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Charter school manager says David Seymour urged him not to put concerns in writing

A prominent partnership schools manager has claimed that government partnership school champion David Seymour attempted to dissuade him from airing his concerns about the sector in writing to avoid their reaching the public domain.

In an opinion piece published today on The Spinoff, Alwyn Poole, academic manager of Mt Hobson Middle School, says that David Seymour actively discouraged him from putting his concerns about the administration of partnership schools in writing, and suggests the ACT party leader and under-secretary to the minister of education lacks passion for the sector and “feels slightly lumped with it”.

“Early during Mr Seymour’s term we tried to communicate about the need for policy improvement,” writes Mr Poole, “but received two direct phone calls from him asking us not to put our concerns on email as they are ‘discoverable’.”

Seymour disputes Poole’s version of events. When the comments were put to him by The Spinoff, he initially dismissed them as “completely untrue,” before acknowledging that he “did mention that it was discoverable – that things which are written in email tend to come into the public domain”. Seymour defended his accessibility to Poole, saying he had visited him at his home and school in an effort to understand his concerns.

Act Party leader and government education under-secretary David Seymour, April 6, 2017. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Partnership schools arrived in New Zealand during ACT’s John Banks’ time as Epsom MP, and Seymour says they have remained a priority for ACT during his time as leader and sole MP. Poole wonders in his piece that “maybe education is just not his thing and he feels slightly lumped with it,” an insinuation Seymour strongly disputes.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous,” says Seymour of Poole’s allegations. “I put all of my political capital into the partnership school programme … When I came into parliament Hekia Parata said she had no intention of opening further partnership schools. Subsequently we’ve had three application rounds and opened two schools.”

The dispute comes as the debate about the existence of charter schools reignites with Willie Jackson’s decision to join Labour ahead of September’s election.

Jackson, ranked 21 on the party’s list, oversees one of the schools at Nga Whare Waatea in his capacity as chief executive of the Manukau Urban Māori Authority. Labour leader Andrew Little has been under pressure to reconcile his party’s stated intention to shut down partnership schools with the advocacy of Jackson, one of their most prominent new recruits.

Despite his critique of Seymour and government resourcing of charter schools, Poole mounts a strong defence of the sector in his article for the Spinoff, issuing a plea for more funding and resource to allow it to further advance beyond the 10 schools (out of a total of 2600 nationwide) which currently operate under the model.

Poole’s piece is one of two being published by the Spinoff today, putting the case for and against charter schools.


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