Local principals are slamming the Government's charter school model, which will allow unqualified or unregistered teachers to front a classroom, saying it will be detrimental to education in New Zealand.
Under the New Zealand Model of charter schools, schools will be able to negotiate the number of registered teachers they wish to employ, school hours and term dates, negotiate salary levels and employment conditions, the Government announced yesterday.
Education Minister Hekia Parata said the schools would be known as partnership schools, or Kura Hourua, and would give parents and students more freedom to choose the type of education that best suited their learning needs.
But Dave Randell, principal of Otumoetai College, the Western Bay's largest secondary school, said employing unregistered or unqualified teachers was a mistake.
"The Government is talking about raising student achievement where every teacher by 2015 must have a Master's degree but now they're contradicting themselves and saying you don't have to be qualified or registered.
"In the medical profession, it's like saying you don't have to be qualified to be a doctor and this is the same. I feel this is detrimental for the whole teaching profession," Mr Randell said.
Robert Hyndman, president of Western Bay of Plenty Principal Association and principal of Brookfield School, agreed. He said any instance where children were taught by unqualified teachers was frowned upon.
"Our association would not support anyone who was an unregistered or unqualified teacher to teach. I'm not sure what the model says but another concern about charter schools is whether they can be selective about who they teach or do they have to accept every child who lives in that area, like a public school. They can be very selective about this and pick and choose the children who are more likely to succeed so I think this gives a false image of charter schools."
Former Tahatai Coast School principal and current president of the New Zealand Education Institute, Ian Leckie, said the Government's Charter School model confirmed the worst fears of educational professionals.
"How can the Government say it wants to improve the quality of teaching while at the same time allowing unqualified teachers into the system?" Mr Leckie said
"It is extraordinary that the Government is intent on undermining our quality education system to adopt experimental policies that have already failed overseas. This is a major step backwards for quality education in New Zealand.
"The Government has already tried to reduce the number of qualified teachers in the early childhood education sector and parents revolted against that. But now it seems intent on trying to do that again, this time in the school sector."
Associate Education Minister John Banks said charter schools would be able to negotiate the percentage of registered teachers they wanted to employ because "sometimes there are people who can make a valuable contribution to teaching who won't necessarily be registered teachers".
"We want the best people in front of the classrooms for these young people we're reaching out to," he said.
Non-teaching and unregistered employees will undergo police vetting and Mr Banks said there would be a high level of accountability ... and transparency for partnership schools.
Partnership schools must report against National Standards for years 1-8 students and must offer NCEA or an equivalent qualification recognised by industry and tertiary providers.