This week on Zig Zag we had a comprehensive discussion about the advent of charter schools in New Zealand.
In 2011 the PSKH (Partnership Schools / Kura Hourua) programme emerged from a coalition deal reached between ACT and the National Party. This followed with an education amendment bill allowing for the creation of charter schools, which were rebranded partnership schools. The bill passed its third reading on June 4, 2013 with 62 votes to 57. National, ACT and the Maori Party were the bill’s only supporters. Since the amendment New Zealand´s first charter schools were opened in 2014, followed by the approval of four more in 2015 and a recent government announcement advertising a third round of applications for new charter schools in 2017.
Loosely defined charter schools are schools existing within the public sphere that are granted significant autonomy in curriculum and governance in return for greater accountability. Thus in New Zealand charter schools receive public funds, but are able to circumvent the New Zealand Curriculum and other standards usually imposed upon state schools.
The discussion explores why the New Zealand government implemented charter schools despite our decentralised high performing education system, and the lack of favourable evidence concerning charter schools overseas. Specifically it focuses on the School for Tomorrow reforms of 1989 which effectively decentralised our schooling system allowing individual schools to act with greater autonomy, and how charter schools are justified in New Zealand´s unique educational landscape.