Party pol­icy pro­vokes di­vi­sion

Auckland City Harbour News - - OPINION -

Sur­prise, sur­prise! ACT party spokes­men didn’t like my col­umn on ed­u­ca­tion over­seas and part­ner­ship schools.

From David Sey­mour, ACT party can­di­date for Ep­som and min­is­te­rial ad­viser to John Banks in 2012 re­spon­si­ble for Part­ner­ship School pol­icy:

‘‘Your omi­nous sound­ing string of anec­do­tal over­seas fail­ures is a poor way to ar­gue that reaches weak con­clu­sions.

‘‘If you looked at the hard data you might see that New Zealand faces a real chal­lenge. Econ­o­mists’ con­sen­sus is that in­equal­ity has grown in de­vel­oped coun­tries mainly be­cause the value of ed­u­ca­tion is grow­ing and ed­u­ca­tional achieve­ment is very un­equal.

‘‘There­fore, ed­u­ca­tion is the key to a more equal so­ci­ety.

‘‘New Zealand has one of the world’s most un­equal ed­u­ca­tion sys­tems – of 64 coun­tries it ranks sev­enth worst for the gap be­tween the top 10 per cent and bot­tom 10 per cent of stu­dents in read­ing and maths, third worst in sci­ence. What we are do­ing is not work­ing for all stu­dents.

‘‘What many coun­tries are do­ing, adopt­ing Part­ner­ship School-style poli­cies, is work­ing.

The largest study of Amer- ican Part­ner­ship Schools, from Stan­ford Univer­sity, found that char­ter school stu­dents have a clear ad­van­tage in read­ing and maths.

‘‘In Swe­den, free schools (as they call char­ters) help stu­dent achieve­ment, par­tic­u­larly among the dis­ad­van­taged. That’s the re­sult af­ter two decades of the pol­icy.

‘‘In Al­berta, the only Cana­dian prov­ince with char­ters, sev­eral stud­ies re­port su­pe­rior re­sults.

‘‘English free schools are too new to have com­pre­hen­sive re­sults, but noth­ing sug­gests they won’t fol­low the pat­tern else­where.

‘‘Part­ner­ship schools in New Zealand bring tal­ented, de­voted so­cial en­trepreneurs for chil­dren at risk of fail­ure in the cur­rent sys­tem. I have met some of them and they are for­mi­da­ble.

‘‘They set up schools where dis­ad­van­taged chil­dren en­gage, learn, qual­ify and, ul­ti­mately feel good about them­selves.

‘‘Al­wyn Poole is set­ting up South Auck­land Mid­dle School, tak­ing a unique ed­u­ca­tional style, pre­vi­ously only avail­able at his Mt Hob­son Mid­dle School in Re­muera, to Ma­nurewa.

‘‘They are set­ting up the whole coun­try for a bet­ter and more equal fu­ture.

‘‘An hon­est as­sess­ment is that, like any hu­man sys­tem, Part­ner­ship Schools har­bour the po­ten­tial for things to go wrong. On bal­ance, they prom­ise con­sid­er­able ben­e­fits. They should have pub­licly funded ser­vice.’’

Frances Bell: ‘‘Thank you for your col­umn. I spent time and en­ergy find­ing out all I could about these kinds of schools in the United States and the United King­dom be­fore writ­ing a long sub­mis­sion op­pos­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of part­ner­ship schools.

‘‘It seemed that ACT’s claims were ac­cepted with­out ques­tion.

‘‘One main source of in­for­ma­tion was Diane Rav­itch, who has ex­ten­sive ex­pe­ri­ence in ed­u­ca­tion and has writ­ten ar­ti­cles and books about the US char­ter schools.

‘‘It was very in­ter­est­ing to read re­ports from other coun­tries.

‘‘It is re­ally un­fair that these schools are be­ing so well-funded and have such a gen­er­ous stu­dent-teacher ra­tio. These pro­grammes could have been run within schools – more cheaply too – had they this level of sup­port for the kinds of stu­dents now in the new schools.

‘‘I hope you con­tinue to sup­ply in­for­ma­tion about the suc­cess or other­wise of char­ter-type schools and pro­grammes in other coun­tries.’’

Al­wyn Poole, Villa Ed­u­ca­tion Trust, Mt Hob­son Mid­dle School Aca­demic man­ager:

‘‘It is easy to sit in a chair and cherry-pick in­for­ma­tion from over­seas.

‘‘I can find many ex­am­ples to counter what you wrote, with mas­sive wastage and in­ap­pro­pri­ate use of funds in pub­lic schools in coun­tries through­out the world.

‘‘We put in sig­nif­i­cant hard work and ex­per­tise in pro­vid­ing a model that will change cy­cles for chil­dren and fam­i­lies, rather than sim­ply ac­cept­ing that they are a lost cause and can­not achieve be­cause of their fam­ily or so­cio-eco­nomic back­ground.’’

Photo: MICHAEL FIELD

De­fen­sive: ACT can­di­date for Ep­som David Sey­mour, left, with new party leader Jamie White at a press con­fer­ence this month. Part­ner­ship Schools work, ACT says.

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