Why the hell can't we just have more character schools - An open letter to David Seymour

Source: Ministry of Education Website

Dear Mr Seymour,

I am writing to you today because this article makes me really really angry. I am passionate about leading educational change and I would love to see New Zealand education develop in such a way that we may be able to offer New Zealanders a richly diverse range of schooling models. I absolutely love the idea of schools being available to meet the diverse needs, interests and passions of our young New Zealanders. I would love to see STEM (Science, Technology, Education and Maths) and STEAM (Science, Technology, Education, Arts and Maths) schools become  a larger part of the educational landscape and would even love to see how these might be supported, sponsored and invested in by the very innovators who might benefit from the skills of the graduates such schools might produce.

As you may (or may not) know Designated Special Character schools were created under the New Zealand Education Act of 1989 (see section 156). This allowed for character schools to be established such as Kura Kaupapa Māori (Māori-language immersion schools), schools with a distinct values based on a religion and the establishment of other schools that "differs significantly from the education they would get at an ordinary State school" such as Discovery and Unlimited. And here's a novel idea - the children even get to be taught by fully registered teachers! And guess what, it also already allows for a whole range of highly specialised industry experts to teach in that school. I have read that section of the act closely and I reckon they could even partner with school financially (see Unlimited's IT Hothouse for an awesome example).

Here's a novel idea. Why done't we simply pop the 'AC' back into charter and get on and innovate with a whole range of charACter schools. You might even find that the teachers and unions would have a new found respect for you, simply because you show respect for them - the fully registered teachers of New Zealand. Then we could become besties and lead an educational revolution hand in hand that saw the government supporting our existing schools and character schools leading an educational revolution. I would love to be a Principal of a revolutionary character school if it were a STEM school, or a STEAM school or in fact any of our fabulous school schools because I believe they are capable of revolutionary change as well (come visit us at HPSS - we're giving it a bloody good go). I absolutely agree we need change, in fact I think you and I probably want many of the same things, I just wholeheartedly believe charter schools are undermining rather than helping to lead the charge. Let's you and me lead a new revolution where we get the government to recognise the potential in our long-term existing structures. I might even shout you lunch (serious offer even).

Kind regards,

Claire Amos


  1. Well said as always Claire. It is so frustrating to have schools such as the ones uou reference- Unlimited, Discovery, HPSS doing things so differently and successfully meeting the needs of learners but to have so many people, and particularly politicians out there not taking the time to become aware of what is possible and being done within the state system. Love reading what you write! It's like you've been inside my head!

  2. That is because they have no interest in educational innovation. What they want to transform is ownership of education. Privatisation is the goal - or at least as much of it they can sneak by the public. I am all for partnerships with business, but education is for the public good and ownership needs to be retained by the public.

    A very real danger to our educational system and future innovation.

    Well said Claire. I admire you passion.

  3. Thank Claire, for expressing these things so clearly.

  4. Awesome - wonderful and amazing - love your words, style and sense - tony


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