Differences between charter schools and state schools

Legal structure

State schools are Crown entities with objectives and powers set out in legislation.

A charter school is operated by an independent body (the sponsor). High-level requirements that apply across all charter schools are laid out in legislation, while specific targets and special characteristics are laid out in an individual contract between the Government and the sponsor.


State schools are governed by school boards accountable to their parent community.

Charter schools are run by sponsors accountable to the Crown under a performance management framework. There is no requirement for parent or community representation.

Charter schools are run by sponsors accountable to the Crown under a performance management framework. There is no requirement for parent or community representation but that is not to say a sponsor may not include parent community in their governance structure.

Monitoring and intervention

State schools are subject to Education Review Office (ERO) monitoring of a wide range of indicators that contribute to the achievement, engagement and wellbeing of students.

The Ministry of Education can intervene to support schools including appointing a manager or commissioner, but this is only in extreme circumstances. The Ministry of Education also identifies schools at risk financially and offers them advice and assistance.

For charter schools, sponsors must meet performance targets specified in their contracts or they may face intervention, requiring the sponsor to provide specific information or carry out a specific action, replacing the sponsor, or termination of contract, if earlier interventions are unsuccessful.

A statutory authorisation board will decide whether to use interventions and which level of interventions it considers proportionate to the problem.

Funding and financial control

State schools receive operational grants from the Ministry of Education based mainly on student numbers, year levels, likely level of educational disadvantage and location. 

Staff numbers are set through legislation and teachers are centrally funded by the Ministry according to the contracts negotiated by the unions.

The boards and principals cannot reward staff for high performance. Property funding is directed by the Ministry.

State schools are eligible for separate Ministry-funded services such as school transport, professional development for employees and learner support.

The proportionately small amount of discretionary funding available to individual schools once salaries and property have been directed from the Crown are controlled by the school board.

Charter school funding is calculated similarly to state school resourcing but provided largely as cash on a 'per-student' rate.

Charter schools can be not-for-profit or they can earn an educational dividend for achieving their contracted outcomes at less cost than attributed, for example, by effective management of their property portfolio. Finances are controlled by the sponsor who must produce annual, independently audited financial reports.

Charter schools may not charge tuition fees except for international students (for whom fees must be set). Like private schools, some charter schools will be permitted to charge property-related fees with amounts set in contracts.


State schools must use the New Zealand Curriculum or Te Marautanga o Aotearoa and national curriculum statements.

Charter schools can use their own curriculum, provided tuition standards are at least equivalent to state schools of the same year levels. The school must meet its contracted performance standards.

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