It has become clear that the Government’s policy against partnership schools has put some of the schools that were due to open in a position where they have had to choose not to proceed, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“The Government’s treatment of partnership schools is unacceptable. These schools have made a positive difference for children and young people, including many young Māori.
“There were two partnership schools due to open this year and another four due to open in 2019. The Government has given these schools such limited options and has starved them of information which has caused some schools to walk away from their plans to open.
“Partnership schools have a proven track record in raising educational achievement of children and young who have struggled in mainstream education.
“Aside from the lost opportunity for these young people, there will be a cost to the Crown as a result of the planned partnership schools not going ahead.
“While I understand this is a sensitive issue, the public deserves to know what the estimated overall cost will be given the Government campaigned on closing partnership schools knowing there would be financial implications to the taxpayer.
“It’s also not surprising that the Government has yet to release the latest Martin Jenkins report which I understand shows great results. So not only is the Government hiding the costs of their ideological policy, but it’s also hiding independent reports that show how positive partnership schools are for vulnerable young people.
“Many people have stood up and supported partnership schools, including the Iwi Leaders’ Forum. Kelvin Davis talked tough in opposition but has now effectively abandoned partnership schools as demonstrated by his response to questions in the House.
“It is important to reflect on this as we have discussions at Waitangi, and in the future. As Associate Education Minister responsible for Māori education, it is disappointing that he has not helped to support schools that are making a real difference for young Māori.”
A draft Bill to strengthen the ability of students to learn a second language at school has today been released for public consultation by National Party Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye.
“The benefits of speaking more than one language have enormous cognitive, cultural, social and economic benefits. My Members Bill is about ensuring that all children in years 1-8 have universal access and resources to learn a second language,” Ms Kaye says.
“The Bill requires the Education Minister to set at least ten priority languages for schools following public consultation, and places a requirement on the Crown to resource the provision of these languages in schools. I’d expect that languages that would be consulted on would include Mandarin, French, Spanish, Japanese, Korean and potentially Hindi.
“It will then be up to school boards to consult with their communities to determine which of the priority languages will be taught at their school. Every school will be required to deliver at least one second language, but some may choose to offer more than one.
“However the Bill makes it clear that Te Reo and New Zealand Sign Language must be national priority languages and funded by the Crown. The current law requires schools to take reasonable steps to enable children to learn Te Reo and this will not change.
“The Bill also requires the Government to develop a national language policy, to ensure there is a long-term strategy around issues such as workforce training and development for teachers and access to physical and online resources. I do not underestimate the need to carefully plan and support the workforce to help deliver this policy.
“National expects that the cost of the changes will be around $40 million per year, to provide schools and Communities of Learning with more expert language teachers, language specialists and online resources. To put this in context, this is around six per cent of the Government’s ‘fees free’ policy for tertiary education.
“I intend to secure cross-party support for strengthening the teaching and learning of second languages in schools. I am optimistic that political parties will have an open mind about this Bill which I hope can be a catalyst for change. I have written to each party in Parliament asking for their support on the Bill, and at the very least to start a cross-party conversation about improving access to languages in schools.
“Over the next month I will be asking the public to give their initial views on the Bill via a website. A petition has also been created for New Zealanders to show their support for improving access to language learning in schools. I plan to lodge the Bill in late February.
“Strengthening language fluency has the potential to lead to a smarter, more culturally aware nation that is better equipped to succeed domestically and internationally. While there have been some positive steps over the last decade there is still more to do and this Bill represents an important investment in our country’s future.”
The Government is irresponsibly and recklessly scrapping National Standards without having a detailed nationwide system of progression to replace it with, leaving parents in the dark about their children’s achievement, National Party Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“Education Minister Chris Hipkins’ decision to no longer compel schools to report annually on National Standards to the Ministry of Education from 2018 is bad news for parents and could have negative and far-reaching consequences across the education sector,” Ms Kaye says.
“While Mr Hipkins is saying parents will still get reports, there is no clarity about what exactly will be required of teachers to report on. He’s even said some schools can keep using National Standards which just creates confusion for schools and parents.
“There are currently no nationwide tools that cover the whole of the curriculum to measure progression. This means questions remain around exactly what work will be involved for teachers in reporting progression.
“The decision flies in the face of Treasury advice that the Government should delay scrapping National Standards until they have a new system to replace it with, to prevent a gap in system-level information on how schools are performing.
“Without this information there will also be huge difficulty targeting funding to schools for students who need extra support to help lift their achievement.
“Mr Hipkins did not need to do this – he should have waited until he had figured out a replacement system. Instead, just as schools are breaking up for the year he has made a rash decision that will leave parents with questions about what information they will be able to get from their school on their child’s achievement next year.
“National has previously supported a shift to progression alongside National Standards information but we expected to take several years to progressively move to this.
“This Minister is consistently displaying a rash and ideological approach to our education system, and it is parents and students who will be worse off for it.”
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.”
Education Minister Chris Hipkins continues to treat partnership schools, their students and families with contempt, failing to answer basic questions and leaving them in limbo as the new school year approaches, National Party Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“The Minister has written to schools six weeks late but the letter raises more questions than it answers. It basically just instructs them to wait til February for the opportunity to discuss their future.
