Revealed: David Seymour’s plan to convert underperforming schools in to charter schools

ACT leader David Seymour wants to make it easier to close down underperforming schools and convert them into charter (partnership) schools.

Under the proposal, schools which “consistently underperform compared to other schools facing the same type and nature of issues” will be at risk of closure or management intervention.

“Targets will be set for the school, which if not met, could result in the closure of the school and conversion into a partnership [charter] school.”

Seymour, who is also the Parliamentary Under-Secretary responsible for charter schools, believes that better outcomes for kids will result, and has committed the proposal to being an election priority for ACT in the upcoming general election.

But the academic results from New Zealand’s secondary charter schools are mixed.

In 2015, South Auckland-based Pacific Advance Senior school saw just 36 /60 (60%) of students achieve NCEA level one, which is significantly lower than a number of other state-run South Auckland high schools.

Also in 2015, Auckland-based Vanguard Military School claimed a 100 percent achievement rate for NCEA level two. But when the school’s achievement is calculated using the same roll-based methodology applied to state schools, the achievement rate plummets to 60 percent.

The Green Party, who have consistently opposed charter schools, rejected Seymour’s proposal this afternoon as an “awful idea.”

Education spokesperson Catherine Delahunty believes that “we need to support struggling schools with more funds and teacher aids and professional development not privatisation.”

“The Greens have a great schools as hubs policy which would provide school lunch, a nurse, extra support for families and more, this would help struggling schools. We need to value and support local public education.”

Currently New Zealand has 10 charter schools, which were introduced as part of ACT’s confidence and supply agreement with National following the 2011 general election.

The schools are privately run and publicly funded, and have freedom to set their own curriculum, school hours, holidays and pay rates.

School fees are not charged and admission to charter schools is determined through the use of a ballot system.

The Government plans to slowly increase the number of charter schools, with Budget 2016 including funding for up to seven new charter schools, which will increase the total number to 17, or 0.006 percent of the school population.