Sir Toby Curtis lashes Government on charter schools

Sir writes:

My preference as a Māori would be to discuss the Government’s unilateral decision to close partnership schools Kura Hourua, kanohi ki te kanohi (face to face) with them.

However, the Government denied us that opportunity.

It is my fervent hope that through this medium, the Minister of Education might be appraised of the concerns I raise on behalf of many Māori.

More and more people in the education sector are turning to the media, as the Minister refuses to meet with them.

In a few days’ time a colleague and I will meet the Education Select Committee in support of our submission opposing the closure of these schools and the kura hourua model. But even before the Committee has heard submissions, the minister has terminated the contracts of 10 of the schools.

To compound the injustice, the Government has silenced the schools by holding over them the prospect of joining another state school status.

The arrogance of this is breathtaking. These are schools where hundreds of Māori students are experiencing educational success, some for the first time in their lives.

The large majority of the kura are being run by Māori for Māori, some by Pasifika for Pasifika. All have close relations with their whanau and families who send their children there. Sometimes that’s the first time a family has had the chance to make a considered choice about their child’s education, and it’s the beginning of becoming empowered.

But empowerment means choice, and choice is a bad thing. Parents need to learn that they should just go to the state school the Government tells them to.

In my role on the authorisation board for the schools, I’ve visited every one of them. I’ve talked to the whanau, the teachers and the children. I’ve seen what they are achieving and studied the evidence of their performance.

The schools report on their educational achievement and the students’ attendance and engagement at school. Most are performing well above national averages and some are far above the rest of the country, in particular in results for Māori students. Attendance is high.

But the Government ignored all this. They refused to visit the schools or study their results or talk to any of the people involved in them. Does the minister think we can’t be trusted to take responsibility for building our own capability to do things for ourselves?

Normally Governments only close down schools that are failing or have too few students to be viable. Even them the process normally takes years. This is the first time a Government has closed down schools that are wildly successful.

The state school system has largely failed Māori and is now failing Pasifika. A majority of Māori are leaving school without qualifications. On an average school day around half of all Māori and Pasifika secondary school pupils are truant. The truancy rate in my home town of Rotorua is one of the worst.

My plea to the minister is to stop this injustice. My plea to all New Zealanders is to speak up against it. Hold our politicians across all parties, Māori and Pakeha, to account for it. And stop the cold-hearted removal of a model that is giving 1300 young New Zealanders, and hopefully many more to come, a better chance at life.

But by closing , everyone will be equal again!

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