I have posted a few guest posts from Alwyn Poole about Charter Schools and about education, now there is a feature in the Sunday Star Times about his achievements in education and how he wants, through the Charter Schools programme to extend the success enjoyed in Remuera out to West Auckland:
Starting his own school cost Alwyn Poole his home.
He knew buying the century-old property amid the ranks of private clinicians on Auckland’s blue-blood Remuera Rd was a necessity; he had to set up somewhere affluent enough that the parents could afford $12,000 fees. A decade on, Poole and his wife Karen are still renting, but Mt Hobson Middle School’s Victorian villa has been oversubscribed for the past eight years.
Poole reckons the school’s core principles – small class sizes, focusing on the individual, using outside experts – work well. It has the academic results, the ERO report and, importantly, that bulging roll to prove it. Last year, he says, the marketing budget was a mere $300 (spent on new business cards) because the school doesn’t need to spruik for pupils.
So he believes himself perfectly placed to run the first charter schools in New Zealand – and surprisingly, given the right-wing genesis of charter (or “partnership”) schools, his partner in this enterprise is the former Labour minister John Tamihere.
Even more surprising is the concept: not aimed at middle-class parents lusting after extra clarinet lessons and a debating society, but to the children of Henderson, West Auckland, and with an intention to provide them with a private school education, but without the fees.
No fees…sounds good, so why does Labour and the Teacher unions oppose such measures?
Poole says there are other people out there working on charter school concepts, ready to act once the Government confirms its plans, but they are afraid to go public and face the criticisms of teaching unions and the principals’ association. Among those remaining silent are a prominent former international sportsman.
Poole and Tamihere, with the Waipareira Trust, want to establish four 50-pupil middle schools on a single West Auckland campus.
The project envisages a central hub with an indoor sports hall, auditorium and offices, with, it seems, some sort of business manager at its heart. Each school would have its own principal responsible for academic affairs.
“We have done 10 years here [at Mt Hobson], so effectively we have proven our model,” says Poole. “But people might look at us and say what do you know about teaching kids [in west Auckland]?
“That’s why we would partner with John, who knows the culture and the needs of the people of West Auckland.”
If you ever want to know why bullying will never be addressed in schools then look at how Teacher Unions treat anyone who speaks against their group think. Vilification and abuse is what meets them. Good on Alwyn Poole for speaking out.
Would he make a profit? He says not. “We have been as philanthropic as you can be [in selling their home]. Most people who are likely to become involved will do so without even a hint of a profit motive. I don’t think there are vast profits to be made from education in New Zealand.”
Anyway, he says, everyone makes money from education: teachers, unions, IT providers.
And there’s the risks. Poole and Tamihere would have to find the initial funding for the land and buildings – without any guarantee of pupils. “They will not just flood through the door, you have got to provide something good, so this idea that any monkey can set up a school and make huge profits while staffing it with whoever is complete nonsense.
“They will have to be well organised and well set up and credible from the beginning.”
Critics of charter schools suggest that allowing business through the doors will mean the educational imperative becomes downplayed, conjuring images of a Dickensian private academy where 50 students cram over a single textbook and the proprietor swims in piles of money. “I understand that if you are compelling the children to go to the schools,” counters Poole, “but parents aren’t stupid . . . you have to trust them to make sound choices.”
Frankly I don’t care if anyone makes a profit in Education. Alwyn Poole is right, from the teacher up tot he principal and including the Unions along the way, they are all making money from education. There is certainly no one out there doing it for the love of it alone.
What is important is results…but you can’t get results if you don’t measure performance…which is another thing unions oppose.