Charter Schools

PPTA blogger sees value in smaller class sizes for disruptive students

In an interesting article on the PPTA blog site, blogger Tom Haig admits that smaller classroom sizes are one solution for dealing with disruptive students. In the same article he mocks charter schools’ ability to remove a disruptive student from the classroom yet he acknowledges the pressure within mainstream schooling to integrate these disruptive students into the classroom. Despite saying that he supports this mainstream ideology of integration of disruptive students he also acknowledges that they impact negatively on the other students.

Eric Crampton, from the New Zealand Initiative, pointed out some research recently…

It’s about the impact of disruptive students on their peers… concludes that they have a significantly bad impact on their educational attainment

…the final sentence of Eric’s post got me thinking. He writes  “The benefits to disruptive students of being in mainstream classrooms would have to be substantial to make integrated classrooms desirable overall.”

This seems somewhat out of touch with how our schools work.  The reality is almost all schools in New Zealand see integration (of disruptive students) as desirable. Removing students, from class or from school, is heavily frowned on by the powers that be (unless you’re a charter school apparently), and the vast majority of schools agree.

It is amusing that Mr Hague mocks charter schools for removing disruptive students from the classroom, or from the school, when the alternative education provider that I used to work for gained almost all its students from local mainstream high schools who had removed them because of their disruptive behaviour.

An example of this is from a very traditional boys’ school I visited a few years ago which had just got rid of the ‘withdrawal room’ where students were sent to cool off when they were playing up in class. Now teachers were expected to deal with the problem; the message teachers were given was “be more interesting and the boys won’t cause trouble”.  This is consistent from the top down, when the Minister praises schools for getting the rates of suspensions and expulsions down, and the Ministry of Education’s PB4L action plan is about keeping students engaged and at school.

There are a lot of good things about this, and there are good reasons to believe that school practices can reduce the rates of disruption. But, like with student achievement gaps, school practices on their own almost certainly won’t be able to eliminate the problem.

But Eric also seems to assume that there’s a reasonable alternative for ‘disruptive’ students, which isn’t being in mainstream classrooms. Currently there are around 1800 students in Alternative Education (AE) centres, which are where some of the ‘most challenging’ students end up .

And AE is only for students aged 13-16 who are “genuinely alienated from the education system”, and specifically not for students who are “difficult to manage in a mainstream setting”.

If by ‘genuinely alienated’ Haig means chronic truants then, yes, many of my students were. It also means that they were suspended, expelled and excluded from mainstream education for smoking, violence and drug use. It meant that they had run out of options because no mainstream school would take them. Haig says that AE is not for students who are difficult to manage in a mainstream setting yet, in my experience, it did include them as well. One student I taught in AE had ADHD and various schools had tried to manage him unsuccessfully despite him being put on Ritalin and other drugs. Another student had dyslexia. Yet another student had suffered brain damage and his ability to learn was impaired.

So of the around 230,000 students aged 13-16, there are places for 1800 highly alienated ones in AE centres. What else is there? Very little.

Mr Haig is quite right that there is very little around for these students, which is why charter schools like Vanguard Military School are so fantastic. Military discipline works well for many disruptive students who desperately need boundaries and guidelines, a sense of belonging and family.

…So what else can be done?

Accepting that we shouldn’t, and can’t exclude disruptive students from mainstream education, but that they do, as the research indicates, have a serious impact, particularly when there are multiple disruptive students in a class, maybe the solution is about reducing the numbers of disruptive students in each class?

One way to do this is to dedicate staffing to low decile schools where disruptive students are more prevalent. If classes in those schools went from 25-30 students with 3 or 4 disruptive students to 15-20 with 1-2 that would significantly improve their peers’ learning.

-PPTA Blog

Charter schools are certainly achieving great results with smaller class sizes.



Nothing to see here either Chippy – Status Quo for the Education System Works Fine?

Chris Hipkins wants to close down Charter Schools that are making a difference to Maori and Pasifika families because the unions are telling him to tell the country that the system works fine for everyone anyway and that there is plenty of “choice”.

The statistics speak for themselves but Hipkins either can’t hear them or read them and he definitely can’t understand them.

Roll Based Statistics 2015

 Y11 NCEA Level 1 % Pass

Asian 88
European 82
Pasifika 73
Maori  64

Read more »

ACT: Chris Hipkins’ Charter Schools Abolition Bill “irritating”

Strong Demand

Opposition to Partnership Schools runs against demand from educators and families. Twenty-six different groups applied for an advertised two contracts in the latest application round.  In addition, existing schools have filled rapidly and in some cases have had to construct waiting lists.

Maori Backing the Policy

Perhaps due to the poor outcomes in other school types, and the early success of Kura Hourua, the Iwi Leaders’ Forum declared an official position supporting the policy in 2015.  Labour, despite hoping to win Maori seats in 2017, have not acknowledged this.

Registered Teachers Not a Panacea

Opponents haven’t traded in the facts when it comes to Partnership Schools.  One example is that they say Partnership Schools employ ‘unqualified teachers.’  The law allows Partnership Schools to nominate a percentage of positions to be filled by staff not registered with EDUCANZ if they have the ‘skills, qualifications and experience’ to help kids.  Several Partnership Schools have used this freedom to hire outstanding individuals.

