Justine Mahon, former Principal of St. Cuthbert’s College, has been appointed to lead an establishment board tasked with implementing a new charter school model set to commence by the beginning of next year.

This initiative comes in response to Associate Education Minister David Seymour’s aim to establish charter schools more widely to prevent their potential abandonment by future governments. The move is part of Seymour’s effort to fortify the charter school system, which faced termination when Labour took office in 2017.

Mahon will serve as the chairwoman of the Charter School/Kura Hourua Establishment Board, overseeing a team of eight members responsible for providing strategic guidance and advice to the Ministry of Education in executing the charter school program. Charter schools, also known as partnership schools or Kura Hourua, offer additional educational options for students and parents, contributing to a diverse educational landscape, according to Mahon.

Expressing confidence in the expedited establishment of the charter school model before the upcoming academic year, Mahon echoes Seymour’s objective of ensuring the sustainability of these schools to avoid disruptive changes to the educational system.

Seymour, in a recent press release, emphasized the rigorous monitoring and accountability measures embedded in charter schools, contrasting them with state schools. He envisions the proliferation of charter schools and potential conversions of state schools into charter schools under the current coalition agreement between National and Act.

The reintroduction of charter schools and the proposed legislation align with Prime Minister Christopher Luxon’s second-quarter plan, aiming to reintroduce relevant legislation by June 30.

In an interview, Seymour expressed his determination to establish a robust community of charter schools, aiming to deter future governments from dismantling them hastily. He emphasized the importance of diverse representation within the charter school community to mitigate opposition from the Labour Party.

Mahon outlined the board’s focus on establishing performance metrics and refining funding structures for charter schools. While she acknowledged the tight timeframe, she expressed optimism about having several charter schools operational by the start of the academic year in 2025.

Despite Labour’s stance on charter schools, Mahon emphasized the importance of evaluating the value added by these schools to students’ education over time, including academic achievement and school environment safety. However, she acknowledged that a comprehensive assessment of the charter school model’s efficacy would require a longer timeframe.

Labour education spokeswoman Jan Tinetti expressed reservations about charter schools, citing concerns about exacerbating educational inequalities and devaluing the state education system. While Labour aims to remove charter schools if re-elected, the specifics of the removal process remain unclear.

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