Fears raised over charter schools



The government's charter schools plan is a dangerous experiment which will erode New Zealand's education system, opposition parties say.

Details of the charter or "partnership" schools were announced on Thursday and show they will be able to negotiate how many registered teachers they have and how much they pay them.

They will be able to set their own school hours and terms, and decide their own curriculums.

The concept is promoted by The ACT Party, and its leader John Banks announced the details on Thursday with Education Minister Hekia Parata.

The schools can be set up by community or other groups, and Destiny Church is among organisations looking at the new model.

Labour's education spokeswoman Nanaia Mahuta says the schools will be able to employ unregistered teachers.

"That is a disgrace, our kids deserve trained professionals who know how to get the best out of them," she said.

"There is no evidence that charter schools lead to improved results...in fact, overseas experience has proved that more often that not they fail."

The Greens say the schools will be run by corporate or religious groups who will impose their own agenda while trying to make money.

"They can employ untrained teachers and teach their own ideologies to our most vulnerable children," education spokeswoman Catherine Delahunty said.

"Our free public education system is internationally regarded...this is the first step by ACT to erode it and palm off responsibility for it to the business sector."

Mr Banks says the schools will have fixed-term contracts with the government and report annually on progress.

They will be approved to open by the minister of education and must report against national standards.

They can use the New Zealand curriculum or develop their own.

Legislation will be introduced to parliament this year and former requests for proposals from potential sponsors will be called for once the legislation is passed.

All sponsors will be expected to open their schools for the beginning of the 2014 school year.