Ombudsman attacks lack of Charter School accountability

There is no justification for making Charter Schools less accountable than every other school in New Zealand, Labour’s acting Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says.

The Chief Ombudsman, Dame Beverley Wakem, this morning appeared before the Education Select Committee, and was highly critical of the Government’s decision to exempt Charter Schools from the Official Information Act and from the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction.

“The Ombudsmen argue that a lack of accountability undermines the requirement for schools to provide a safe physical and emotional environment for children. And that potentially breaches New Zealand’s obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Those are completely valid concerns. 

“The National Government insists that making Charter Schools subject to review by ERO is a sufficient safeguard. But the Ombudsman pointed out this morning that ERO were aware of many of the factors that led to systemic sexualised violence at one school, yet it was only thanks to the oversight of the Ombudsmen that the full facts of the case came to light.

“Under current legislation, Charter Schools could also use suspension and stand-down procedures to circumvent their requirement to accept all students, regardless of background or ability, and the absence of independent oversight could make that problem even worse.

“The National Government has repeatedly demonstrated a total lack of respect for constitutional conventions around openness and transparency. Excluding Charter Schools from the most basic oversight mechanisms we currently have, is yet another example of that.

“New Zealand doesn’t need Charter Schools. There is no clear evidence to show they produce better outcomes, they’re little more than an ideologically-driven experiment. It’s no wonder the National government are trying to side-step public scrutiny of their operations,” Chris Hipkins says.