Union slams Government decision to bring back charter schools

Publicly funded, privately run charter schools are on their way back.

The Government will pour $153 million into setting up 50 charter schools over the next four years - 15 schools will be new and 35 state schools will be converted.

What makes charter schools different is they're run by private businesses, not-for-profits, churches or iwi and are contracted by the state for 10 years.

They do not have to teach the curriculum but there will be targets for achievements and attendance or they could be shut down.

Associate Education Minister David Seymour said the schools provide more options for students.

But teachers' unions hate them and say the millions of dollars of public money should go to improving public schooling.

Schooling is taking a right turn with the return of charter schools - like Vanguard Military Academy, which seals its haka with a salute.

Charter Schools were booted out by the previous Labour Government and turned into special character schools but this time the Government is going bigger.

"It will bring kids into a school that is different and engage them differently so that they can feel a sense of pride and purpose that ultimately leads to achievement," Seymour said.

They're not just creating new ones but converting some state schools as well.

St Stephen's Māori Boys Boarding School - also known as Tipene - will become a charter school.

"Our day will look quite different - it will start earlier and finish late but the productivity that it will allow us will be really crucial," principal Nathan Durie said.

Thirty-five state schools will convert by term 1 next year and by 2026, there'll be 15 brand new charter schools. $153 million has been budgeted over four years.

Seymour said he can "absolutely" guarantee that charter school students on average won't get more funding than state school students.

"The principle here is that a child attending a charter school is funded no more or no less than a child at a similar state school - it is that simple," Seymour said.

The Post Primary Teachers' Association (PPTA) said it thinks the initial $153 million investment is a misuse of money.

"Every New Zealand student deserves a trained qualified specialist teacher in front of their class. What charter schools will do is take that right away from local communities, without consultation, without asking them the direction they want their local schools to go in," teacher and PPTA executive member Kieran Gainsford said.

"They [unions] should just need be honest, they should just come out and say 'the reason we don't like charter schools is that it's an existential threat to our model where we collect a percent of our members' salaries and sit in Wellington and try and meddle in education policy'," Seymour said.

However, Gainsford said the union doesn't support an "unproven failed experiment" where we're sending "untrained teachers into schools".

As well as hiring who they wish, charter schools will be able to teach what they wish when they wish but will have to meet attendance and achievement targets.

Meanwhile, state schools are facing more handcuffs - like implementing an hour of reading, writing and maths, and mandating structured literacy and the cellphone ban.

"I absolutely think it's ironic," Labour education spokesperson Jan Tinetti said.

"This is actually really crazy when you think about this - that you're putting one set of rules in because you're saying this is what's most needed and will make the biggest difference for our young people but then on the other hand let's open a bunch of other schools where they don't have to follow these rules."

"The Government's general thrust is 'We are going to demand higher standards'. Charter schools will be the only schools that will actually contract that. And say if you don't do it your funding is at risk and you may ultimately be closed down," Seymour said.

Charter schools charting a course into an ideological clash.