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Partnership School Closure entrenches Māori underachievement



Hipkins’ stupidity in closing Partnership Schools entrenches Māori underachievement and racism in schools

Pem Bird, long-time educator and winner of this year’s Matariki Award for contribution to education, has joined other Māori leaders in condemning Minister Hipkins’ destruction of Partnership Schools.

“Hipkins’ profoundly disrespectful action is not just an abuse of the fundamental rights of parents to be consulted and to choose what’s best for their children. It’s condemning these children to return to a system where Māori and Pasifika underachievement is ‘chronic, intractable and systemic’ (2018 Secretary for Education*), and where racism from teachers and other children is rife and embedded (2018 Survey by the Children’s Commissioner**). Comments from the 1700 kids surveyed included:

“I’m real good at maths, but my teacher just thinks I’m stupid so never gave me any time”
“Some teachers are racist. They tell you you’re not going to achieve…”
“[students] call us brown kids ‘pieces of poo’ and ‘baa baa blacksheeps”

“The stories in kura hourua are very different. Despite their short history these schools are making a positive difference for Māori and Pasifika pupils, in attendance rates, truancy, and the critical one of academic achievement. They are thriving in these culturally inclusive and wairua uplifting environments eg

“At my old school, attendance was about 25%. Here it’s around 85 to 90%” (student from Te Aratika Academy, Hastings)

“Read the stories and take a look at the hard evidence and facts, Minister! It is all there in your Ministry’s records and here at eg

“In mainstream schools where 95% of Māori are concentrated, they are routinely failed. According to figures issued by this coalition government, on an average school day around half of all Māori and Pasifika secondary school pupils are truant.

“But Hipkins has the gall to say ‘the kids won’t notice any difference’. This is grossly insulting.

“A key feature of kura hourua is that they enable Māori solution seekers to take charge of their own destiny at governance and teaching level, and be contractually accountable for their schools’ results. If they fail, they close down, like Whangaruru. But when a mainstream school fails their students, they just keep on going. Intergenerational failure of Maori is business as usual.

“If mainstream schools were doing their job, partnership schools wouldn’t be necessary. So, Minister Hipkins, turn your guns on them, rather than shutting down high-performing schools that Māori kids want to be at. Stop being a puppet of the unions and focus on what really needs to be fixed.

“For all these reasons I am proud to add my name to the Treaty claim lodged by Tā Toby and Dame Iritana and joined by Dame Tariana Turia. Anger about these issues and support for this claim is mounting by the day among Māori, including Nga Kura a Iwi, and a growing number of our kaumatua. How uncomfortable it must be for the Minister sitting at the cabinet table with fellow Ministers who are on record as staunch, in-your-face advocates of kura hourua – one even started up two of them – but are now silently swallowing dead rats.

“Remember that Māori have ultra-long memories.”


Pem Bird MNZM, QSM. Ngāti Manawa. Chairman of Te Maru Ngā Kura ā Iwi o Aotearoa; Te Poutoko o Te Kura Kaupapa Motuhake o Tawhiuau; former Chair,Waka Moemoea, and Member of Te Paepae Motuhake Working Group on the development of the Māori Language Strategy; Member, Bay of Plenty Police Iwi Advisory Group, and chair of several marae organisations. Pem was awarded his MNZM for services to education and Maori.

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