centres to be subject to the OIA?
The Green Party continued with their campaign to deliberately mislead the public about Partnership Schools | Kura Hourua, with Metiria Turei's claim today that the policy will create an elitist education system.
It’s hard to comprehend how anyone could say this with a straight face.
Partnership Schools are specifically targeted at students from low-socio economic areas. They cannot charge fees. They cannot cherry pick students. If they are over-subscribed they will hold a ballot.
The current state school system sees many students from low-income families locked out of the best state schools simply because they can’t afford to live in the right area. Far from being elitist, Partnership Schools will be more inclusive than current state schools.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to ACT’s regional conference for the lower South Island. I acknowledge ACT Scenic South board member, Guy McCallum and deputy board member Colin Nicholls and I thank you both for your efforts in organising this conference today.
I also acknowledge and thank ACT Leader John Banks for his attendance.
When Guy first asked me to speak on the subject of ‘why I support ACT’, I thought that’s easy. ACT has been the only party in New Zealand that has constantly elected into Parliament a group of MPs who all agree on free trade, the Reserve Bank Act, flexible labour laws, the importance of private property rights, one law for all and the rule of law.
There are many reasons to support ACT.
However, the focus of my speech today will be Partnership schools and the announcement yesterday about the establishment of the Partnership Schools Authorisation Board by John Banks in his role as Associate Education Minister.
At last week’s national conference in Auckland, I stressed the need to rejuvenate and rebuild ACT. We need to take our message directly to ordinary kiwis by direct mail, social media and public meetings. I mentioned that I first joined ACT at such a public meeting in May 1995.
However, what I didn’t mention were the two significant events prior.
Firstly, in February 1995, I sent away a cheque for $5 for a copy of ACT’s founding document – the 100 page ‘Commonsense for a Change’. This laid out ACT’s policy prescription and I could immediately see that ACT was a new kind of party offering new solutions to the country’s problems and was unlike any other political party at the time.
In particular, I was attracted to ACT’s proposals to have people paying part of their taxes directly into their own retirement savings accounts, rather than as general taxation - making them less dependent on the government at retirement age.
ACT also proposed providing greater choice in education by allowing alternative independent schools to establish and compete on an equal footing with the state education system – thus driving up standards for all through competition.
Secondly, in March 1995, I attended a public meeting – the first ACT meeting I ever attended. It was at the property now known as the ASB Showgrounds in Greenlane, Auckland and there were close to 1000 people.
The featured speakers were the joint ACT founders, Sir Roger Douglas and the Hon. Derek Quigley. I also heard for the first time, Rodney Hide and Muriel Newman – both of whom went on to become ACT MPs.
However, the speakers who left the biggest impression on me that night were Donna Awatere-Huata and Iritana Tawhiwhirangi – founder of the Kohanga Reo movement in the early 1980s and ACT’s first Education spokesperson.
Iritana, now Dame Iritana, gave an inspired, uplifting speech as she explained how ACT’s policies to provide greater choice to parents, particularly those from lower socio-economic areas who didn’t then have choice, would do more to address Maori under-achievement in education than any other single policy change.
Educational under-achievement was leaving vast numbers of Maori marginalised and unable to read and write. Far too many were ending up in prison. Under-achievement also lead to disproportionate numbers of Maori and Pacific Islanders becoming dependent on social welfare and robbing them of their independence, their spirit and their lives.
She explained how those from lower socio-economic areas lacked the resources that more affluent parents had, to send their children to private schools. School zoning captured young Maori in poorer performing state schools.
I was so impressed with Dame Iri’s speech that I went up and introduced myself to her during the break. Over time, we became friends and we have spent hours since, discussing educational and social issues for Maori and other New Zealanders.
With the founding of the Maori Party, Dame Iri became a member and subsequently stood for them in general elections on their party list.
While ACT has clear policy differences with the Maori Party in some areas – for example we opposed the Marine and Coastal Area Bill and we don’t support separate Maori seats in Parliament – we still have much we agree on, such as providing choice in education as a means of raising educational achievement for ALL, but particularly for those in lower socio-economic groups.
The Maori Party and ACT also recognise the huge damage the social welfare system has done to Maori and the way it has created a system of dependency and a feeling of entitlement.
So I was absolutely delighted that when John Banks announced the members of the Partnership Schools Authorisation Committee on Friday, Dame Iritana was among them alongside Chair Catherine Isaac, Deputy Chair John Shewan, John Morris, Dr Margaret Southwick, Tahu Potiki and Terry Bates.
Finally, 18 years after Dame Iri stood and addressed that crowded ACT public meeting in Greenlane, she will have the opportunity to bring to fruition the vision that she saw and so strongly advocated that night and ever since.
