Labour’s Education Spokesman,Chris Hipkins, has told a meeting in Kapiti that the next Labour Government will cut as much as it can from the Charter Schools programme.
He told a well-attended meeting on education at Paraparaumu Beach that Labour is totally opposed to the rationale behind charter schools.
Mr Hipkins – who is considered one of Labour’s most effective front-bench MP’s — was backed up at the meeting by Professor John O’Neill, of Massey University, who is an expert on teaching policy and child poverty.
How can education standards be raised?
The main theme of the meeting was how educational standards can be raised — but all issues were up for discussion.
Mr Hipkins said in answer to a question that a Labour Government would not encourage any Charter schools, even any that had already been set up by the time it took power.
“We will look at them to see which can be closed, merged or integrated into the State system,” he said. “There would certainly be no future for them in the form they’re set up in!”
He said Charter schools posed several dangers, including:
- There would be no guarantee they were staffed by qualified people.
- They will to teach the national curriculum.
- They would not have to take students from the local area.
- They will not have to have the same accountability as State schools.
No evidence to prove Charter schools are superiuo
And Mr Hipkins and Professor O’Neill both emphasised the fact that there is no evidence from overseas to prove that Charter schools are superior to State schools.
In the course of a wide-ranging discussion of current educational topics, both speakers condemned National Standards for narrowing the focus of the curriculum and removing many teaching opportunites.
In the discussion on the ‘long tail of under-achievement,’ Professor O’Neill said that the most important way to tackle this is outside the classroom by raising the standard of living of the under-class in New Zealand — and he said the most effective way forward was to bring in a ‘living wage’ for all.
He said the National Government’s policies were ‘misguided’ because they were based on ‘bad evidence.’
And he stressed that it was important for politicians to put the right questions to officials. This was a matter of power, which some sections of the community (the better off) possessed.
“National Standards provide a curriculum gruel for the poor!” he said. So the poor missed out on a wider education.
But children from higher decile schools were able to get a wider education at home anyway — something not available to children from impoverished homes.
The reason behind the meeting
In the introduction for the meeting, Bruce Taylor, a spokesperson for the Labour Party branches in Kapiti, said the question was:
“How can our schools raise student achievement? What can be done about the ‘long tail’ of underachievement?
” These questions are often discussed in our community and many answers are put forward. But the conflicting opinions put forward can just confuse people,.”
So, he said, Mr Hipkins and Professor O’Neill were invited to consider which approaches to raising student achievement stack up and have a good chance of working and which approaches approaches don’t.
These approaches included policies such as charter schools, performance pay, quality teachers, moves to provide every student with an Ipad, a longer school day and national standards.