What is a Partnership School?

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Partnership Schools | Kura Hourua are a new way of delivering public education. Their specific purpose is to enable New Zealand’s most disadvantaged students to achieve greater educational success. 

The establishment of Partnership Schools is one of a number of initiatives designed by the Government to provide more choice and better opportunities for New Zealand students, families/whānau and communities.

What does Kura Hourua mean?

‘Kura’ in Te Reo means ‘school’, and ‘Hourua’ stems from ‘Waka Hourua’, the Māori name for the traditional sea voyaging double-hulled canoes used on expeditions where great distances needed to be travelled. The two hulls joined together created a stronger and more versatile vessel better able to cope with all of challenges of the vast Pacific Ocean.

This is an apt metaphor for the journey of partnership the Government and community are embarking on with Partnership Schools | Kura Hourua. The formal contractual relationship between the sponsors and the Government, and the close partnerships between sponsors and communities are creating strong, versatile schools that are better able to meet their students’ and communities’ needs.

The Partnership School concept

The concept represents an opportunity for communities, iwi, philanthropists and business organisations to partner with educators to raise achievement for disadvantaged students. The schools contract with the Government to meet specified, rigorous educational standards in return for greater freedom to innovate to do so.

Partnership Schools are funded by the state on a per-student basis. However, unlike regular state schools, whose relationship with the Crown is based on regulation, these schools are accountable to the Crown through a binding, legally enforceable, fixed-term contract to meet specific, measurable educational performance goals.

In exchange for committing to achieving these goals, the schools have greater freedom with regard to school organisation, employment arrangements, curriculum, and teaching methods and practices.

These freedoms, enabled through the Education Amendment Act 2013, are intended to allow the schools to use fresh, innovative ways to engage with struggling students and enable them to succeed. They also allow the schools to be based on partnerships with communities and community organisations, iwi, whanau/families, philanthropists, businesses and not-for-profit organisations.  They may be secular or faith-based.

The concept of a Partnership School also:

  • shifts the focus of the role of the state from prescribing inputs to specifying the outcomes that must be achieved.
  • ensures that parents and students can choose to attend the school because Partnership Schools are open to all students who apply for entry, regardless of background or ability, and may not charge tuition fees. They must attract priority learners and report against their success in this regard.
  • recognises that both school leadership and teacher quality are critical. Partnership Schools must choose a qualifications framework that does not close off any future options for students, or bar them from tertiary study. These are important considerations for evaluating proposals.
  • are expected to have a distinctive, ambitious mission. They must use evidence and data to demonstrate demand for their mission and how it will enable them to engage disadvantaged students in learning.

Partnership Schools are a type of charter school. The model draws on the growing body of international research that shows that well-run, well-led charter-type schools can successfully lift achievement for learners from minority or low socio-economic backgrounds.

The New Zealand model was developed by the Government to work within and complement our unique education system. It reflects the strengths and critical success factors of the best international models of charter schools, while being tailored specifically to meet the needs of New Zealand’s disadvantaged students. 

Learn more about the expectations of Partnership Schools >>

Regulation of Partnership Schools

The Education Amendment Act 2013 sets out the legal framework for the establishment of Partnership Schools/Kura Hourua. The Act was passed on 12 June 2013.  

Provisions concerning Partnership Schools/Kura Hourua are contained in Part 12A of the Act.

The Ombudsmen Act and the Official Information Act do not apply to Partnership Schools as they are not Crown Entities.  However the contracts and other information that may be held by the Ministry will continue to be subject to the Official Information Act.