How is Act’s flagship policy doing?

After being sent the Act Press release about the fifth Partnership schools’ application round I asked David Seymour’s office a few questions about their flagship policy and they responded on behalf of David in his capacity as Under-Secretary to the Minister of Education.

More students deserve opportunities beyond those offered by the state school system. That’s why for Round 5, we welcome two types of applications. Applications can have a STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) focus, or a priority learner focus.

-Act Press release

The below questions and answers are reproduced in full and unedited.

Question:

The Partnership school policy was always promoted as providing improvement for “priority learners” and there is clear evidence of the need to do this for Maori, Pasifika and low-income families. At the moment there are only 10 Charter Schools currently operating so there is clearly still a long way to go before the issue of priority learners can be adequately addressed. Given there is still a long way to go why has there been an expansion to “STEM” and why do you think there is a need for it?

Answer:

The focus on STEM is an expansion of the policy rather than a replacement of focusing on priority learners.  Priority learners continue to remain a focus of the policy.  While New Zealand has a highly respected education system, international indicators show that New Zealand students’ performance in science and mathematics has room for improvement.  As with all Partnership Schools, enrolment at STEM schools will be open to all students, including priority learners.


Question:

In the USA the Credo reports make it very clear that the most successful interventions involve CMOs (Charter Management Organisations) building successful chains. There seem to be three organisations capable of doing that in the current set of schools in New Zealand but currently there appears to be no mechanism and incentive to do so. Is there any thought towards change in that area?

Answer:

In each procurement round, existing sponsors are welcome to apply to open new schools. We have seen this occur already with Villa Education and He Puna Marama. We constantly strive to improve the policy, but we are not currently looking at changes in this area.

Question:

Under John Banks, nine charter schools were authorised from 2011-2014. Eight have been successful and one failed. In the last three years, Whangaruru closed and only two small schools were authorised. What do you think were the roadblocks to further expansion of the model?

Answer:

The reason no schools opened in 2016 was that feedback from sponsors suggested more time was needed between the application process and opening dates.

Mr Seymour has secured funding for new schools in Budgets 2015 and 2016. The result has been two schools opening this month, one of which already has a larger opening roll than most previous schools, plus around eight schools in total set to open across 2018 and 2019, so Mr Seymour is very optimistic about the growth of this policy.

From an ACT perspective, we will continue to push for expansion of the policy if re-elected. The more MPs ACT has, the better placed we will be to negotiate this.

…Round 5 is also the first application round allowing TEIs (Tertiary Education Institutions) to sponsor Partnership Schools…

-Act Press release

Question:

Some organisations have shown interest in beginning a Charter school but then reconsidered and backed out. Do you think the fact that you lowered the establishment funding (to approx 3% of state set-up) influenced their change of heart? Is there any thought to change regarding the risk/reward mix for future charter schools to encourage more of them to take the plunge?

Answer:

It’s important not to mix up a state school’s ‘set-up funding’ and the value of land and buildings it receives. Partnership Schools get a cashed up yearly revenue stream in place of land and buildings. As a result the three per cent figure is completely incomparable, a bit like comparing the cost of renting a house with the cost of buying one. This funding model is made explicit in the requests for applications for each round.

The adjustments to the funding model provide Partnership Schools with greater incentives to grow, and will ensure that the schools are efficient while they are small. It will also share a greater proportion of the risks with the sponsors of Partnership Schools, and incentivise sponsors to partner with external parties for resourcing, thus enriching the linkages between school and community, and allowing more Partnership Schools to be opened for a given budget.

We constantly strive to improve the policy, but we are not currently looking at changes in this area.

(The reported case of a school backing out of negotiations was due to their requests for last-minute, out-of-scope changes to the contract.)

Question:

Are you concerned that you have had a net increase of 1 school in your 3 years in government and are you going to do anything differently in the future?

Answer:

It seems inconsistent to attribute the closure of the Whangaruru school (opened in 2014 before he was elected) to Mr Seymour, while ignoring the four schools that opened in 2015. We would again emphasise that around eight schools are set to open across 2018 and 2019, in addition to the two schools opening this month. We think a net increase of ten schools in three years indicates strong growth for this policy.

Question:

Has the last mediated issue mentioned in this clip been solved? If not when do you think it will be solved and what are the current roadblocks to finding a solution?

Answer:

This issue is currently under consideration so it would be inappropriate for Mr Seymour to comment.

“With over 1000 students now enrolled in ten Partnership Schools, it’s clear that there is real demand from families and educators for these educational alternatives,” says Mr Seymour.

-Act press release

 


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