Information for parents about charter schools

Charter schools are state funded and operate separately from the state system.

Why are we introducing charter schools in New Zealand?

The current education system is not delivering equitable and excellent outcomes for all students. 

Charter schools are one way that the Government is aiming to improve student achievement. 

Educational success contributes to personal, collective and national success.  Every child deserves the opportunity to succeed, achieve to the best of their ability and gain qualifications that will support them into further study and employment. 

What are charter schools?

Charter schools are another type of state-funded school, providing educators and parents with more choice. These schools give educators the freedom to teach as long as the children are safe, attending school and are demonstrably learning. 

The name "charter schools | kura hourua" means the partnership between charter school operators and the government, and between charter schools and their communities. 'Kura hourua' means "double-hulled canoe".

Charter schools can be new, or state and state-integrated schools can convert to become a charter school.

What is the difference between a charter school and a state school?

Charter schools have a very high level of independence around how they teach your child and what they can spend their funding on to educate your child. They are held to targets for achievement and attendance, as agreed in their contracts, and will face interventions if they do not meet these targets. 

Charter schools may be established by cultural communities, sports bodies, religious communities and others to better express their values and aspirations, but student achievement is the main focus. They may also be set up as a business to deliver education. 

Who runs a charter school? Will I get a say?

A charter school is set up and run by a sponsor.

This is any person or organisation that the authorisation board has approved based on mandatory criteria specified in legislation and a fit and proper person test. The sponsor runs the school, rather than an elected school board (parents) as in a state school.

What happens if my child’s state school converts to a charter school? Will I get a say?

When deciding whether to accept an application to convert a state school, the authorisation board will take account of the level of parent and community support.

All current students will be able to attend, and their younger siblings will be given priority in future enrolment.

Some aspects of the way the school is run may change, with a view to lifting student achievement. This will vary from school to school.

Will charter schools be zoned?

Charter schools must accept all enrolments unless they are full, except international students, or in cases where a parent refuses to accept the particular character of the school.

If a former state school is oversubscribed, first priority will be given to applicants from its previous home zone.

Will I have to pay tuition fees?

Charter schools are not allowed to charge tuition fees. However, schools that own their own property may charge parents maintenance fees, as state-integrated and private schools do.

Will there be allowances for uniforms, devices etc?

This will vary from school to school, as it does for state schools. However, charter schools will have much more freedom to spend their funds on equipment or services they decide are a high priority.

Each school will have its own settings. For example, some will have uniforms while others may not and some may finish at 3pm while others may be open for longer. 

How will I know if a charter school is any good?

Charter schools will be subject to annual reporting and auditing. They will also be reported on by the Education Review Office (ERO).

Due to having a contract, there is a high level of oversight, reflecting the accountability required in exchange for their greater freedom to chart their own path to high student achievement.

What if I want to complain about my child’s charter school?

Parents can complain to an independent reviewer (arranged by the charter school) or the Ombudsman.

More information

Overseas models of charter schools

Key features of charter schools

Differences between charter schools and state schools

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