“He’s failed to answer really basic questions such as will the schools be able to remain open for the whole 2018 year and what will the requirements and options be if the partnership school model is cancelled and schools have to reapply to stay open?
“The letter also says the meetings about their future will happen for ‘existing schools’ which raises the question whether those due to open next year and in 2019 will be able to fight for their own futures.
“In what is fast becoming a pattern of behaviour of this Government he is also failing to release official information which might help inform the families.
“It’s just not good enough. He is showing nothing but contempt for the schools, the students and their families who are simply asking whether their schools will remain open.
“These families have chosen these schools because they believe they are best for their children. Why does Chris Hipkins get to tell them otherwise?
“Partnership schools and parents are quite rightly just wanting answers about their futures but either the Minister has no idea or he just doesn’t want to deliver bad news at Christmas.
“This is one of the largest school reorganisations or potential closure processes in our country’s history. It involves more than 1000 children, including a number with very complex needs.
“The fact that these schools have legally binding contracts also means any move to close them could lead to significant legal costs. The Minister needs to explain how much these might be.
“If it wants to continue with its misguided and ill-informed closure of partnership schools then the Government needs to do the right thing and at least be much more open and transparent with the families and schools about what is going on,” Ms Kaye says.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins’ pattern of creating confusion and chaos continues with parents and schools being sent mixed messages about whether children can start school in the weeks before they turn five or not, National Party Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“Last week Mr Hipkins said he would change the law around cohort entry so that kids could not start school before the age of five. The Ministry of Education has since said that schools that have already adopted the policy, or are in consultation to, will be able to allow four year olds to enter from Term 1 2018, but it is unclear when the law will change and what the new rules will be,” Ms Kaye says.
“Parents want to know well in advance when their child will be able to start school, and schools need to know so that they can prepare for their new entrants. But Mr Hipkins is sending mixed signals, leaving them with more questions than answers.
“For instance, how long will the existing law be in place? And will the new law mean that thousands of children will have to wait longer than their fifth birthday to start at the school their parents have chosen for them if that school has adopted cohort entry?
“Cohort entry is about helping kids to make an easier transition from early learning to school and it is up to schools to decide with their community if they want to adopt the policy.
“The existing law says that schools who do adopt cohort entry cannot revoke it without giving a term’s notice so Mr Hipkins must clarify the timeline for a law change, and provide certainty about what the new rules will be so that schools are not consulting on policy that will be changed part way through next year.
“To make matters worse, I’ve had confirmation that the Prime Minister received no reports or briefings on this issue before Mr Hipkins announced it. This means there could not have been a Cabinet paper on the law change which is startling given it affects thousands of children. It looks like Mr Hipkins unilaterally made the decision to change the law without going through the proper Cabinet process.
“This is just the latest example of Mr Hipkins making announcements on the hoof without providing any detail, that have a real impact on children’s lives. Just over a month into the job and already he has backtracked on National Standards, free tertiary education, Partnership Schools and international students. What’s next?
“The new school year is just weeks away and parents and schools deserve to have certainty around when kids can start school. It’s time for Mr Hipkins to front up with the details.”
Education Minister Chris Hipkins’ decision to take away parents’ ability to have their children start school in the weeks before their fifth birthday is nanny-state and ideologically driven, National Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“National made changes to give schools and parents the option of enrolling children in groups at the start of each term. This means some children, at the request of their parents, can start school at the most eight weeks before their fifth birthday rather than waiting until the next term,” Ms Kaye says.
“However the Education Minister believes he knows better than parents and will change the law so that children cannot start school before the age of five.
“The law change will mean that some children will have to wait longer than their fifth birthday to start at the school that their parents have chosen for them if that school has adopted cohort entry.
“The good news is that the Minister appears to be saying that cohort entry for children five and over will stay in the law and can be adopted by schools that want it.
“Cohort entry is about helping children to settle better in school. Many parents know that a child arriving at school on their own can feel self-conscious and out of place. Experts on early learning argued for this change because they believe it will make the transition easier. We also know that some schools were already doing cohort entry as they consider it offers kids the best start to their school life.
“National backs schools to know what is right for their community and believes in parents being able to choose when the right time to send their child to school is.
“This is the latest example of the Labour Party deciding it knows better than parents, following their decision to deny parents the choice to take paid parental leave together. New Zealanders know what is best for themselves and their families.”
Education Minister Chris Hipkins is creating confusion yet again about the future of the education system by failing to provide any detail on the replacement of National Standards, says National Party Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye.
“In the last couple of weeks the Minister has said that National Standards will be gone very quickly, however today in Question Time he admitted he is still yet to sign off the timeline,” Ms Kaye says.
“Parents need to know how their kids are doing at school and National Standards are a key part of that.
“So it is irresponsible of the Minister to state that National Standards will be gone very quickly without providing a detailed proposal of what it will be replaced with. You’d think that after nine years in opposition they would have an idea about what a replacement might look like.
“The Minister has created further confusion today by stating that no school will be forced to scrap National Standards, which leads us to believe he is advocating for multiple systems of reporting. This is at odds with his numerous public statements about scrapping National Standards entirely.