It was also pleasing this week to see that Pem Bird, President of the Maori Party also appeared before the Education and Science Select Committee to speak in favour of partnership schools.
There has been much misinformation about Partnership Schools – much of it spread by the teacher unions in a newspaper campaign that must have cost their members hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Far from being the ‘rich party’ portrayed by the media, the ACT party doesn’t have the resources to combat it.
The first and most important thing to know about Partnership Schools is they will not be compulsory – no parent will be required to send their child to one.
It will be THEIR choice, and for a lot of parents they will actually have a choice for the first time!
However, those who choose not to send their children to a Partnership School, will have the benefit of a higher standard of education that ACT believes will eventuate as a result of competition. So everyone will win.
Secondly, Partnership Schools will be designed to primarily serve lower socio-economic areas.
Thirdly, Partnership Schools will be funded by the state, largely to the same extent that the taxpayer would fund the same child in a state school – the funding will follow the child as ACT has advocated since its inception in 1994.
Fourthly, Partnership Schools will be closely monitored by the Department of Education – far from being unaccountable as our opponents argue. Partnership schools will be bound by an agreement entered into between the state and the schools’ founders and they will be required to meet the standards jointly agreed.
Fifthly, ACT’s partnership schools will not be subject to the Official Information Act as they are run by private organisations in exactly the same way that many thousands of privately run early childhood centres who receive Government funding are not subject to the Official Information Act.
Sixth, the Labour Party has argued that private enterprise or for-profit organisations will be involved and that this is somehow a bad thing! Yes, it’s true, that private for-profit organisations may wish to be involved but why is that deemed bad? And how is that different from the many thousands of privately owned early childhood centres that have opened and been funded by the taxpayer to provide 20 hours of early childhood education?
Labour is quite happy for profit organisations to operate early childhood education but not primary and secondary schools – how hypocritical is that?
In any event, my understanding is that none of the 34 initial preliminary applications received are from for-profit organisations, albeit that overseas research shows that for-profits run the most successful schools.
Seventh, there is overwhelming overseas evidence that properly monitored charter schools, as they are known overseas have been very successful, despite the opposition’s efforts to argue otherwise.
Sweden for example introduced ‘free schools’, their version of partnership schools in 1992 and they continue successfully to this day under both ‘right’ and ‘left’ wing governments. If Labour’s claim that Partnership Schools hadn’t been successful overseas is correct, surely an incoming left-wing Swedish government would have scrapped them and they haven’t.
Eighth, Partnership Schools will have more autonomy than state schools – there will be no regulated pay scales nor set hours. They will not be required to have all of their teachers registered with the Teachers Council, however you don’t need to be registered to be qualified. I personally have a world of business experience. I taught accounting briefly at the then Manukau Technical Institute and I wasn’t registered with the Teachers Council.
Delegates, for the last 18 years the ACT Party has championed reforms to education and social welfare systems. The ACT Party has stood up for the less well-off and campaigned on providing choice for those who don’t have choice. We don’t expect there will be a large number of Partnership Schools initially, but we are optimistic that a sufficient number will open at the beginning of Term 1, 2014.
While there may not be many, the fact that there are some will lead to competition between those first Partnership Schools and the surrounding state schools and we expect the benefits will only grow as time progresses.
Each week the Opposition parties stand up in Parliament and claim to represent the poor.
The first step out of poverty is a top quality education and if the opposition were truly concerned for the poor and the less well off, rather than their Teacher Union mates, they’d support us and the vote in Parliament would be unanimous.
Partnership Schools are a fundamental part of our Confidence and Supply Agreement with the National Party and from my discussions negotiating that agreement with the Prime Minister and since, I am sure we have his full support.
Like Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi, I look forward to ACT implementing the vision that she and Donna Awatere-Huata so ably enunciated in March 1995.
Thank you for your attendance here today.
Karran Harper Royal, the Anti Charter School advocate whom teacher unions have paid to parade out from New Orleans, has a lot to hide.
While she claims to represent New Orleans people, it has not been reported that in last year's election for the Orleans Parish School Board, Harper Royal finished third and last with only ten per cent of the vote. The winner, with fifty eight per cent of the vote, was a vocal charter school advocate.
Perhaps that is because, according to the widely quoted Stanford University CREDO study, her home state of Louisiana is one where charter schools have lifted academic achievement for low income and minority students.
Even if Harper Royal did speak for the people of New Orleans, the Partnership School program proposed in New Zealand is quite different to the charter school policy in place there. While their policy was introduced wholesale in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, ours is a pilot scheme that will be a voluntary pilot affecting only those who want to be involved.
The dishonest way that the unions have foisted Harper Royal on New Zealand smacks of their desperation to maintain their self-serving grip on New Zealand children's education.