12 Aug 2015

Possible closure blow for Maori school

8:08 pm on 12 August 2015

The board of Turakina Māori Girls' College is devastated by the announcement it might be closed, chair Trish Biddle-Amoroa says.

Students at Turakina Maori Girls' School.

Students at Turakina Maori Girls' School. Photo: Facebook

Education Minister Hekia Parata this morning announced a consultation with the school's board about its viability after the roll fell from 152 pupils in 2003 to just 54 this year.

Turakina Māori Girls' College's Board of Trustees chair Trish Biddle-Amoroa said the school was blindsided by the news in a meeting with the ministry last week, and it was a complete shock.

Ms Biddle-Amaroa said there had been no communication about the school's performance between the ministry and the management team until then.

She said the school would meet on Friday to discuss the school's options.

The school called on its old girls' network, Ngā Wāhine Tāwhito o Turakina, to rally support for the school.

"This is make or break time: we are asking the Government, the church and our wider community to return to their first love for this beautiful little school and to follow through with the investment ..."

Call for second chance

Adrian Rurawhe, Labour MP for western Māori electorate Te Tai Hauāuru, said he had had a lot of involvement with Turakina Maori Girls' College and was worried for its future.

He was critical of Ms Parata's decision.

"I'm concerned that a decision has already been made and they're starting from a point of wanting to close the school and inviting submissions from people to justify why it should stay open. I think that's the wrong position to come from."

Mr Rurawhe said the minister could do more.

"The minister must consult properly with the community of Turakina Māori Girls' College. She ought to work with the school to find a way forward like she has done with charter schools; they've been given second, third, and fourth chances and I think that it's proper that the minister consult with the community that really wants to do everything that it can to make sure Turakina Māori Girls' College stays open.

"The minister should meet with all church trusts, proprietors, with Māori boarding schools, and have a discussion around what is the way forward for Māori boarding schools because they have a long history in our country and they have provided us with many of the leaders of our iwi and our people today. So I think it's worthwhile having a think about how we can continue that legacy."

Māori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell, who is himself a product of a Māori boarding school, said the problem lay with the Presbyterian church.

"The school side is well taken care of through Minister Parata. My criticism has been with the church side. Those associated with Turakina. Hato Petera is in the same boat, St Stephens was in the same boat.

"It all comes down to the church as the proprietor to look after the facilities to get them up to scratch and the rest will take care of itself".

Not enough progress

Education Minister Hekia Parata said her ministry had been working with the school for three years but there had not been enough progress.

She said she made the decision to consult on closure with a heavy heart.

"If the school is not able to be viable and therefore sustainable in the long term we need to surface that sooner rather than later, and this process is the beginning of that," Ms Parata said.

The consultation runs for four weeks until 11 September.