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It's no surprise that a political spinmeister like Matthew Hooton would be so quick to leap to the defence of charter schools.American experience shows it is exactly people like himself, along with developers, consulting companies and of course, the self-styled "CEOs" of charter schools who make the big money and will be the real winners out of this political scam.

It's not about the kids. If it were, instead of parroting the minister's simplistic platitude about "the tail", Hooton would make an effort to understand the cause of under achievement and what might constitute a real solution to the problem.For a start, the 20% who are the cause of our concern happen to constitute the same 20% who grow up in extreme poverty, who are more likely to live in overcrowded dwellings, more likely to suffer from preventable health problems and more likely to live in families blighted by drug and alcohol dependency and mental health problems.As the Prime Minister's science advisor Sir Peter Gluckman has observed, there are no "quick fixes" to these problems; solutions, such as there are, will be multi-systemic and long term

Trumpeting charter schools then, as the answer to this complex array of problems is the educational equivalent of colour therapy.According to Hooton, it's ok to conduct educational experiments on other peoples' children because will lead to "new ideas".Sure Matthew; service academies, teaching creationism, and class sizes of 15 were all unknown until charter schools discovered them!One of the new charter schools has even announced it will be relying on local high schools for the delivery of core curriculum subjects "“ nothing new there.

Considering we are now pretty sure about what features of schooling make the difference for kids, such a level of ignorance is unforgiveable.The best education systems in the world don't go near charter schools instead they do some or all of the following. Firstly, politicians of all parties work together to develop and fund an education system that works for learners not the favoured few; political stunts designed to shore up coalition agreements rather than genuinely address under achievement would have no place in such regimes. Two, teachers are valued, well qualified, have good access to professional learning and work collaboratively. There is none of the denigration of teachers that is implied in the charter school agenda.Interestingly, the OECD has noted that a feature of top performing countries is a positive and consultative relationship with teacher unions.Three,the curriculum and assessment systemencourages innovation,flexibility and deep learningnot the anti-science mind control that is being proposed in some charter schools or the teach by numbers rote-learning advocated in others.Lastly, attention is paid to inequality.Schools are funded to address the range of health and welfare needs these students have rather than developing policy based on a belief in miracles.

Of course, these initiatives cost money; predictably the people who are the strongest supporters of charter schools are also most hostile to taxpayer money being spent on welfare and outrageous indulgences like ensuring students are healthy and well-fed.The existence of charter schools allows them to feel smug and satisfied by the glory of their own charitable instincts (paid for by the taxpayer what's more) while ensuring that the financial privileges their own offspring enjoy in schools such as Whanganui Collegiate, avoid scrutiny.

If PPTA members, having considered the case against charter schools, choose not to expend the professional capital they have acquired at great cost and over many years, providing succour to a political experiment in privatised education, that is their business.All these activities are, after all, done in their own time and out of their own good will.

As a cheerleader for competition and as an advocate for the promotion of self-interest above everything else, surely Hooton is not telling teachers that they should put extra time and effort into students in schools other than their own, given the risk that the external students could do better in league tables than the students for whom the teachers are directly responsible?

Make up your mind Matthew. Either we have a system that works cooperatively and collegially for the benefit of all students or we run our schools as profit-making, balkanised warring states and accept that a proportion of kids will lose out.We know what we side we are on and we are not about to apologise for that.

Angela Roberts PPTA presidentb2ap3_thumbnail_charterschools_advert_PPTA2013.jpg

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I don't think I'm the only one who shuddered when Parata posted her holiday snaps recently on twitter and one showed her grinning next to the gormless Michael Gove.

Gove's educational revolution in the UK is such monstrous disaster that it makes Novopay, charter schools and national standards look like the work of bombastic Mussolini compared to his National Socialist comrade north of the Alps.

The prospect of her coming back inspired by that meeting was enough for crisis calls around the red-flag adorned staffrooms of the nation on the secret PPTA hotline (not really).

But it turns out she doesn't seem to have taken that much from it after all. You see, Gove is someone who likes to be in charge of what kids learn. And he likes them learning facts, as shown by this list published in the Telegraph:

·In English, pupils will be expected to spell a list of almost 240 advanced words by the end of primary school, master grammar and punctuation and read more novels, poems and plays in full, including Shakespeare;

·Science lessons will introduce pupils to evolution at primary school for the first time, increase the amount of practical and maths-based work and scrap "vague", non-scientific topics such as caring for animals and societal context;

·History will be based on a clear chronology of Britain from the Stone Age to 1066 in primary school, with lessons focusing on the Norman Conquest to present day in secondary education;

But, (sigh of relief around outposts of socialist feminism, aka public schools) Parata's not going down this path at all. In fact, she's going down quite a different one, and one that may well be just as worrying.  See, for example, this story on Waatea News: Education Minister Hekia Parata says teaching creationism is on par with teaching about Maori creation myths.

You see, there's a fine balance in curriculum design between the laissez faire, anything goes approach and Gove's miniscule prescription. And in the case of creationism, Parata's taking the anything goes approach too far.

Promoters of creationism and "˜Intelligent Design' (like this) do not see it on the same level as myth and legend. In fact, quite the opposite. They see it on the same level as science "“ it's a literal, true explanation, not allegorical or metaphorical at all.

There are plenty of Christians (and followers of other religions) who don't see their creation narratives in this way, plenty of scientists and science teachers too. If the creation story stays in the realm of myth there's no conflict with evolution.<p">Now, we don't know whether the people running charter schools are actually promoting creationism as a scientific theory or whether they're just going to be teaching "˜the Bible Story' as the mythical, allegorical tale (with its own cultural importance) that many people accept it to be.

But that's the trouble. We don't know, and can't know, because they'll be hidden away in charter schools. And Parata seems not to care.  This charter school thing has brought out the woolly relativists and post-modernists that I certainly didn't know were lurking in the National Party. It reminds me of that classic teacher saying "Keep an open mind ... but not so open that your brain falls out."


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