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Ministry of Education intervenes in Mangakōtukutuku College one term after opening

Libby Kirkby-McLeod, Reporter

The Ministry of Education has appointed a limited statutory manager (LSM) to a Hamilton school, just one term after it opened.

At the end of last year, Melville high school and intermediate were closed by the ministry.

Mangakōtukutuku College was then reopened on the same site, with the same facilities - but with a new name, leadership team, and board.

However, only a few weeks into term one, the school was put in lockdown and a person was arrested for assaulting police after a reported brawl.

Ministry of Education deputy secretary for the central area, Jocelyn Mikaere, said the Mangakōtukutuku College board identified a need for additional support and the ministry offered a LSM as a solution.

"The aim of any intervention is always to return the school to full self-management as soon as practical. We monitor all school interventions closely as we will be doing with Mangakōtukutuku College," she said.

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The ministry has appointed Dr Shane Edwards to the role.

"Dr Edwards has responsibility for all functions, powers and duties of the board as an employer, to establish policies and procedures, to manage financial operations and to manage communications," Mikaere said.

Communication was something parents have said was lacking in the school.

One parent, Karen Glass, told RNZ they were not consulted over the decision to put in place a LSM but were simply told it was happening. She said it remained to be seen whether a LSM will make a difference.

"I think there wasn't honesty about what occurred [with the lockdown] ... if you can't be transparent with what happened, why do you think the parent community would have faith in you?" she said.

Edwards said communication was the currency that good relationships between schools and families is built on.

"I do have a belief that communication in schools in general can be stronger and it is something that we always want to be checking on - how good is our communication to families, what are the ways we are communicating, and is it responsive to them?" Edwards said.

Glass said she wanted better communication but also more interaction with parents when the school made decisions.

For example, she was not happy with the way the timetable was structured, which allowed only one learning break in the day, even for the year seven and eight (10-13-year-old) students.

"They said that's to reduce the amount of issues that occur in the playground," Glass said.

She said she tried to talk to the school about it but they were unwilling to change it.

Edwards said he was aware of the issue and hoped to have it changed by the start of term three.

"We are now in the process of reviewing the timetable, the breaks, the number of classes ... especially at our junior levels," he said.

After the reported brawl in February, parents on social media said they were too scared to send their children back to school.

Edwards said health and safety of students, staff and property was a key responsibility of boards.

"Good learning can't occur if children don't feel safe, and good relationships can't occur if families don't feel safe, and staff can't do their core business, which is teach, if they don't feel safe," Edwards said.

He said the school had bought in emergency management specialists Harrison Tew to assist the school in lockdown training with staff and students.

The Ministry of Education said it will work with Edwards to identify and consider any additional supports that may be required for the school.

It is expected that Edwards will stay on for several months at least, and he said how many months depended on how progress goes, but the job of an interventionist such as himself is to return full governance back to the board as soon as possible.

"And I'll do that as soon as I'm confidence that learning is at the centre of everything the school does, and that students and staff are safe and that the community feels that their voice is valid."

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