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Māori charter school fears loss of staff in state system

Māori charter school fears loss of key staff when it enters state system

Lois Williams, Northland Reporter

A Māori charter school in Whangārei says it will lose staff who have been critical to its success when it comes under the state education umbrella.

Te Kāpehu Whetū - a bilingual co-education high school - has gained approval to become a special character school under the state system next year.

The alternative would have been closure under the government's policy of scrapping the charter school model.

Te Kāpehu Whetū ranked in the top two for university entrance pass rates in Northland in 2017.

He Puna Marama Charitable Trust chief executive Raewyn Tipene said that success was largely because the charter school system allowed it to hire extra staff for pastoral care.

The trust sponsors Te Kāpehu Whetū along with a primary school and five early childhood centres.

Mrs Tipene said Te Kāpehu Whetū was set up as a partnership school by Māori community leaders because the state system was failing their young.

"In 2007 only 19 percent of Māori boys in Whangārei secondary schools were achieving NCEA Level 1.

"Eighty-one percent were failing and they were leaving and getting involved with the gangs and we are still seeing the legacy of that in the north to this day."

Ten years later Te Kāpehu Whetū was one of the two top ranking schools in Northland for UE results with a 64 percent pass rate, well above the New Zealand average of 50 percent.

Under the charter school system the school has been free to allocate its funding as it sees fit.

Te Kāpehu Whetū employed 26 staff for its 190 students, Mrs Tipene said.

"That is a higher teacher to student ratio than a state school would have. A number of those staff are not trained teachers, they are mentors who support our senior students."

Good pastoral care was the the key to the success of Māori students, along with a school culture that affirmed them as Māori and encouraged them to be educated, Mrs Tipene said.

But under the state system the school would not be able to keep that level of support staff.

"We won't be able to fund them all. That's a fact: the funding won't allow for us to have all the teachers we're eligible for, plus the support staff we are used to having."

She said the mentoring of senior students by non-teaching staff had been a crucial element in the students' academic achievements.

"Last year was our first tranche of students who had come right through the school to UE level. That was four years of hard work to get those results."

On whether the school can work around the constraints of the state system to maintain its success, Raewyn Tipene said: "We will just have to work out how best to do with less."

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