Good things already from NZ Charter Schools

Even apparent Charter School opponents have had to acknowledge some good progress and potential on this front already. From the Save our Schools team:?

At the Quality Public Education Coalition forum, chairman Bill Courtney caused heads to swivel when he greeted Alwyn Poole in the audience before giving an update on charter schools. Poole is the principal of Mt Hobson Middle School. He?s also a member of the?Villa Education Trust,?whose South Auckland Middle School is one of the first in the charter schools pilot.

Courtney?s talk used South Auckland Middle School?s figures to explain how funding has been allocated. He also made the point that the charter school model has been hijacked by the privatisation movement. One of the first proponents of the idea,?Albert Shanker, saw it as a way to allow teachers greater autonomy, to engage the students who weren?t being served by normal schools

This sounds like what Poole?s schools have been able to do: Poole said he works with children with needs like dyslexia or Asperger?s, or kids who need a ?boost? at middle school level. He was asked why couldn?t he achieve it within the system as a special character school. In 2002, that option was ?blocked?. They were looking for ?ways of expanding what we do?, so applied for the partnership school option. ?

The school doesn?t carry the same infrastructure as state schools, principals do admin and teach, and they have ?a nice lease agreement?. They also have qualified teachers and teach to the New Zealand Curriculum.

Poole was also asked if some of the biggest barriers to learning faced by many schools in Manukau, such as transience, were problems for his school. Transience, less so, but they have had a small degree of truancy (10 hours), and two students had a conflict and left during the school day.

Class size, and the basic mathematics of time for giving one-to-one support, seems to me to be the elephant in the educational tent. It?s splitting it at the seams as most politicians studiously try to avoid treading in its dung.

Unlike many politicians, Poole openly acknowledges that their?1:15?ratio is part of their success in helping students. Why not campaign for the same ratio for state schools? An audience member asked. Poole:? ?We love our?1:15?ratio and we would advocate for it very strongly.?

I would imagine that if the Save Our Schools people have been able to be this positive – the truth is probably even further up the road.