Existing partnership schools can breathe a short sigh of relief after Education Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed through the media that the schools can stay open with no changes until the end of 2018, National Party Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.

“This is an important temporary breather for these ten schools who can continue planning for the new school year which is just around the corner. It will also give them the chance to negotiate their long-term future,” Ms Kaye says.

“Given Mr Hipkins will not personally front up and meet with these schools, he must urgently write to them now and provide formal clarification. It’s not good enough that the students, parents and staff have had to find out through last minute comments to media.

“He is still to confirm the fate of the six new schools yet to open, two of which are due to open in the 2018 school year which is just weeks away. One of these schools has more than 50 children enrolled – they and their parents quite rightly want answers about their futures.

“Another school received a different letter to that received by the 10 existing schools telling them Mr Hipkins would meet them for a chat early next year, whereby it is not clear whether that school can open for all of 2018. The letter is also carefully worded in that it doesn’t say the Government supports them opening, but rather it is the decision of the school to open.

“The schools due to open in 2018 started the process with the Crown in 2016. Funds were appropriated for the schools in that year’s Budget and the contracts were signed in July 2017. A lot of work has gone into getting the schools ready to open their doors to some of our most vulnerable students next year and now they’re wondering if it was all for nothing.

“Even for the existing schools, there are still many questions that remain unanswered. For instance, what will the basic requirements be if the partnership school model is cancelled and what schools, if any, will be able to remain open under new model? This information needs to be provided quickly so that the schools have time to make their case.

“These schools have been making a real difference to the lives of kids who have struggled in mainstream education. It’s frankly a disgrace that Mr Hipkins continues to treat them, their students and their families with such contempt and is prepared to leave them in limbo.

“To make matters worse, one of the schools’ sources of hope, Deputy Labour Leader Kelvin Davis, appears to have reneged on his promise to resign if two partnership schools in his electorate closed. Unfortunately today in Question Time he refused to confirm that this was still his intention, leading us believe he has given up on them.

“As Associate Education Minister with responsibility for improving te reo, you’d think he’d be fighting hard for schools that have a focus on lifting achievement in te reo. He has ministerial responsibility to answer questions on the partnership schools’ futures so it will be hugely disappointing if he continues to duck for cover and abandons the fight for their survival.”

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