A visibly emotional Bill English has laid a direct challenge to Labour politicians; tell the students of Vanguard Military Academy to their face, that they would shut their school.
On his first visit to a charter school – set up by the National-led Government as part of a promise to ACT under their support deal – English was welcomed by a stirring full-school haka; the All Black’s Kapa o Pango with a military flair and additional verses telling the school’s story.
He was then handed a stack of letters – many handwritten – by each of the students, detailing how the academy had changed their lives.
It is shameful that Labour will force charter schools like Vanguard to close, when so many students from massively disadvantaged backgrounds are having their lives changed for the better there.
Why is Labour putting placating the teacher unions ahead of giving these students the opportunity to turn their lives around and succeed?
English spoke to the school but had to steel himself partway through his speech – choking back emotion while he talked about Opposition parties wanting to shut charter schools down.
“You know what changes individual lives, what changes a country, is trying something different if what we’re already doing doesn’t work,” he said.
“That is why we’re campaigning hard for the ability to continue to with what’s lit your eyes up… what’s re-motivated you, what’s making fine young New Zealanders.
“My challenge to the other political parties is this; I dare them to come down here, look you in the eye and tell you they’re going to take away your opportunity.
“Not just say it in the media, or in the Parliament, or in their party meetings – but come here and say it to you.
“Because I can’t see any reason why any adult would want to take away what’s created this family – what’s fired up your aspiration. because that’s what we’re here for you, each one of you matters.”
Schools like Vanguard could not operate under the state school system. It is the charter school model that has allowed them to be more flexible and make such a huge difference in their student’s lives.