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18th of July 2018


Treaty of Waitangi claim lodged over charter school closures

Charter school closures will have a disproportionately detrimental effect on Māori, educators Sir Toby Curtis and Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi say in a Treaty of Waitangi claim.

Curtis said most of the 1500 students at the charter schools the Government is shutting down were Māori, many of whom had enrolled to get a fresh start in education and get their lives back on track.

Six of the 11 partnership schools (Kura Hourua) had 87 to 100 per cent Māori rolls.

"The rights of these students to make that choice and the rights of parents and whanau to choose and support what's best for their children are being taken away from them," Curtis said.


Tawhiwhirangi said there had been a "total lack of consultation" with the schools and their students' whanau.

"This Government has ridden roughshod over the futures of these young people in spite of claiming that they are placing a priority on helping our most vulnerable children.

"The evidence shows that Kura Hourua have been delivering very positive results for Māori students who for decades have been falling through the gaps," she said.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins introduced the Education Amendment Bill, spelling the end of charter schools, in February.

All existing charter schools applied to become state or integrated schools.

So far Hipkins has approved only Albany's Vanguard Military School to convert to a state school with designated character.

He has promised to decide by the end of the month on applications from nine others to become designated character state schools and from two, Te Kura Māori o Waatea in Māngere and the proposed new Tūranga Tangata Rite in Gisborne, to become integrated schools similar to Catholic schools.

Curtis said the Government's plans to offer Kura Hourua the chance to re-establish themselves as regular state schools would not solve the problem.

"It would strip the schools of the key flexibilities that were allowing them to succeed.

"Students would be left with no choice but to either leave school or return to a state system that wasn't working for them in the first place.

"Yes, we have a good state education system, but it doesn't serve all students' needs equally well. Results across the country clearly show that one size does not fit all," he said.

Rotorua's only partnership school, Te Rangihakahaka Centre for Science and Technology, is run by Te Taumata o Ngati Whakaue Iho-Ake Trust, the educational arm of Ngati Whakaue.

General manager Roanna Bennett said the trust supported the claim being made and agreed closing partnerships would detrimentally affect Māori.

"We really see no value in being forced back into the state school model. This offers a way for iwi to actively partner as equals," she said.

"I'd like to see the Government begin to get serious about engaging with iwi with the goal being to improve education outcomes for Māori.

"The state school system has failed Māori for decades. This opportunity to do things differently is now being taken away.

"We are here, we want to contribute, we want to be able to do things differently."

Waiariki MP Tamati Coffey said he had always advocated for a state school system for all Māori and the Government was committed to that.

"All Māori students regardless of where they go to school deserve a world-class education so they can fulfil their full potential."

National's education spokeswoman Nikki Kaye and Māori education spokeswoman Jo Hayes said the Government should listen to Māori on the schools.

"Partnership schools have a proven track record of helping vulnerable young people, many of whom are Māori, to succeed in education. Yet the Government's Education Amendment Bill includes provisions that will scrap the partnership school model, with no regard for where it leaves the students and their families," Kaye said.

"Now in light of the Treaty claim, the Government should remove the provisions from the Bill and let partnership schools get on with educating our vulnerable young people," she said.

Hayes said Labour's Māori MPs were letting young Māori down by not fighting for the schools.

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