“Having multiple reporting systems could have consequences for getting a consistent nationwide picture of achievement. If this is the case, the Minister needs to answer a number of questions on what this means for parents and how schools will choose their preferred system of reporting.
“Scrapping or changing National Standards is one of the most significant education decisions to be made in several years. The education sector and parents deserve to know the timeline, the process of engagement and have iron-cast guarantees around the replacement system and reporting to parents.
“National campaigned on improving National Standards to move to a system of progression which would have included a significant investment to support the education sector. A large decision like scrapping or changing National Standards would ideally involve greater cross-party agreement.
“It is disappointing that the Minister is yet to front up with a detailed statement on this issue. Instead we are being drip-fed bits of inconsistent information – parents and schools deserve better than this.”
The latest decision by the Government to continue with the Education (Public Good not Profit from Charter Schools) Bill will add to the confusion about the future of these schools for the families and students who care deeply about them, National Party Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“This legislation would wipe out Vanguard Military School, for example, which plays a hugely positive role in the lives of hundreds of our children. It is delivering fantastic results, and the new Government is putting that at risk by putting the ideological views of the unions before the needs of students and parents,” says Ms Kaye.
“Is this legislation another mistake by the Leader of the House and Education Minister Chris Hipkins? Why would you progress legislation to get rid of only one partnership school when you’ve promised to review all partnership schools?
“I am concerned that the Government may try and amend this legislation to get rid of all partnership schools prior to Christmas. This would be at odds with their commitment over the weekend to review all schools.
“There are legitimate questions about whether this review is a sham as the Minister gives the appearance of having a closed mind given his previous careless comments.
“The way the Minister can clear this up is by answering some basic questions about the review. We have no details about who is doing the review, the potential costs of the review, when it will be completed by, or what the requirements and options could be if the partnership school model goes and schools are required to convert to state integrated or special character schools.
“These schools have legally binding contracts. If the Minister is not careful with the process that he and the Ministry undertake they may end up costing the taxpayer in compensation payments or court processes,” Ms Kaye says.
“The new Government has already had numerous positions on partnership schools, from repealing the legislation to negotiating on a case-by-case basis to reviewing the schools – and this latest move just adds to the confusion for parents and students.
“The Prime Minister said today that she wanted New Zealand to become a kinder more caring nation. Closing these schools when they deliver such fantastic benefits to our children is not a caring and kind thing to do.”
Reports today that Chris Hipkins has cancelled four new partnership schools with signed contracts with the Crown due to start in 2019 will be hugely disappointing for the promoters of the schools and families planning to send their children there, National Party Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“As I understand it the Minister hasn’t even met with the sponsors and several of the sponsors found out their contracts would be cancelled via the media,” Ms Kaye says.
“The four schools included an Auckland school focused on Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths and a new Vanguard school in Christchurch.
“These sponsors have spent time and money securing contracts with the Crown and preparing to open these schools. They deserve better than this.
“Regardless of the Minister’s ideological opposition to partnership schools they deserve a fair process and good communication with the Minister and the Ministry. The public also deserves to know any costs to the crown of cancelling these contracts,” Kaye says.
“It’s hard to believe the new government is so blinkered that it won’t allow people to set up new schools to improve achievement for New Zealand’s children.
“The recent Martin Jenkins report shows that many of the partnership schools are performing well and supporting disadvantaged children. That’s why National supports them.
“With regard to the rest of the schools (the current 10 that are open and the two due to open next year) there needs to be transparency about the process that the new Government will be going through about their future.
“The Government has sent mixed messages regarding partnership schools. It is not clear if any of these schools will remain and if they do remain what the nature of their funding and governance arrangements will be.
“The Government needs to be upfront about their future or at the very least the process to determine their future.”
The four new schools due to open in 2019 are:
• City Senior School in Central Auckland, sponsored by City Senior School Limited, will have a mission to nurture and support young people with a particular focus on becoming innovative and creative global citizens. It will be a co-educational senior secondary school for years 11-13, with an opening roll of 100 students and a maximum roll of 300 students.
• Tūranga Tangata Rite in Gisborne, sponsored by Te Runanga o Tūranganui a Kiwa, will focus primarily on Māori students with a, ‘by iwi for iwi’ approach. It will be a co-educational junior secondary school for years 9-11 with an opening roll of 45 students and a maximum roll of 55 students.
• Vanguard Military School Christchurch in Christchurch, will promote attitudinal, behavioural and academic excellence and encourage training and employment pathways beyond school. It will be a co-educational senior secondary school for years 11-13, with an opening roll 120 students and a maximum roll of 210 students.
• Waatea High in South Auckland, sponsored by Te Whare Wananga O MUMA Limited, a subsidiary of the Manukau Urban Māori Authority, will focus on priority learners and have a ‘Māori for Māori’ philosophy. It will be a co-educational bi-lingual secondary school for years 9-13, with an opening roll of 50 and a maximum roll of 145 students. The school will complement the sponsor’s existing early childhood education centre and primary year partnership school, Te Kura Māori o Waatea to provide a complete education pathway.