Read more »

Still nothing to see here Chippy?

As noted here, Chris Hipkins has a major conflict brewing with Labour MPs who actually care for Maori and Pasifika youth.

He is going to ask them to vote to close 8 – 10 thriving Charter schools that are full of Maori and Pasifika children/families with high aspirations.

He says nothing different is needed as the State system is fine.

The 2015 results are just out and there is another take on the University Entrance situation. This is the qualification that can actually break cycles. Even just counting students who have made it all the way through to Year 13 there are massive differentials.

Year 13 Roll Based UE Pass rate 2015    Read more »

The end of Maori support for Labour (at least while Chippy is in the House)

Chris Hipkins and Andrew Little are going to ask their caucus to vote to close eight schools in Labour electorates that contain mainly Maori and Pasifika students who are thriving and trying to break deeply entrenched education failure cycles.

It may even be 10 schools by the time it fails to pass.

There is a likelihood that, if it gets to a vote, at least two Labour MPs will cross the floor (and maybe even a Green MP). Chippy must have started sleepless nights on this one already.

The unions won’t allow it but it really is time that he stepped aside and let Peeni Henare become the spokesperson for education. In 90 months as opposition spokesperson for education Hipkins has only had two ideas – to bring coding and driver licensing into the NZ Curriculum…he sure is brilliant.

He is colour blind to problems and runs the union line of “nothing to see here” in terms of negative outcomes for Maori and Pasifika families. This is despite 2014 UE results seeing:   Read more »

How does this new school differ from a Charter school?

Rototuna Junior High School principal Fraser Hill on the first floor of Rototuna High School.
Rototuna Junior High School principal Fraser Hill on the first floor of Rototuna High School.

So the government has built a brand new school called Rototuna Junior High school. As you all know Partnership schools also known as Charter schools are constantly attacked by teacher unions who claim they are too expensive. Since Rototuna is a brand new school let’s do a comparison.

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Newsflash: Journalist admits strong bias but writes a good article anyway

I am not at all surprised that meeting Alwyn Poole made it difficult for Peter Lyons to hold on to his bias about charter schools. Labour’s Chris Hipkins has been wise to turn down all invitations to visit charter schools because, when you meet the people behind them, you are in real danger of being won over.

As you all know, I did an investigative series on Partnership schools in Auckland and met and interviewed both Alwyn Poole and Nick Hyde, as well as many others involved in the running of South Auckland Middle School, West Auckland Middle school and Vanguard Military school. Both men are dedicated and passionate about education and making a difference. It was impossible not to like them and not to be caught up in their drive and determination.


I hate the concept of charter schools, but then I met Alwyn Poole. Photo / Steven McNicholl

I hate the concept of charter schools, but then I met Alwyn Poole. Photo / Steven McNicholl

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What the New Zealand charter school debate boils down to



It is always interesting to distill down the arguments for and against charter schools in New Zealand. After watching a New Zealand debate on the topic I have now summarised for Whaleoil readers the key points raised by people from both sides of the debate.

These are not direct quotes but are accurate summaries of what was said.



  • We want to see ALL New Zealanders succeed but we don’t think that charter schools are the answer.
  • Charter schools are an answer to a problem that doesn’t exist.
  • It is a solution for a problem we don’t have.
  • Poor schools and bad teachers and bad principals failing Maori students is not the reality.
  • The rise of charter schools is directly connected to the Maori failure rates.

Read more »

New school, costing $40m, opens – others decline. Unions apoplectic?

A new school, costing $40m, has opened causing pupils to decamp from other schools to attend the new one:

Fairfield Intermediate’s roll has declined by about 130, now Rototuna Junior High School’s open.

Until the the Year 7-10 school was opened this year, there was no other public option in Hamilton’s fast-growing northern suburbs.

The new school also hit Fairfield College’s roll, but to a lesser extent.

The 130-student roll change at Fairfield Intermediate wasn’t unexpected, principal Barry Roberts said.

“It’ll take a year or three for the number to grow back up. But we’re still here. It’s not majorly catastrophic,” he said.

“It’s students that haven’t come in [at Year 7], mostly.”    Read more »

Charter school’s right of reply

Chris Hipkins, despite being the Labour Party spokesperson for Education, has turned down all invitations from Charter schools to visit them. Recently he criticised New Zealand Charter schools, claiming that they received a “bonus for failure”. I follow all the Charter schools I visited for my investigation so I received the below email from South Auckland Middle School along with everyone else involved with the school. I have reproduced it unedited as a right of reply to the recent criticisms in the mainstream media.

Dear Supporters and Interested Parties

In NZ this week the Labour Party spokesperson for Education decided to release a piece claiming that South Auckland Middle School (among others) had received a “bonus for failure” from the Minister of Education for 2014 performance. It was followed by bandwagon pieces from people equally ignorant of the true nature of SAMS that culminated in a nameless and faceless piece in the Dominion Post on March 3rd.

Read more »