The PPTA brings up an old chestnut so I give it a roast

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Tom Haig, on the PPTA blog, has brought up an old chestnut. The PPTA are fond of bringing up the same old chestnuts against charter schools. It is almost as if they have an approved list.

PPTA-approved charter school attack chestnuts:


  1. Students at risk because of non-registered teachers
  2. Charter schools get more money than State schools
  3. Charter schools steal students from other schools
  4. If you want to help the students who are falling through the cracks give more money to State schools
  5. It is privatisation by stealth
  6. They have higher expulsion rates than State schools.

Chestnuts one to four I have already covered in detail in previous posts. Today I have responded to number six by discussing one of the Charter schools they attacked: Vanguard Military School.

Charter schools have been kicking out students at a rate many times higher than comparable public schools, a risk raised when they were first proposed.

Vanguard Military Academy expelled or excluded four students in 2014, and another four in the first half of 2015, while the total number of students at the school was around 100.

The average rate of exclusions in public schools in 2014 was 1.4 per thousand students, and expulsion was 1 per thousand students. Vanguard’s rate was more than 20 times the national average.

A 2012 report in the Herald on data about suspensions showed that even schools with very high rates of use of formal disciplinary measures, such as Rotorua’s Western Heights High and Hamilton’s Fraser High School, had lower rates than Vanguard, which excluded or expelled nearly 4% of its students, compared to 1.2% and 2.5% respectively.

-PPTA Blog


There is no such thing as a comparable public high school since state high schools do not accept on to their roll students who have been expelled from other public high schools. I did a series of investigative articles on Vanguard. I visited them and spoke to both staff and students.

Vanguard accepts students whom public schools have suspended, stood down and expelled. They give them a second chance that they would not get anywhere else. I used to work for a charitable organisation that helps students kicked out of local high schools. We were their last chance. There were no other options for them as no other State/public school would accept them. We were not a school but we were all that was available to them.

Now, thanks to Vanguard, they do have a genuine shot at a real high school education.

It is totally unfair to try to compare Vanguard’s figures with State/public schools who do not accept on to their rolls these kinds of challenging students who have already been rejected by the State school system. Of course their expulsion rates are going to be higher as their challenging student levels are going to be higher than your standard public school.

The large group of students I interviewed loved Vanguard and were grateful for the opportunity to excel. When I asked them about those who were expelled from Vanguard they said that being at Vanguard was a choice. They had all been told when they were looking into applying at the first interview that Vanguard wasn’t for everyone. It would require them to commit and to follow the rules. All the rules were explained to them and their families and they were all given a trial period to see if the school is for them. They do not receive their uniform until they have completed this trial period and decided that the school is for them.

The families, at the first interview, are told that if they want their child to attend then they need to accept the rules themselves and back up the school if their child breaks them. Attending Vanguard is a privilege and one with responsibilities. Vanguard is prepared to give challenging students a second chance denied to them by public schools but they expect commitment in return. The same applies to the students they take who have chosen to change schools because a State high school is not giving them what they need.

In conclusion, this old chestnut needs to be roasted because Charter schools are not comparable to public schools. There are key differences that usually the PPTA are keen to emphasise unless they are trying to do a hit on them. When it is a hit all of a sudden charters are considered ‘comparable’, and they pretend they are comparing apples with apples, when all they are doing is feeding the public the same old, tired chestnuts.


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