Charter schools to lift educational outcomes

  • Hon David Seymour

The upcoming Budget will include funding for up to 50 charter schools to help lift declining educational performance, Associate Education Minister David Seymour announced today.

$153 million in new funding will be provided over four years to establish and operate up to 15 new charter schools and convert 35 state schools to charter schools in 2025 and 2026 depending on demand and suitability.

When the legislation is introduced to Parliament in the coming months, the application process will open. Once it has passed, the first charter contracts will be negotiated and signed before the end of the year so the first schools can open for term one 2025.

“Charter schools provide educators with greater autonomy, create diversity in New Zealand’s education system, free educators from state and union interference, and raise overall educational achievement, especially for students who are underachieving or disengaged from the current system,” says Mr Seymour.

“They provide more options for students, reinforcing the sector’s own admission that “one size” doesn’t fit all.

“Even before the official applications have opened there has been overwhelming interest from educators who are exploring the charter model. We’ve heard from potential applicants such as TIPENE St Stephen’s Boarding School, and AGE School.

“By focusing primarily on student achievement, charter schools allow sponsors and communities to take their own path getting there. They can, with some restrictions, set their own curriculum, hours and days of operation, and governance structure. They also have greater flexibility in how they spend their funding as long as they reach the agreed performance outcomes.

“To provide certainty to sponsors, they will have a fixed-term contract of 10 years to operate a charter school, with two rights of renewal for 10 years each. All fixed-term periods are conditional on the school continuing to meet the terms of its contract.

“The pilot run by the previous government that ACT was part of is informing the revised charter school model. Notably, charter schools were subject to high levels of monitoring and accountability and could be shut down when they did not achieve the outcomes they were funded to achieve. State schools don’t have this accountability.

“In the United Kingdom, 40 per cent of primary schools and 80 per cent of secondary schools are academies (charter schools), and in the United States around 25 per cent of schools are charter schools.

“A 2023 study by the Centre for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University in the United States found charter schools produced positive learning outcomes for students when compared to public schools, and that students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds experience greater outcomes.”

To provide independence from the Ministry of Education, while still reflecting that charter schools are Crown funded and monitored, a new departmental agency is being created to establish, implement, operate and monitor the performance of charter schools.

“Charter schools will largely be funded on a ‘per student’ basis, and funding will be broadly equivalent to that for State schools with similar rolls and characteristics,” says Mr Seymour.

“The unions will criticise charter schools because they will lose their membership fees and their grip on the sector, I say to them it’s time they put the students at the heart of education.

“I hope and intend to see many new charter schools opening, and State and State-integrated schools converting to become charter schools. Every child deserves the opportunity to succeed, to achieve to the best of their ability, and to gain qualifications that will support them into further study and employment.”

/Public Release. View in full here.