Election 2023: Charter schools make comeback, high schools allowed to opt out of NCEA in ACT's education policy

The ACT Party has unveiled its education policy, which would see charter schools make a comeback and secondary schools allowed to opt out of NCEA.  

Revealed exclusively to AM on Monday, ACT is promising to fix what it describes as a "cookie-cutter" model. The party's leader David Seymour claims the current education system is not serving every child well.   

"The partnership schools that got off the ground showed real promise before Labour callously demolished them."  

Seymour said partnership schools were subject to "high levels of monitoring and accountability" and were shut down when the school does not deliver.    

He said the charter school model would not only return, but public schools would be able to convert if they wanted to and met the criteria.  

"Partnership schools enjoy greater flexibility over 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," Seymour said.  

ACT would also allow all secondary schools to opt out of NCEA, so long as they offer an internationally recognised qualification - for example Cambridge or International Baccalaureate.

"Is NCEA fit for purpose? The only way to answer this question is to give schools and parents a choice."  

The party is also promising a shake up to the Ministry of Education, to enable "greater school innovation tailored to the school's community". 

"We will consult with experienced school principals on what assistance schools need from the Ministry, and what powers are best devolved to schools directly," Seymour said. 

"Schools are not just being told what to do, they are being told how to do it." 

The ACT leader said his party would reform the Ministry and "strip it back to basics". 

"The Ministry would be focused on negotiating collective agreements, monitoring student and school progress, setting minimum standards and accreditation, and auditing schools."  

The party will also introduce a $250 million a year 'Teaching Excellence Reward Fund' which would be administered by school principals to recognise and recruit for teaching excellence. 

"Under the current pay system, there are limited ways for teaching excellence to be properly rewarded within the public school system. Most public schools are shackled by collective agreements and rigid remuneration frameworks. Teachers are rewarded for years on the job."  

'Student Education Accounts' (SEAs) would be established too. Seymour said the model will put education funding "directly into the hands of parents, rather than leaving it to the Ministry to divide up between schools". 

"The funding the government currently spends on education from early childhood to tertiary will be distributed so that every child will have an SEA. Like a KiwiSaver account, parents and students would be able to see the balance of funding that is available and make choices about how to fund an education," said Seymour.   

Greens react 

Election 2023: Charter schools make comeback, high schools allowed to opt out of NCEA in ACT's education policy
Photo credit: AM

Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick, alongside Seymour on AM on Monday, said what principals and teachers are expressing to her, is their "frustration by how politicians are frequently arguing that we're going to muddle with the curriculum" instead of funding the system properly.    

She said funding the education system properly is what "it looks like to succeed", and added countries who are succeeding in education "have invested in that".  

Swarbrick told AM issues surrounding school attendance and educational achievement are largely driven by poverty. She said Aotearoa needs to "invest more money in making sure that every child has what they need to succeed".   

"Because far from the kind of rhetoric that we hear from many politicians that education is a pathway out of poverty, in fact, poverty is the barrier to getting that education in the first place."   

Swarbrick told AM ACT's education policy will create greater competition between schools and shut down schools that are not delivering.  

But Swarbrick believes the policy risks rural schools, which have historically been de-funded, being shut down.    

Watch the full video above for more.