A bunch of charter schools put their ‘annual reports’ out yesterday, beautifully produced pieces of PR fluffery that would make any company seeking investors proud.*
In the Vanguard report there’s a page dedicated to busting ‘Vanguard Myths’. Trouble is – most of them are nonsense.
Vanguard chooses to teach (some of) the NZC, but charter schools in general don’t have to. Section 158D of the Education Act makes clear that the contracts of charter schools will establish the curriculum and qualifications that they offer –they don’t have to be the NZC or NCEA.
The curriculum options at Vanguard are much narrower than almost any other schools teaching senior students. Students in years 11 to 13 do three compulsory subjects and choose from seven others.
Compare this to other small low decile secondary schools such as:
· Queen Elizabeth College in Palmerston North – 21 options at level 3
· Ruapehu College – 16 options at level 3
· Whangaroa College – 15 options at level 3
This is not counting the subjects available at other levels. And contrast this to some other secondary schools on the Shore – Birkenhead has 30 options at level 3, Northcote 40, or Glenfield 33.
Because Vanguard chooses to offer this very narrow range of subjects they can put far more resources into them.
So despite what the first paragraph sentence says, they do have ‘unregistered’ staff – just read sentence two. Someone who is ‘unregistered’ does not have a teaching qualification; therefore they’re not a teacher. Having a qualification in another field means nothing, there are thousands of qualifications available out there, it’s no guarantee of anything.
The Vanguard contract states it clearly – in 2015 they have 10 registered teachers, and 4 non registered, i.e. people who are not teachers.
So the ‘myth’ is in fact true – “They can use non-registered teachers and that could be someone off the street.”
The Dominion Post story, by Jo Moir is not about teachers who are unregistered, but people who have not renewed their practising certificates. These teachers have for some reason or another not filled out the form to get their certificate updated (a three yearly process). They are not unregistered.
This myth is partly right and partly wrong. It’s right in that they don’t have a zone. They could, in limited situations, refuse a student who lives right next door.
They are supposed to take all comers though. But the trouble with this is twofold. This is not like a regular public school where students can just rock up on day one (or two or three…) of term and expect to be able to go to school. Public schools have to take all comers. Vanguard’s cohort self-selects to a large degree. There’s a reason there are no ORS or high needs students there.
The other side is what they do when students are there. Charters overseas are well documented at perfecting the art of moving students on who are going to damage their reported grades. The four exclusions in 2014 could well mask a higher number of students who were ‘counselled out’ in less obvious ways. This (unfortunately) happens sometimes in public schools too. All we have to explain the roll drop from the start of 2014 to the end (of around 30 students) is that Vanguard says these students achieved NCEA and left. We have to take their word on this.
Vanguard’s roll did decline significantly over the course of 2014. It was 104 in March; 93 in July and 79 in October.
While they say the reason for this decline is that students left to pursue military careers, we don’t know that for sure, and the school has a lot of good reasons to say it. Contrast it to the status of public schools – if students (of any year level) leave during the year they lose funding. Retaining students at school is one of the major goals that regular public schools are given. This doesn’t seem to apply to Vanguard – who are allowed to shed students and act as if this is a great accomplishment.
Vanguard’s funding in 2014 and 2015 is much higher than most schools, at nearly $20,000 per student. The average state school funding per student is around $7000 per student. One other charter school received over five times regular state school funding.
Some very small low decile secondary schools do receive per student funding that is comparable to what Vanguard gets. It’s worth noting a couple of things though. Because tiny secondary schools are hugely expensive it’s not really considered a good idea just to open them up willy nilly. The comparably expensive schools are generally in the wops, or have a historical significance and special character which explains their existence. What’s more, their funding is high because of the base funding which secondary schools get to offer a full and complete curriculum at senior level – it’s expensive to offer that wide range of subjects. Vanguard doesn’t do this, so they have heaps of cash for small classes – and hey presto – high grades which they can trumpet about in glossy brochures like this.
Yes, building new schools is expensive. But the state owns them, and the school property portfolio is worth around $10billion. Charter schools’ facilities are privately owned.
* Except they are very quiet on the money side of things. Funny that.