Charter Schools out West

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.


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  • mister nui

    The Labor party in Oz is about to announce a policy that would have the teacher unions in NZ screaming their lungs out. Guess who is supporting this policy in OZ???? The watermelons…. Just goes to show that it’s not about policy at all, just supporting along the same partisan lines.

    When will politicians put the best interests of the country at the forefront of their actions, rather than vote scoring. I won’t hold my breath waiting.

  • GregM

    Alwyn Poole is a very clever man who gets results.
    Pity Kosh is not around anymore, it would be amusing to hear his opinion on this one.

  • Simo

    Could John Tamahere have a chat to the nutters on the Maori Statutory Board and communicate the message that Auckland ratepayers will find a way to bury these idiots up to their necks in the mud a couple of meters below the Misson Bay high tidemark. They will discover that ownership of the foreshore and seabed can have some unintended conseqenences.

  • baw

    The current policy will fail for a simple reason, National may lose the next election (or quite likley lose the next election because it has no one to go out with).

    Then the NZEI and PPTA Government will simply prevent the formation of further charter schools, they will then either castrate the ones that are opening, or quietly strangle the ones that are open, or blatantly kill them off.

    The policy is being implemented far to slowly, we don’t need 2 or three schools to open by the next election, we need a mass mob (and maybe let public schools become charter schools as well), thus making the introduction of charter schools a non negotiable reality. The more there are the more people will fight the NZEI and PPTA when they try and kill them off.

    National is just introducing the current policy on a carefully carefully bases which is all very well but is just too weak when it is facing electoral oblivion next election. there is no point introducing a policy spending large amounts of time on it and then find out that just after getting it started that you are out of power and the other side kills it off.

  • AnonWgtn

    What about the secret brand new Maori Secondary School in Tauranga which opened earlier this year. Even its own busses for students. Not travelling with the peasants, at the other schools along the road, of which many are also Maori and Islanders.
    Any questions are met with MYOB -(ie piss off – it’s our business).