10 Apr 2013

High hopes that historic school can re-open

7:25 pm on 10 April 2013

Former pupils of an Anglican Maori boarding school that closed 13 years ago are optimistic it can be re-opened.

A hundred old boys' from St Stephen's school attended a hui in Auckland at the weekend to discuss the possibility, as well as re-establishing an old boys' association, Te Mano o Tipene.

The association's representatives include Joe Harawira, Waihoroi Shortland and the director of Te Mata o Te Tau Academy - for Maori Research and Scholarship, Te Kani Kingi.

The Massey University academic, Dr Kingi, says the old boys are realistic in their expectations, but there is an incredible amount of enthusiasm amongst the group and a growing sense of excitement that the school could re-open.

Dr Kingi says ex-students attending the hui ranged from men in their mid-twenties through to their eighties, including one from Singapore.

He says an online survey of 300 old boys and supporters found the vast majority were in favour of renovating the existing school rather than moving to a new site or rebuilding the school.

Ideas put forward at the hui on how the school should be structured included having a finishing school and a sporting academy, but Dr Kingi says the online survey showed the greatest support was for a balance between sporting and academic achievement.

The hui also discussed how te reo could be threaded through the curriculum or taken as a core option.

Dr Kingi says the school needs to offer a product that Maori students and parents want and this should place it in a good position to be re-opened.

The school, established in 1844, closed in 2000 after issues around finances, poor performance and bullying.

Dr Kingi says the association is keen for the school to build on its past, but not to repeat the same mistakes made in the past.