23 Dec 2016

New charter schools face enrolment challenges

5:45 am on 23 December 2016

Two new charter schools due to open in 2017 have had mixed fortunes in attracting students.

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Photo: 123RF

Te Kopuku High School in Hamilton already has more enrolments than it can take while Te Aratika Academy in Hawke's Bay, so far has one-third of the enrolments it needs.

The schools' contracts stipulated a minimum number of enrolments that must be reached by December 2017 and said that failure to meet the targets could lead to intervention by the government.

In recent years other charter schools, which the government calls partnership schools, opened with fewer students than they were aiming for and often with fewer than the government was paying them for.

Hamilton's first partnership school, Te Kōpuku High School, was contracted for a minimum roll of 67 students in 2017.

Its leader, Cath Rau, said the school's enrolments were already well over that figure.

"We're opening on 7 February and we have a full roll with a waiting list," she said.

"Our resource consent this time around would allow for a maximum of 110 students and we're expecting 110 students."

Ms Rau said the school had a waiting list of about 15 students who could be enrolled if any of the 110 students already accepted to the school changed their mind.

Te Kopuku was offering an education steeped in Māori culture and language for teens who had not been through the Māori-medium kura kaupapa system.

Ms Rau said most Māori children in Hamilton were in regular English-medium schools and there was clearly demand for what Te Kōpuku was offering.

"It's just a reflection of what it is that whānau in Hamilton want. It does have, as a city, the fastest-growing Māori population in New Zealand and we do have some options for students. Possibly we managed to tap into an area where there is a high demand and that is reflected, I believe, in our number of enrolments and the interest in the school"

Ms Rau said the school mostly used social media to recruit students and they had come from all over the city and outlying areas.

Te Aratika Academy in Hawke's Bay was the other new charter school opening its doors in February.

Its contract required a minimum of 50 students by December 2017.

The school's manager, Casey Tapara, said it had 15 enrolments and five expressions of interest but she was confident it would get to 50.

"The response from whānau has been really, really positive, especially towards the special character of Te Aratika Academy and we've actually found that our enrolment process has been really effective when we've gone into the homes of the whānau."

Te Aratika aimed to enrol Māori and Pasifika students who were at risk of dropping out of the education system and becoming unemployed.

Ms Tapara said it was attracting a broad range of teens.

"The majority are those who are not in school, but the minority are boys who are actually looking for something different. They are starting to get towards the step of being disengaged so their families are bringing them in because they're concerned about that."