GUEST BLOG: Willie Jackson – What charter schools mean to Māori and why NZ needs to listen

By   /   October 12, 2018  /   10 Comments

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Now that the charter schools have transitioned into mainstream as character or state integrated schools, I want to explain why I supported them and helped build one on my marae, Ngā Whare Waatea.

Now that the charter schools have transitioned into mainstream as character or state integrated schools, I want to explain why I supported them and helped build one on my marae, Ngā Whare Waatea.

Many argued that the charter school model was simply a State funded free pass for the private sector to capture and privatise our public education system. As it turned out the predicted flood of private investors did not materialise.  Instead a committed group of hard working, community based educators stepped forward to tackle the problems that mainstream schools had long been facing, i.e. poor achievement rates particularly amongst Māori and a growing level of inter-generational disengagement across our society.

Thirty four percent of Māori leave school without a qualification so it shouldn’t have been a surprise that we searched out a solution to address this appalling statistic. At Waatea however, we were single minded about the need to breach the educational gaps into which for too long, Māori children had fallen. The charter school model presented an opportunity for us to work with whānau and switch them onto learning. We provided a wraparound solution to re-engage Māori parents and their children into learning.

Alongside our board, Manukau Urban Māori Authority (MUMA) General Manager Wyn Osborne, and Te Kura Māori o Waatea principal Tania Rangiheuea, I worked on this kaupapa from 2014- 2016. Whilst we were able to incorporate our community values, organisational support and tikanga into the school, the compliance measures and financial pressures were extraordinarily challenging.

Like some sponsors of charter schools, MUMA is a not for profit community organisation.  Unlike many big businesses it doesn’t have large capital reserves to fall back on. It does however have immense social capital and determination to make a credible difference in our community.

At times I thought it unfair that the State passed on costs that in fact it should have carried. I went from being an early charter school convert to a “surely there has to be a better way” critic.

In February, our Māori Caucus held a press conference in which we declared that we were comfortable with charter schools being transitioned into mainstream. We invited questions and were open to challenges. The continual lies and nonsense that we have somehow been silenced is untrue. Members of our caucus have seen enough of the charter school model to know that diversity in education is important and they respect the decisions of those schools who have decided to transition.

I was really pleased to see that all charter schools were given the green light to continue in mainstream.

The Minister of Education Chris Hipkins has been listening to all the schools – he knows what works and what doesn’t. Tikanga Māori, creative teaching, community values, Whānau Ora and anything outside the box must be incorporated in any mainstream education system, and Māori and Pacific Island kids should not feel alienated in a system that is meant to work for everyone.

What the charter school experiment for Māori taught us is that when those tasked with dealing with social problems at the coal face are given the appropriate resources we get better outcomes as a result.

Let’s hope we are all richer for the experience

First published in the Manukau Courier 

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10 Comments

  1. Michelle says:

    Mainstreaming has its issues but then you always get some people that say it worked for them which is fine. What I would ask is did mainstream supress them and their culture or do they not know about their culture /tikanga.
    I saw and heard some of our pakeha teachers telling some of the Maori boys in my class they should do Wgtn maths (dumbed down maths) instead of SC maths. Now I thought this was wrong especially when one of the boys she said this to went on to be a builder and successful in his own right the other one did well also as a concreting trade person.
    However you still get people and some other ethnic groups that say they worked hard and did well , well good on them but don’t judge others cause when your language and culture is being tramped on and devalued how do you expect people to react ?

    • Sam Sam says:

      This year has been a significant year for all of those Iwi who as the former minister for treaty negotiations The Honourable Chris Finlayson would say “signed full and final settlements.” It comes at a time when we’ve committed ourselves to succeed in the test of honouring the treaty which so far both parties and signatories have always failed. Because in truth we can not confidently say that we have succeeded if we have not been able to extend opportunity and care, dignity and hope but most of all for a majority of Māori to rejoin the productive power of New Zealand society. This is a test of our goals and the ability to say to the world that New Zealand is a first rate social democracy. There is no basic test of how seriously some one like The Honourable Willie Jackson means these things and his test of self knowledge and how well he knows the land he lives in, and how well we know our history. How well the rest of us know these complex and contemporary identities well by and large determine how well we will honour the treaty.

    • David Stone says:

      I struggled (no I didn’t struggle enough) with maths At SC level. I assumed I was pretty dumb . As life has gone on I have realised that though I am pretty dumb ,so is nearly everyone else. And that if I had applied myself, or asked more questions when I did not understand things from the beginning I would have been all right with maths later on. But if you miss some of the basics early on with maths you’r always at sea from then on.
      Some kids seem to get by by rote learning process and formula without understanding. Some like me have to understand to be able to remember.
      If taking those kids back to basics was what was being suggested in Wtgn maths , because they were not coping with where they were supposed to be , it might have been the right thing to do.
      Sitting in class with everything going past you is a waste of everyone’s time.
      D J S

      • D'Esterre says:

        David Stone:

        “…if I had applied myself, or asked more questions when I did not understand things from the beginning…”

        Agreed. A relative has said much the same thing to me recently. Said relative has gone on to do math at uni level, following realisation that math is like any other subject. It requires understanding of the basics and being willing to ask dumb questions, often not a strong point with teenagers.

        “If taking those kids back to basics was what was being suggested in Wtgn maths , because they were not coping with where they were supposed to be , it might have been the right thing to do.”

        Exactly. This was a commonsense strategy: nothing to do with low expectations of Maori children. Who, of course, are by no means the only ones struggling with math.

  2. Johnnybg says:

    Maybe Jackson should get behind my innovative ideas for a model, post-globalisation NZ Confederacy. Then some Iwi could carve out their own autonomous regions, tax there own, pay for things themselves & do their own thing. I’ve already developed plans for my own little Kingdom so I’m raring to go. First though we’ll need finally draft & sign a peace treaty, as without this us & our nation can’t move forward.

  3. phillip ure says:

    you studiously avoid the reason most people opposed charter schools – that is the exorbitant amount of money they received from the state – especially compared to how much state schools/students received – that and that they were designed by the far-right/implemented by a tory government – as a stalking-horse to privatise education/break the teacher unions..

    care to address that/those..?

  4. Mike the Lefty says:

    It might well be the case that some charter schools achieved better results for their pupils than the conventional modes, but the same could be argued for some private and integrated schools.
    No I am sorry.
    Charter schools were first and foremost a tool developed by the political right to thwart state sector teachers, whom they invariably hate.
    If a few of them actually worked it was because of the people involved, not the system that created them.

    • D'Esterre says:

      Mike the Lefty:

      “If a few of them actually worked it was because of the people involved, not the system that created them.”

      Yup. Also the extra cash which has gone into setting them up. Along with – I’d put money on this – the Hawthorne Effect.

  5. Nukefacts says:

    The reason the first wave of charter schools were run by not for profit organisations is because that was what the Natz govt mandated. The second wave were for profit.

    I’ll repeat it again as so many NZers seem to be ignorant of the international stats on this issue – charter schools do no better on average than state schools. Typically, any better results are due to much larger per student funding levels and conscious removal of lower decile level students from their rolls. In the UK, US and Sweden, where ever these charter schools have been tried, they waste more public money for no better results – basically a waste of public money.

    National set these things up simply to destroy teachers unions and privatise public education for their rich mates. It had nothing to do with student outcomes and welfare.

    National – the party destined to repeat overseas mistakes purely for ideological reasons.