“Jacinda Ardern has finally admitted that the Labour Party ended Partnership Schools because its financial supporters, the teachers’ unions, demanded it”, ACT Leader David Seymour says.

The Prime Minister said on TVNZ’s Breakfast this morning: ‘The [teachers’ unions] were worried about charter schools, so we got rid of that.’

“The content of what the Prime Minister said was unremarkable. The influence teachers’ unions exert on Labour Party education policy is well-known. What was surprising was that Jacinda Ardern, who usually goes out of her way to speak in banalities, said it at all.

“The Prime Minister promised to put kindness back at the heart of government. But she scrapped an innovative education model that was engaging disadvantaged children underserved by the state system to appease middle-class unionists in Wellington. Cynical realpolitik won out over the Prime Minister’s trademark kindness.

MartinJenkins’ final report showed Partnership Schools were strongly focused on disadvantaged children with complex needs. Students were largely Māori and Pasifika from low-decile schools. Before attending, many students were disengaged, with poor academic histories, complex socio-economic needs, and lacking positive role models.

“The schools were meeting learners’ needs using innovative practices and high-quality standards. Sponsors were providing a real alternative for students who had been underserved by state schools. The flexible funding model was enabling innovation across the board.

“Student engagement in Partnership Schools significantly improved. Stand-downs and length of suspensions were lower. Students were giving positive feedback on their experiences and whanau felt more involved and more confident communicating with schools. Very few learners were opting out.

“ACT demanded that the Government look at the evidence before scrapping Partnership Schools, but it didn’t bother waiting for the final, independent MartinJenkins evaluation of the model. Partnership Schools were a massive opportunity to improve the inequalities in our education system. What a waste.”