Overseas models of charter schools

Charter schools are operating in many jurisdictions overseas. The most similar models are United States (US) charter schools, English academies and Swedish free schools.

Each model has unique elements, but all operate by contracting an education provider to meet specified educational outcomes in return for state funding and increased autonomy.  

  • In the United Kingdom, 40% of primary schools and 80% of secondary schools are academies (charter schools).
  • In the United States around 25% of schools are charter schools. 

Success of overseas models

United States 

Charter schools in the US are the closest comparison to partnership schools in New Zealand and are the example that the partnership school model was previously based on.

A 2023 study by the Centre for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University found charter schools produced positive learning outcomes for students when compared to public schools, and that students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds experience greater outcomes.

This study also found that:

  • 36% perform better in reading and 36% in maths 
  • US charter school students have an average of 16 more days of learning in reading and 6 more days in maths in a school year compared to their matched peers in traditional public schools.

An earlier survey of research on charter schools from 2015 found that students’ outcomes for behaviour, attendance and graduation were generally positive compared to outcomes in the state system. 

As a Matter of Fact: The National Charter School Study III 2023(external link) 

United Kingdom 

In England, research on academies primarily focusses on the free school model (new schools established to meet need in an area). A 2021 report found that Year 10 and 11 students outperformed their public school peers.

A 2022 UK government white paper stated that more than 7 out of 10 academies which were found to be underperforming as council-run schools changed to having a good or outstanding rating as academy schools. 

White paper: Opportunity for all – Strong schools with great teachers for your child(external link)


Findings on student achievement in Swedish free schools have been generally positive, although the studies are not recent. For example, a 2008 study found average grades for 15 to 16-year-old students increased by around 1% rank point when the free school share increased by 10%. 

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