The poorest are the ones hurt by Hitman Hipkins

Hitman: Education Minister Chris Hipkins has eliminated all NZ Partnership schools
Photoshopped image Credit: Luke

Education Minister Chris Hipkins has closed down every Partnership school in New Zealand despite their record of success. There is no place for the Charter school model in the Labour-led coalition government. Forced to become schools of special character, most of these former Partnership schools are still operating. Why did they change and what is now going to happen to them?

The New Zealand education system is in major trouble.

The gaps between New Zealand’s Asian population (67 per cent of school leavers with UE), European (44 per cent), Pasifika (22 per cent) and M?ori (19 per cent) are a national disgrace and we have given up on believing it can be different.

We are sliding rapidly in international measures and our schools are among the worst in the OECD for closing the gaps. Socio-economic advantage has a stronger impact on achievement in New Zealand than in many OECD countries.

Our best university is no longer in the top 100 in the world. Teacher training is a mess ? the entry bar is far too low for primary training and the opportunity cost of another year without pay means the best university graduates won’t even give teaching a second thought.

The latest pay rounds have turned into massive whine-fests and many teachers are simply putting off anyone looking for a positive profession to be involved in.

We have not recognised how the world has changed. If the education system was once a performance car, it was built in the 1950s.

Successive governments have crashed it and bashed it and worn down the engine; the Ministry of Education sits firmly on the bonnet and the unions have run off with the keys.

Those establishments continue to preserve their power and the children miss out, especially the vulnerable ones.

Legislation has now crushed the charter school model. In one sense it will mean very little. Those highly irrational sorts in education who were entirely triggered by innovation will be able to go back to their knitting. The established charter schools will continue to run under a different model because the good people who set them up will stay around – at least for a little while.

The two Villa Education Trust Schools will still have 15 pupils per class, provide uniforms, stationery and IT and ask for no donations ? and this upset many schools who could use their operational funding to do the same but choose not to.

Associate Minister for Education Tracey Martin

Experts had concluded the model had significant success factors: ones that ideologues like Associate Minister for Education Tracey Martin could not grasp.

The schools will continue in another form, so what has been lost? At ground level it may not be obvious for a while. The innovators will commit to at least see the new format up and running. The government could mitigate the loss of freedoms resulting from the removal of bulk funding, from having a different governance model and not being able to recruit staff outside the collective contract.

The ministry may also come to grips with the need to be less controlling and conformist. A better “designated character schools” policy and establishment process, if developed as promised, may effectively see an expansion of some of the successful operations.

Something much bigger has been lost, however. There is now a sense in New Zealand that creative people and social entrepreneurs (let alone philanthropists) are not welcomed by the state and especially by our country’s outdated educational establishment.

Our ageing teaching population, our massive educational bureaucracy, many of the failing schools, the teachers’ unions, bizarre social media sites and blinkered politicians, who use slogans and parrot nonsense to attempt to impress those in their own bubble, all lost the plot over 12 out of 2600 schools.

It came to a head in parliament when some politicians were naming and shaming these individuals and organisations in the House. One said that they had treated children “like dogs” and the Minister of Education even used the word “dodgy”.

The message: If you are an educator who thinks there may be different ways of doing things, keep your head well down. To families: you’d better hope that your child fits the one-size-fits-all model or you have enough financial means to make choices in terms of where you live? and the schools you can access.

To those that don’t ? including many of our M?ori and Pasifika families ? the inequities will be perpetuated in succeeding generations.

The New Zealand political and education system has sent a strong message to the nation. They are going to keep on with the 1950s jalopy (no Tesla for them) and pretty soon we will be well short of drivers, let alone good ones.


by Alwyn Poole


Alwyn Poole’s Villa Education Trust runs three schools in Auckland. Two of them were Partnership schools.