Roll drops at $2.4m school

Ministry of Education head of sector enablement and support, Katrina Casey.

By Jessica Roden

A rural Northland charter school that has cost taxpayers $2.4 million this year, has only 48 students enrolled, despite the fact it is funded for a minimum of 71 students.

The Ministry of Education confirmed if Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru closes, the school has no legal obligation to return the land, funded with $620,000 of taxpayer money, to the Government.

The school's opening on February 10 was followed by a large drop in enrolment, consistent understaffing, the resignation of a co-director and strong criticism from the Education Review Office.

The kura did not respond to Northern Advocate phone calls or emails over the last week. The school, located on a farm 65km north-west of Whangarei, caters for Years 9-13 students who typically have been on the margins of the education system.

Sponsored by Nga Parirau Matauranga Charitable Trust, the school is one of five charter schools, or "partnership" schools, that opened this year. That includes another in Whangarei, that has performed well.

Charter schools are funded by the Government but set their own curriculum, school hours, holidays and pay rates.

Ministry of Education head of sector enablement and support, Katrina Casey, confirmed Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru had no legal obligation to return the land to the ministry should it fail.

Continued below.

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"If a [charter] school closes before the end of its contract, we would seek recovery of any unused funding or available assets through a commercial negotiation process," Ms Casey said.

The school received a $1.68 million grant to set up, of which $620,000 was used to buy the 81ha property. It has since received $754,280 in operating costs - $2.4 million in total. Documents released under the Official Information Act show the ERO was highly critical of nearly all aspects of the kura's operation, following a visit on April 9. Governance facilitator, Chris Saunders, reported that ERO was particularly concerned about the struggling board, lack of school culture, dysfunctional relationships and low morale, and weaknesses with all aspects of curriculum planning and delivery. ERO extended their assessment period to August, with a full report due out soon. All new schools are appointed a governance facilitator and Mr Saunders oversaw both Northland charter schools until his contract finished at the end of June.

When Whangaruru opened it had 61 students enrolled but currently only has 48 students, Ms Casey said.

"There isn't a legal minimum number of students that the school is required to have. They are funded for a minimum of 71 students," Ms Casey said.

Whangaruru has been understaffed by 1.5 teachers for a number of months. In March, one of the kura's two co-directors, Glen Sadler, resigned for reasons that are unclear. Mr Sadler was also the business director and his niece Natasha Sadler was a co-director, in-charge of curriculum.

Following his resignation the trust changed the leadership structure and created the position of CEO, Ms Casey said. The school is on its second interim CEO, while the trust recruits a permanent replacement.

Charter schools were part of the Act Party's confidence and supply agreement with the National Party. On Thursday the Minister of Education, Hekia Parata, announced four more charter schools starting in 2015, including a third for Northland.

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11:30 am Wednesday 17 September 2014
Jesus who'd want to try and run a school with the types of kids that are in it! No one else wants them so not suprising the school struggles!! But as per usual it's everyone else's fault and the Governments... You can't fix stupid!!


- Northland
07:00 am Wednesday 17 September 2014
Hey it's call New Zealand the way john key wants it.
He ignores advice from his own advisers and goes his merry way regardless of who he steps on.
A right d******* if ever there was one.
No I wont be voting national in case you are wondering.


- New Zealand
08:00 pm Tuesday 16 September 2014
This govt is running raffles with our tax money.


- Northland
06:00 pm Tuesday 16 September 2014
Yes and to top it off they have another one for Northland.
Some things are not recyclable, hopefully this national government is one of those things.


- Auckland Central
05:30 pm Tuesday 16 September 2014
Only 48 "Years 9-13 students who typically have been on the margins of the education system"? You must be f****n kidding me.

old Scott

03:30 pm Tuesday 16 September 2014
And the surprise is ???? Think most of us saw this coming, just another tidy little scam.

Just a thought

02:30 pm Tuesday 16 September 2014
Lets us not forget that Charter Schools get to set their own curriculum and their own assessment, so they should not fail. This being said I doubt motorbike riding etc will stack up for NCEA credits.

Don't worry they would of "passed" their own curriculum.

Mary Phimester

01:30 pm Tuesday 16 September 2014
this is ridiculous, I know someone who goes to that particular school and she said that she hasn't learnt any school work since she has been there and that they go horseriding motorbike riding and other school trips, and shes scared that she is going to fail her exams, I think charter schools are a joke and should not be allowed. all this money going to a 'school' that isn't even teaching the students schoolwork........ whats the point, whereas there are other schools who get a bare minimum of funding and they try their best to teach their students the required schoolwork, which is what schools are for, schoolwork and learning not motorbike riding and horse riding and so on. how is this even legal, and what a complete waste of taxpayers money.


- Whangarei
01:30 pm Tuesday 16 September 2014
Between last December and June 2014 Hekia Parata and Associate Minister Nikki Kaye prevaricated when asked questions in Parliament about the return of assets should a charter school not fulfil its obligations.
Tracey Martin (NZ First) specifically sought answers about the status of land purchased with funds given for the provision of education. In confirming that a charter school on closing has no legal obligation to return the land, Ministry of Education spokesperson Katrina Casey shows clearly what the obfuscation from Ms Parata and Ms Kaye was all about.
It is far better for some Ministry minion to take the heat in some provincial newspaper in an obscure timeframe than duplicitous and devious Ministers having to face the music honestly in Parliament, on television, in front of the whole country.


- New Zealand
01:00 pm Tuesday 16 September 2014
What idiot funded the purchase of 81 hectares for a 60 kid play ground, I wonder if Katrina Casey is going to be held accountable - TUI.
I wonder if Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru has intestinal fortitude to admit they got it wrong and hand back what few assets (including land) that they have not squandered on another John Banks publicity stunt - better still get him to pay us, the tax payer, back with his anonymous donationsdonations


- Takanini
12:30 pm Tuesday 16 September 2014
AND?? the Young People/Rangatahi suffer again because of some (no doubt well meaning)but INCOMPETANT Governance/Leadership etc,,Bloody SAD!!


12:30 pm Tuesday 16 September 2014
Yay, more of YOUR money down the toilet. 81ha of land.....what the hell were they teaching at this school. Yet another great idea funded by you the National voter......oh and everyone else.

Dr Jenny Te Paa Daniel

12:00 pm Tuesday 16 September 2014
Meanwhile Horahora Primary School just down the road and which has a proven track record of meeting the needs of the most disadvantaged, struggles for essential support funding - Charter Schools by any definition never make either fiscal or educational sense but sadly we have a Minister without ears to listen and clearly without a heart for those most vulnerable in our schools.


- New Zealand
11:30 am Tuesday 16 September 2014
Nothing more than a bribe at the expense of these kids to the c****** ACT party for their support, how many more before the plug gets pulled?

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