Key features of charter schools

How do charter schools work?

Charter schools are state-funded but are operated by an independent authority (a 'sponsor').

Sponsors will have greater flexibility to innovate, including in the design of a school’s structure, governance and processes. This lifts achievement for all students, including those students who are under achieving or disengaged from the state system.

Charter schools must accept all eligible students to enrol, unless oversubscribed.

In exchange for greater flexibility, they are subject to increased oversight and accountability.

Each school enters into a contract (charter) with the Crown that sets out their targets for student achievement and outlines the character of the school (for example, reflecting a cultural community, religious, sporting, extension, military). Their character may not be explicit especially if the charter is a converting state school.

If a school fails to meet its targets, it can be closed down or other interventions used. 

All state and state-integrated schools are eligible to apply to become charter schools.

Sponsors

A sponsor is the body approved by the authorisation board to operate a charter school. It can be any person or organisation who wishes to open and operate a charter school.

Under the previous model, partnership schools were largely community driven including religious organisations, Māori organisations, Pacific peoples’ organisations and education trusts. Internationally there have also been businesses and private schools who sponsor and manage partnership/charter schools. 

Sponsors may operate multiple schools (as they do in England under the academies model) but must have a contract for each school.

Charter school contracts

The regulatory model for charter schools will be similar to the previous model. Legislation will set out the key settings for all charter schools, while a sponsor’s contract with the Crown will specify terms for individual schools. In addition, current state or state-integrated schools will be able to convert to the charter school model.

A sponsor will have a fixed-term contract of 10 years to operate a charter school, with 2 rights of renewal for 10 years each.

All fixed-term periods are conditional on the school continuing to meet the terms of its contract.

The contract will cover a broad range of matters relevant to the particular school.

Reporting and performance management framework

Sponsors will be required under legislation and contracts to provide information that shows how they are meeting performance measures and targets specified in their contracts. 

Sponsors must meet their performance targets and measure or they may face interventions, including:

  • requiring ERO to conduct a review of a charter school
  • requiring the sponsor to provide specific information or carry out a specific action
  • replacing the sponsor
  • termination of the contract.

Enrolment and fees

Enrolment in a charter school is free except for international students. However, property maintenance fees may be charged, where charter schools are located in sponsor-owned premises.

Charter schools must accept all eligible applications to enrol unless they are oversubscribed. Enrolment may be refused by schools with a special character or focus for students whose parents refuse to accept that the school operates consistently with its stated character. 

Property

Sponsors are responsible for ensuring that premises and equipment are suitable, safe and appropriate for education purposes. They have discretion to determine the property standards, leasing arrangements, and equipment that is right for their school so long as it complies with relevant laws.

If a state school converts to a charter school, the Ministry will retain ownership of existing land and buildings. More information on the property funding arrangements for charter schools, as well as the property arrangements for converted state schools, will be provided when decisions have been finalised.

Sponsors with charter schools located in sponsor-owned premises will be able to charge parents and caregivers "property maintenance fees" as specified in their contract.

Funding model

Charter school funding will be broadly equivalent to state school funding.

It will be paid as cash to increase flexibility and mostly on a per-student basis. This means, for example, they will receive cash instead of staffing entitlements, so sponsors will be able to source the particular skills they need.

Staff

The sponsor employs all staff and negotiates salary levels and employment conditions. For converting state schools, advice on the transfer of staff from a state school to a charter school is being developed and more information will be added when decisions are made.

Sponsors may employ teachers without a practising certificate, but they must hold a Limited Authority to Teach (LAT). A new category with added flexibility will be introduced for charter schools, and staff with LATs will be subject to Teaching Council disciplinary processes.

The number of teaching positions that must be filled by people holding a practising certificate will be specified in the contracts (with the remaining positions being able to held by holders of LATs).

Complaints

Complaints about a charter school will be able to be made to an independent reviewer (arranged by the charter school) or an ombudsman.

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