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ISNZ hits back at decision to scrap Aspire Scholarships

28 February 2018

Independent Schools of New Zealand hits back at Government decision to scrap Aspire Scholarships

Independent Schools of New Zealand, the representative body for most of New Zealand’s private schools, has strongly criticised the Government’s decision to scrap the Aspire Scholarship Scheme.

“Aspire Scholarships, which offer the opportunity for children from low-income and often challenging backgrounds to attend an Independent School, have been of huge benefit to the hundreds of students who have attained them,” says Deborah James, Executive Director of Independent Schools New Zealand. “Many of these students have achieved great academic, sporting and cultural success, and contributed positively to our school environments.”

Grant Lander, Headmaster of St Paul’s Collegiate School in Hamilton, added: “The Aspire Scholarship has an amazing impact on the lives of a group of ‘priority learners’, often Maori and Pasifika students, who have come from financially and at times significant socially disadvantaged backgrounds. These young people may not have completed secondary schooling without the personalised and supportive environment available in Independent Schools, let alone graduated with NCEA Level 3 and progressed on to pursue tertiary study. Of the 19 Aspire students who have graduated from St Paul’s so far, 16 went on to undertake university study, with all of those students having gained tertiary entry and their NCEA Level 3 certificate.”

A parent whose two children won Aspire Scholarships to ACG Sunderland, told us: “I am so grateful that they’ve had the chance to receive educational opportunites at an Independent School of New Zealand. The high quality education from excellent teachers in small classes has enabled our children to grow into high achievers and contributing members of society. My son completed his secondary education winning Dux and coming top in each subject. He will be going to University of Auckland to do a conjoint degree in Commerce and Engineering.”

Many Aspire students become representative sportsmen and women, some rising to represent their region and even New Zealand. For example, a female recipient of the Aspire Scholarship who attended St Paul’s Collegiate School played basketball for the New Zealand U16 Women’s team and both the NZ U17 and U18 3x3 Women’s teams. She also captained the Aotearoa Maori Secondary School team. This student was Deputy Head Girl, a Full School Prefect and was awarded a Headmaster’s Prize.

She says: “I am really, really happy with where I am today. I will be an accountant - something I am very excited about. I am so very grateful for a mum who wanted more for my sisters and I, and a scholarship that provided an opportunity that has led me to just that. Coming from my background, I am constantly reminded of what I could have become. For my younger sister and most of my extended family – that is the reality.”

Gillian Simpson, Executive Principal of St Margaret’s College in Christchurch, asks: “In the current environment in New Zealand and in post-quake Christchurch, why would the Government remove these opportunities for schools such as ours, which have the culture and resources to transform young lives? There are so many ways to help children out of challenging situations and poverty, and this is one that works.”

Independent Schools of New Zealand recognises that the Aspire Scholarship was only available to a limited number of students, but for those students it has almost always been a life-changing experience.

“The Government is removing the opportunity for these students to benefit from the best possible education and achieve far beyond their expectations. These scholarships have not only changed the aspirations of the individual students, they have had a significant influence on the lives of families and how they view the education of their children and future generations.

“Without exception, Independent Schools in New Zealand provide support in the form of scholarships and bursaries to as many ‘priority’ learners as they can. To take away a scholarship scheme for the very students this Government purports to support makes no sense at all,” concludes Deborah James.


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