12 Aug 2014

Ministry may sort out 'crisis' school

10:06 pm on 12 August 2014

The Ministry of Education is putting the board of a troubled South Island high school on notice to fix a toxic culture, or it will take control in two months' time.

An independent report into Waitaki Boys' High School in Oamaru says the college is at a crisis point.

Waitaki Boys' High School.

Waitaki Boys' High School. Photo: Waitaki Boys' High School website

The report by education consultant Cleave Hay points to a culture of bullying at the school of about 500 students and says there has been a significant rise in students behaving badly.

It says many teachers at Waitaki Boys' feel undervalued and unsupported, and there is significant staff turnover and division among teaching staff.

Mr Hay makes nine recommendations to the school's board of trustees, including conducting exit interviews for any staff who have left in the past year.

The ministry's Head of Sector Support, Katrina Casey, told Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme on Tuesday the board has one more chance to fix the problems.

"We believe it's serious and we believe that the board has got a long way to go before it can regain the confidence of the community. And it needs that to continue."

She said if improvements aren't seen within two months, the ministry would step in.

"If we see that the board is still talking about the report and not taking concrete action to improve the environment in the school in a couple of months, then yes, certainly we would be concerned about that. We would expect to be seeing signs of change by the end of September, and we would not expect to be receiving new complaints."

Ms Casey said the increasing number of children getting stood down is concerning. She said 16 students have been stood down, and eight suspended for continual bad behaviour in March alone.

Board of Trustees chairperson Garry McLeod said on Tuesday the school is working through the issues.

The Education Review Office is currently visiting Waitaki Boys' for routine review.