This is actually EXPLOSIVE: Partnership schools Authorisation board standing down

In what can only be described as a big EFFYOU to Education Minister Chris Hipkins, PM Jacinda Ardern and the coalition government yesterday, the Partnership schools Authorisation board sent a barb-filled but principled email explaining their reasons for standing down.

This mass resignation adds to the pressure on the government as Charter schools continue to wait for the suppressed Martin Jenkins report to be released, which will confirm how successful they all have been. Accusations continue to swirl about Associate Minister of Education Kelvin Davis’s conflicts of interests and Chris Hipkins breaking his own stated rule by meeting with one trust but declining to meet any others.

Tēnā koutou katoa

I’m writing on behalf of the Partnership Schools/Kura Hourua Board to let you know that we have today advised the Minister of Education of our intention to stand down from the Board on the expiry of our current terms of appointment on 1 March. In other words we will not be available for reappointment. We have made this decision because we do not wish to contribute to dismantling an initiative which we know is achieving so much for students, and for which there is great demand.

Translation: We want nothing to do with your ill-advised decision to terminate a model that is highly successful and is in high demand.

As set out in our letter to the Minister, our primary concern  has been and continues to be the interests and wellbeing of the students and their ability to succeed educationally. All the members of the Board, past and present, accepted appointment to the Board because they had a strong interest in and commitment to the concept of providing innovative opportunities for educational success for disadvantaged or marginalised children who are failing in the regular state school system. We believe however that the interests of these students and their whanau have not been taken into account in this decision.

Translation: We agreed to be on the board because we are passionate about helping disadvantaged or marginalised children who are failing in the regular state school system. Labour’s policy decision will hurt these children so we want nothing whatsoever to do with it.

While it is still early days for the initiative, there is clear evidence that the model is meeting this objective:

  • There is strong demand from students, whanau and communities for the schools. Over the past five years the Board has received 111 applications or expressions of interest from organisations and communities wishing to open a kura hourua, of whom 17 have been successful.
  • We have turned down many applications for insufficiency of educational capability, but what has been evident across the range of applicants, both successful and unsuccessful, is the authenticity and depth of demand for community-based schooling alternatives that lie outside the reach of the main policy framework.
  • The ability for communities to develop their own kura hourua concept, to run schools for their rangatahi and be held accountable for their success is key to the success of this initiative. From the outset it has been clear that communities have found it empowering to own and be part of the solution to their children’s educational achievement.
  • There are many outstanding and well-documented examples of how the existing schools are using the flexibilities of the model to engage successfully with students; and
  • the academic results to date are very encouraging.

Despite the assertion in the announcement of the decision that ‘the kids won’t notice any difference’, it is clear that a shift to any other existing state school model would remove the elements of flexibility and accountability that have made the kura hourua so successful.

Translation: You are taking away the very things that make the model so successful and are forcing them to close or become a facsimile of the State schools that failed these students in the first place.

Our key concerns with the new policy decision are as follows:

  • As noted in the Ministry’s Regulatory Impact Summary (RIS) associated with the policy advice, ‘No systematic stakeholder analysis or consultation has been undertaken at this time’. In addition the RIS makes a number of misleading statements about aspects of the policy, .

Translation: Liar, liar, pants on fire.

  • The rationale for the Government’s change in policy as set out in the Cabinet Paper does not take account of the large, emerging volume of evidence on the performance of the schools that is now available.
  • The final report of a three-year evaluation of the kura hourua initiative undertaken by consultancy Martin Jenkins and due to be published last year has not appeared.

Translation: Where is the suppressed Martin Jenkins report Mr Hipkins?

  • The Board provided a Brief to the Incoming Minister in October last year setting out our considered views on the initiative together with our recommendations on areas requiring further focus and how to build on its successes, but have not had an opportunity to discuss these matters with the Minister. We note in this context that the Board, in addition to members with significant business and community sector expertise, comprises five well-known and respected former secondary school principals.

Translation: You have ignored the recommendations of, and have failed to consult with, five well-known and respected former secondary school principals.

  • We understand that since taking office senior Government Ministers have not visited the schools, or reviewed the evidence of what they are achieving, or sought any independent advice on the impact kura hourua are having on the targeted Māori or Pasifika communities.

Translation: You are ignoring the facts and are disinterested in the good these schools are doing for the Māori and Pasifika communities.

  • We note that our colleagues in E Tipu e Rea, the charitable trust set up specifically to support the schools and uphold the quality and integrity of the model, have requested opportunities to meet with relevant Ministers, but have not been successful.
  • We have encouraged the Minister to undertake these consultations and steps before final decisions are taken concerning the future of the schools.

Translation: You have ignored not only us but also E Tipu e Rea, which was specifically set up to support the schools and uphold the quality and integrity of the model.

  • The Board has also been concerned to see the prominence given to “termination for convenience” in Ministerial statements.  The statement seems unnecessarily threatening, given a supposed commitment to negotiating with the schools in good faith to consider transitioning to another state model.   But at a wider level it sends a chilling message to parties considering contracting with the government, and banks considering supporting such parties, effectively making it clear that they cannot have confidence that contracts entered into in good faith will be honoured.

Translation: You are big bullies who have no honour. If you go ahead and break these government contracts then no one can trust the Labour government to honour any contract that they sign in the future

  • We are also concerned about the Ministry’s ability to manage a school’s transition to the designated character model, should any of the schools choose that option. From the outset of this initiative the Ministry has been ill-equipped and lacked the capability to manage outcomes-based contracts.

Translation: you are wholly unprofessional and are rank amateurs. When we think about the Ministry this is how we visualise them.

monkey at a laptop

We have recommended to the Minister that the Government commission a completely independent (ie not directed by the Ministry) and rigorous review of the schools’ performance, preferably by the Productivity Commission or the Treasury, to identify what is being achieved and what lessons can be shared with the wider sector.

Translation: We don’t trust you to tell the truth.

We regret that we have not had a meaningful opportunity to contribute to or inform the new Government’s development of its policy on kura hourua, and as government appointees we have felt unable to contribute to the public debate on this. We will, however, as individuals, continue to take a strong interest in the schools and their outlook […]

Translation: We were gagged and prevented from slagging you off but now that we have resigned it is open season.



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