Standing up for public education

Grassroots, branch-based campaigns will be needed with the likely return of a charter schools policy

The ‘conversion’ of state schools to charter schools is a very real threat with a new National and ACT-led government, delegates to PPTA Te Wehengarua annual conference were told.

“ACT and National have realised it is expensive to open new schools, so the new plan is likely to be focused on converting state schools,” said Austen Pageau, PPTA Te Wehengarua national executive member.

“We expect kaupapa Māori, integrated schools and ‘elite’ schools to be targeted for conversion and there will most likely be some form of financial sweetener to entice schools to become charter schools.

Members’ jobs at risk

This posed an even bigger risk than the last time charter schools were introduced in 2014 because it would mean PPTA Te Wehengarua would have members in charter schools. “Members’ jobs will be at risk as the schools would close and all positions would be disestablished upon conversion.”

Austen said the union’s response to a new round of charter schools needed to focus on the positive aspects of the state school system and show why charter schools were not needed. “When the Labour-led government abolished charter schools in 2017, all but one were integrated successfully into the public system, proving they never needed their special status in the first place.”

Māori likely to be targeted again

It seems likely that, as happened when charter schools were introduced in 2014, Māori would be targeted again, demonstrating the “rank hypocrisy of the ACT party calling their charter schools ‘partnership schools’ while in the same breath calling for a referendum to effectively abolish the partnership principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi”.

Grassroots, branch-based campaigns would be needed to enlist the support of parents and put pressure on boards of trustees, similar to the campaigns against salaries bulk funding fought by branches in the 1990s.

Aranui experience

Daniel Hapuku, Te Huarahi Māori Motuhake and national executive member, said the charter schools discussion resonated with his experience about seven years ago when schools in Aranui in Christchurch East were forced to close and be replaced by a ‘super school’. “This school had no curriculum or qualification requirements, no requirements around teachers being trained and qualified. They (the government) tried to break down our union.”

All of the schools that the super schools replaced were successful and doing well in their own communities. “They (the government) came into an economically depressed area and depressed it further  - depressed it educationally.”

UK charter schools experience

Kate Halls, PPTA Te Wehengarua West Coast regional chairperson, said she used to teach apprentices in the United Kingdom (UK). “One hundered percent of my cohort were failed by the UK education system. They left school without any competency in English or Maths - literacy and numeracy. By the time they had finished their education with me they had a 98 percent achievement rate. The problem was the system. All of them came from academies – charter schools by another name.

“I left the UK because I could not stomach going to work for an academy. I chose to move 12,000 miles away and I’m prepared to stand up and fight for the public educaton system we have here.”

Implacable opposition

The conference decided that PPTA Te Wehengarua would continue its implacable opposition to the establishment of new charter schools (or te kura hourua, partnership schools or whatever they may be called), and the conversion of state or state-integrated schools to charter schools.

PPTA Te Wehengarua will advocate for increased flexibility to allow for innovative approaches within the state and state-integrated school system and affirms its support for an equitable and well-resourced public education system.

Last modified on Tuesday, 19 March 2024 11:58