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Pacific educators lend their support to the proposed return of charter schools

Paridhi Bakshi

ACT Party leader David Seymour has proposed re-introducing charter schools, and two Pacific principals say it could be a good thing for their communities.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

A former South Auckland principal says people shouldn't be quick to judge when it comes to the government's proposed re-introduction of charter schools.

ACT Party leader and Associate Minister of Education David Seymour wants to see this alternative education model re-introduced by 2025, which he says can better serve the needs of Māori and Pacific students.

Seymour was in charge of the charter schools when they were first implemented in 2014, and he says these schools allow greater flexibility in how they operate and use their funding, in exchange for accountability over outcomes.

"This may include introducing different staff pay and conditions, offering more extensive school transport arrangements, or offering free uniforms or other learning resources," he says.

And one former South Auckland principal says these schools can be a good thing for Pacific students.

Fa’atili Iosua Esera, who recently stepped down as principal at Sutton Park School in Māngere East, says one positive is how charter schools allow for more customisation of the curriculum.

"[Charter schools] allow [teachers] to look at how the curriculum is delivered and it allows them to look at how teachers and parents are supported - and so that is a big plus with charter schools."

Speaking with Levi Matautia-Morgan on 531pi's Pacific Mornings, Esera says Pacific principals who have led charter schools have told him they've been able to really cater their teaching to the needs of their students.

"They've done exceptionally well for students who have not been well-served by the mainstream system."

Pacific Advance Secondary School Co-Principal Parehuia Enari is also backing the return of the policy and says that it enables them to help design their school with the culture of their students in mind.

"Partnership schools could be a benefit in the future if it is focused on the needs of students of Aotearoa, in particular those who are most vulnerable in terms of receiving a quality education."

However the Post Primary Teachers' Association (PPTA) is not supporting the proposed changes.

The PPTA declined to be interviewed for this story. But in a statement released in November, 2023, PPTA Acting-President Chris Abercrombie said these schools are an expensive distraction from the most pressing issues facing schools.

“The vast majority of students in Aotearoa are in the public education system and this is where investment should be made.”

In 2018 when charter schools were disestablished there were 808,439 students enrolled in the public system and around 1500 enrolled in charter schools.

“The focus on the government needs to be on ensuring we have a robust and equitable public education system," Abercrombie's statement said.

“All schools are focused on students achieving their best, it is vital that the government also understands that supporting the whole young person is key to maximising their potential.”

And in recently released documents reviewing how the first partnership schools ran, it has been revealed that many charter schools failed to achieve their intended goals.

Watch the full interview with Fa’atili Iosua Esera below:

Hero image: Pacific educators say charter schools allow teachers to cater learning to the cultural needs of students. Photo/ Supplied

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