A charter school responds to the PPTA

A further guest post, responding to the guest post, from the Villa Education Trust:

The Villa Education Trust is one of the 5 organisations given the opportunity to begin a Partnership School to start in Term 1 of 2014. The new school is South Auckland Middle School. http://www.southauckland.school.nz/dir/index.php/ The Trust is not for profit and also runs Mt Hobson Middle School in Newmarket http://www.mthobson.school.nz/dir/index.php and has done so for 11 years. The process to get permission from government to begin a new school has been, rightly, arduous and rigorous.

We have never looked for a confrontation but I am interested in a number of the PPTA comments as they have certainly tried to be obstructive to the new schools and I do not believe all of their points are accurate.

Also of interest is that we are not getting the feeling from teachers that the PPTA are trying to convey. We had 105 applicants for our 8 teaching positions – many of them current PPTA members – and have been able to appoint a very good staff to South Auckland Middle School. 

That’s a good level of applicants. Will the PPTA expel members who take up a job with the South Auckland Middle School? 

In terms of their statements.

1. Yes – the PPTA does represent many secondary teachers within NZ but not all. Given their claim of being democratic (and support of referendum: https://www.facebook.com/NZPPTA/posts/295024260594180) – have they had a members’ referendum on their opposition to Partnership Schools? Maybe the question could be:

Do PPTA members want their subscriptions spent opposing 5 schools and a model designed at improving outcomes for children who are struggling in the current system?

or 

Would members prefer their money was spent investigating methods to help these children?

or 

Would members prefer the money was used to improve their pay and conditions?

 2. Re consultation. The PPTA presented to the Select Committee. One in 18 of their members also felt strongly enough to fill in a PPTA written pro-forma and send it in. We have tried repeatedly to talk to the PPTA. The only response back was to from a previous exec member who said:

“Thank you for your invitation to visit your school which I will need to pass on to the incoming president, Angela Roberts.  I have to be honest and say I am not sure what would be achieved by this visit. I do not doubt that you are doing the best you can for the students in your school so I don’t need to visit to confirm that reality.”

We have never heard from Ms Roberts except when they sent a letter to us which we published here – http://www.whaleoil.co.nz/2013/08/union-bullying-target-responds/#axzz2kvgmWrbz

One of the exec, Hazel McIntosh even conceded on the Larry William’s show – http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Knsf0ZwyEG4 that she had not even read the Stanford research – or was remotely interested in it.

3. In Northland the Partnership School operators are clearly willing to co-operate with local schools. How can this be a bad thing? They see the clear good in some areas and then also see how they can make a difference in others. They are clearly passionate people who will not be bullied http://www.maoritelevision.com/news/regional/northland-ppta-members-deny-support-charter-schools and will overcome all manner of hurdles to see the young people there have greater success in their lives.

4. Choice for families is important. At South Auckland Middle School we have only been open for enrollment for 6 weeks and already have 85 children/families applied for places. Education is a massive choice for these parents and if they are not happy with the current pathway their child is on they have every right to look for other options. I am astounded that the PPTA would state that “there was about the right balance prior to charters”. Seriously? Have they researched the comparative results for Maori and Pasifika children in many areas? They are pretty easy to find here: http://schoolreport.stuff.co.nz/2013/index.php How on earth are the current discrepancies between groups “a good balance”? How do you claim to be against poverty, etc, and advocate for the status quo in education – a major determinant of outcomes? The PPTA, and affiliated organisations, want parents of children to accept this level of failure because it is their role as being a part of the greater good; “efficient use of resources, fairness and other good things too”? Was that post really written by someone involved in education? 

Previously some have commented that there was already the opportunity (integrated and special character schools) to set up new schools. Our experience, and that of others, is that both of these were near impossible options and not likely to yield a differentiated opportunity for families. The Partnership Schools option is new and provides an opportunity that most definitely did not exist previously. It is also new funding – the budgets for state education were also increased.

5. We have no necessary problem with our teachers being union members. It is the PPTA constitution that forces those we are employing to resign their membership. Given that our teacher student ratio is 15:1 we will employ a good proportion of teaching staff (and yes – they are all registered). Fail to see anything but benefit here.

All registered teachers!

6. Please note. We are happy to share anything we learn and many of our resources with PPTA members and other teachers. In our case we have, so far, had absolutely nothing but support for families and organisations we have spoken to. We are more than happy for the PPTA to visit either of our schools and talk. In fact we would welcome it – which is why we had sent invitations.

7. Please note airlines do share resources around the world.

For our part: We have permission to begin a Y7-10 school for 120 children and have a location in Mahia Rd, Manurewa. We have employed a staff and are very quickly filling the spaces available for students. The stories these children and their parents are bringing would already make a book worth reading. They are making it massively clear there is a NEED and I would think it is one that will generate a lot more interest than just 5 schools.

We will have a class size of 15:1, teach the NZ Curriculum in formal classes, have opportunity for project based learning and the skills development that goes with it, employ qualified and registered teachers, have a split day with an academic morning and activity based afternoon (including good provision of sport, art, and music). Our teachers will have little admin and will be do what they have been trained to do – prepare, teach, assess and feedback to parents and the children. Our clear focus is on the academic improvement of every child that comes to us. 

Sounds pretty good to me. 

We are very open to visitors and interested people. We are also open to supporters who want to get along side what we are doing.

Alwyn Poole
Villa Education Trust
www.mthobson.school.nz
www.southauckland.school.nz
www.villaeducation.org.nz

Further guest posts on this issue are welcome.

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