23 Apr 2012

School board sacked after refusing to close unit

10:18 pm on 23 April 2012

A commissioner will replace the Board of Trustees of a Northland school after it defied instructions from the Education Minister to close a unit for senior students.

Moerewa School held a powhiri on Monday to welcome its 17 students in Years 11, 12 and 13 to term two - despite a directive by Hekia Parata last term to close the unit and enrol the pupils elsewhere.

The primary school tried to formalise its senior class last year - up until now it has been run as a satellite unit of an Auckland school.

On Monday, the minister sacked the board. Commissioner Mike Eru will take over the management of the small school on Tuesday.

The Education Ministry says the school is not offering senior students a quality education and its NCEA results are alarmingly low. An audit by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority found that 11% to 33% were passing NCEA.

The ministry's chief executive, Lesley Longstone, told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme on Monday the decision to sack the trustees was not taken lightly.

"I absolutely applaud the support that the community are giving to the school. Indeed, I don't question the commitment that the school and the principal and teachers have towards the children as well.

"It takes more than commitment and support to educate a child. It requires subject knowledge of the teachers and high quality teaching and learning. Unfortunately, we haven't got those ingredients in this school."

Ms Longstone says the commissioner's first job will be to work with the school to calm things down and shift older pupils to new schools as fast as possible.

"If you look at the nearest school, they are achieving results twice as high for their Maori students than have been achieved at Moerewa. The outcomes are just not good enough, I'm afraid."

Ms Longstone says the nearest alternative school is Bay of Islands College, which is well within travelling distance, but other options are available also.

Community meeting

The community was meeting on Monday night to discuss options for senior students.

Many parents say their children are performing well at Moerewa School despite the results of the NZQA audit. They say in most cases, the students missed out by only one or two numeracy credits, which could easily be remedied with support.

Principal Keri Milne-Ihimaera says the community is determined to keep the classes together and find a way to continue educating the pupils in the town - even if it is not at the school.