Am just home from a Great Night Out!
I would have paid for such an entertaining evening.
We knew that it wouldn't be an ordinary debate when the "chair", Associate Prof. Peter O'Connor from Auckland Uni, nailed his anti-charters colours to the mast in the first few minutes. He later apologised that "the Minister of Education couldn't be here tonight; he had obligations in his Epsom electorate".
Catherine Isaac sure earned her fee tonight. I reckon she might be asking to be provided with bodyguards. She faced a tough audience in a packed Town Hall in Otahuhu (Peter estimated 400). She responded to the frequent interjections and laughter with hissyfits ~ "well, if you don't want to hear what I have to say, I will sit down". ("Well, sit down, then!")
To her, "Charter Schools are going to happen. I am not here to argue whether they should happen", there were shouts of "Well, WE ARE!"
We reckoned that the vast majority of attendees were teachers/academics/unionists with some parents and other community members. Sitting to my right were two men who were keen to start a faith-based charter school. When one of the panelists, Dr Airini, clutched at straws and sought assurance that she, Catherine and Mike Hollings (Te Kura and on the working party) were not the only people in the room who were in favour of charter schools, my two neighbours raised their arms. [So that meant 5 who were prepared to admit it.]
In summing up, Catherine was derisive of the audience, saying she had expected to address members of the South Auckland community ~ surely thinking, not a huge bunch of rabid unionists! This sealed her fate, with angry jeers that teachers are a key part of the community. Maree from Mangere College (and a Guy Allan award winner) erupted at this point, shouting a powerful and passionate response from the back of the room: she had taught in South Auckland since 1983 and was immensely proud of the success of SA schools; if the government would only adequately fund schools and successful initiatives such as AIMHI, rather than into politically-driven stunts dreamt up at a bloody tea party ... She was stunning.
As was Brigid Raymond who was on the panel and skilfully explained why Canterbury neither needed nor deserved charter schools, and also firmly placed the stupid experiment in a political context.
Catherine Isaac's trite response was that she grew up in Avonside and (serious/sympathetic face on) "fully understood and would take it on board". (She didn't mention that she, of course, didn't go to the local state school.)
Bed time. All I can say is, if the Charter Schools roadshow comes to a city near you, go along. You won't be disappointed.