David Seymour rejects John Tamihere criticism on charter schools

  • 23/07/2016

ACT's David Seymour has rejected criticism that the charter schools setup process is swamped in bureaucracy, and says one of the scheme's long-time backers only dropped out over a contractual dispute.

West Auckland's Te Whanau O Waipareira Trust, which was due to get its licence to start a bilingual Maori school in 2017 under the charter school model, has withdrawn its bid at the last minute.

Chief executive and former Labour MP John Tamihere called the Government's policy an "unworkable mirage" and said Education Minister Hekia Parata and the under-secretary responsible for charter schools, Mr Seymour, had acted in bad faith during negotiations.

He told The Nation the final contract left the minister with too much power.

"We asked for reasonable amendments, one was that the powers of the minister be applied reasonably, another was a simple acknowledgement that Waipareira has Treaty of Waitangi status... Hardly controversial requests," he said.

But Mr Seymour rejected that and told The Nation the negotiations had broken down after the Treaty status request was made right at the end of a year-long process.

"He's playing games, because none of the things he just said were raised with me. It was simply about this last-minute attempt to include Waitangi Tribunal ruling 414 as legally binding throughout the contract, and we were never going to accept that," he said.

"We are not here to relitigate what the Treaty of Waitangi is about. We are here to create high-performance schools for this education."

Charter schools are an ACT Party initiative and are part of its support agreement with the government.

So far nine have opened and one - Northland's Whangaruru School - has been forced to close because of management and teaching problems.

Charter schools can be run by church, business or community organisations.

They can set their own curriculum within limits and don't have to hire registered teachers.

The rationale for them is that they can tailor their teaching to suit students who are failing or performing poorly in the state school system.

The scheme is fiercely opposed by teacher unions and the Labour Party.