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.

With one exception the people who write have not visited. The one who had, an educator, made the comment to one of our staff; “good luck getting South Auckland kids to do independent work”. (By the way – they are excelling at independent/project work).What was the “failure” Mr Hipkins clutched at. That after two very carefully worked through processes we excluded two students. With full, and ongoing, follow up from our Community Liaison manager.

The “bonus” was nothing of the sort. It was the last part of our 2014 funding.

What are the SAMS successes so far:

– the school was begun in under 5 months on minimal set-up funding (SAMS averages out at $1.43 million establishment funding per 200 students as opposed to $9.38 million per 200 students for a State school.)
– from this minimal establishment funding the Trust has been able to put excellent facilities in place through the outstanding cooperation from the owners of the premises and a lease arrangement.
– SAMS started in 2014 with approximately 100 students – not bad for having no designated zone. In November of 2015 the school received permission to expand to 180 and chose to space that expansion over two years. The 30 advertised places were taken up in 48 hours after making the new spaces known.
– compared to the metrics in the area we have absolutely minimised truancy, transience and disciplinary procedures.
– through smart use of resourcing we have 15 children per class, supply all uniform and stationery, ask for no donations and pay our outstanding well qualified and registered staff 5% above state.
– we have applied an innovative curriculum and are making progress in measurables well above the national average progress measures.
– we have a very high percentage of parents and family groups attending meetings and events and becoming engaged in the education of their child.
– we have ERO reports that are positive after very thorough reviews..

Here is the thing though. Every person who is writing this nonsense in their distant and/or faceless mode ignores the children and their extended families. They have come to SAMS to receive an outstanding academic education and a high level of care. We work 24/7 to the best of our ability to provide that. They have exercised a choice to come and get an education that they do not believe is being offered elsewhere and they want to break the cycles the see parts of their communities.

Mr Hipkins has been asked to visit many times. He hasn’t had time during the last two years and three months. He could even come and explain to our families why he intends to shut down their school. To Mr Hipkins and the faceless commentators here is a photo of our kids – each of them represent families and communities. I have only shown you their backs to be consistent with your approach. When any of you can make some time to build some integrity into your thoughts and writing – come and meet them – I think you will like them and love hearing about their experiences and ambitions.

– Academic Advisor Alwyn Poole