Waiting for Superman (1/10)

Ok, so who showed Waiting for Superman to John Banks?  They need to fess up right now.

Waiting for Superman is an interesting documentary about the American school system.  About the AMERICAN school system.  The AMERICAN teacher unions, the AMERICAN political system, the AMERICAN teacher contracts, the AMERICAN federal vs. state way of funding and managing schools.  But

I feel like I have made my view clear, but just to recap: this is a documentary about the American school system and this is not America so using it as a basis for education reform in this country is straight out crazy.  You should definitely go and rent this movie (other less responsible people would tell you to secretly watch it on youtube).

In case your not from around here, or missed it, this is John Banks (left) and this is what he and John Key (right) want to bring to the New Zealand education system.

National has agreed to a radical development in the education system – charter schooling – in a surprising part of its support deal with the Act Party.

Based on overseas models in the United States and Britain, it will allow entities such as private businesses, church groups, iwi organisations, charities, or existing schools to take over the management of failing schools and retain state funding.

It will be trialled in South Auckland but Prime Minister John Key was not clear on whether parents would get to decide if their school became a charter school.

“We think charter schooling can really deliver tremendous results for underprivileged children,” Mr Key said. “It will effectively allow all of the flexibility of integrated schooling but in a publicly funded environment which can also take in resources from the private sector.”

New Zealand Herald, 8 January, 2012

Unsurprisingly this created a lot of heat in the media.  John Key dismissed teachers going WTF as a “vested interest”, and many other people said “let’s give it a go.

In the news now we have the Minister of Education saying people are queuing up to be charter schools, and naysayers should hold fire:

“I find it hard that you can be against it, when you don’t yet know what the ‘it’ is that we are talking about here.”

Sure, but also hard to be for it for exactly the same reason.

In the UK, charter schools are called free schools, and they began opening in September last year.  One of the people who was hired to implement the free school policy for the government in the UK was Lesley Longstone, who in November 2011 was appointed education secretary for our Minister of Education.  The Minister, Hekia Parata, said this of Longstone’s role,

“I’ve made my expectations really clear to the new secretary about what it is I want and the pace at which I want it,” Ms Parata said.

“I’m driving in a particular direction and I need the support and the information and the reliable data in order to be able to do that.”

Asked if there would be job cuts at the ministry, Ms Parata said: “Those are decisions that the secretary will have to make. My role is to tell her what my expectations are, what success is going to look like, what that means in terms of accountabilities for her.”


Based on John Key’s relationship with David Cameron, and the hiring of Lesley Longstone, I believe that New Zealand charter schools will have more of a UK than a US flavour, although proponents of this type of school draw from similar wells of inspiration.

I am about to launch on ten posts (well, this one plus nine more) about charter schools.  I promise to be brief, but I want to do this because I think the charter school/free school debate opens up a lot of interesting ideas about education and forces you to think about what you believe is important in education.

Here we go then.

One thought on “Waiting for Superman (1/10)”

  1. Deep Throat, the source for the Washinton Post reporters who broke the Watergate story scandal back in the 1970’s, famously said “Follow the money.” Follow the money here. There is a lot of money in education in the U.S. Billions and billions nationwide. Charter schools are one way private industry can get their hands on that money.

    Follow the money. Who’s pushing charter schools in your country? Probably the people who stand to make the most money from them. That’s certainly the case in the U.S.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s