Charter school pays more for teachers

New Zealand's largest secondary school lost five teachers after a charter school was established nearby which could offer better salaries.

The Labour Party says the situation shows the Government has created a playing field that's not level between the new schools and state counterparts, to ensure the controversial charter or "partnership" schools succeed.

But Vanguard Military School, which now employs the former Rangitoto College staff, said its challenging new environment was the main drawcard - not more money. Both schools are on Auckland's North Shore.

Rangitoto principal David Hodge told the Herald five teachers had chosen to move to Vanguard at the end of last year.

They took up top positions including the partnership school's principal, deputy-principal, head of science, head of mathematics and head of English.

Mr Hodge said some of the salaries at Vanguard, in Albany, were about $16,000 more than his school could offer.

However, he said movement of staff between schools was normal and not disappointing. Rangitoto College employs more than 180 teachers.

"It's good for [the teachers], isn't it? If that's what they want, then that's what they're getting. It's a bonus for them."

Other charter schools have employed experienced teachers working in their area, but none as many as five from the one school.

Vanguard chief executive Nick Hyde said opponents of the partnership school model had complained such schools would be able to employ non-registered teachers.

The alternative was to recruit teachers from existing schools.

Vanguard's principal, Rockley Montgomery, had been granted an early release from Rangitoto, for which Mr Hyde said he was grateful.

"Rangitoto is a very big school, decile 10. I don't think David Hodge would have found any difficulty in replacing five staff ... There would be plenty of people who would want to work at that school."

Mr Hyde did not know what his staff were paid during their time at Rangitoto, but said he believed the appeal to change was not money. Vanguard has nine staff.

"You're dealing with a unique demographic of kids, and there are a number of staff who wanted to be involved with the school because their whole reason for being involved in teaching was to help children."

Labour's education spokesman, Chris Hipkins, has gone on the attack over charter schools this week, vowing to scrap them should his party return to power.

He said state and state-integrated schools received average funding per student of about $7000, but Vanguard received funding of $19,664 per student this year.

"Robbing good teachers out of one school to put them into a charter school isn't going to raise the overall standard of education for all children in New Zealand," Mr Hipkins said.

However, Education Minister Hekia Parata said Labour's comparison was flawed as it calculated the per student rate on partnership schools' opening rolls, not that projected over their possible 18-year contract.

She said if that had been done the funding would be comparable for state schools with similar characteristics such as size.

Partnership schools' funding was based partly on their meeting student achievement outcomes, and they could be shut down if that did not happen.

Ms Parata said greater accountability came with more flexibility about how to spend their money.

"In Vanguard, clearly they have chosen staff at a particular level of salary, because they expect that to deliver achievement."

Rangitoto College
* Students: 2983
* Number of teaching staff: More than 180
* Principal: David Hodge

Vanguard Military School
* Students: 108
* Number of teaching staff: 9
* Principal: Rockley Montgomery.

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