Māori boarding school's future hangs in the balance

5:56 pm on 12 August 2015

The future of a Māori boarding school in Marton hangs in the balance, with the Education Ministry announcing a consultation process with the board today.

Hekia Parata at Parliament.

Hekia Parata at Parliament. Photo: RNZ / Chris Bramwell

Education Minister Hekia Parata said submissions will be heard during the next four weeks before a decision is made on the future of Turakina Maori Girls College.

The Presbyterian boarding school's roll has fallen to just 54 students and is one of six remaining Māori boarding schools, along with Te Aute in Hawke's Bay, Wesley College in Pukekohe, Hato Paora in Feilding, Hato Petera in Auckland and St Joseph's in Napier.

Turakina Maori Girls College was opened in 1905 to provide a christian and academic education for future Māori mothers and is one of six remaining Maori boarding schools.

Last year the Education Review office recommended intervention to improve the school's governance and leadership, as well as an internal review to boost student achievement. A Ministry-appointed limited statutory manager has been in place since late 2012.

Two other Māori boarding schools closed in the early 2000s - St Stephens Maori boys and Queen Victoria Māori girls in Parnell.

There's been an effort to reopen them since but no decision has been made.

A Ministry-appointed limited statutory manager has been in place at Turakina since late 2012.

But board chair Trish Biddle-Amoroa said the school was blindsided by the news after a meeting with the ministry last week.

"We were hurt. We felt blindsided by what we were being told," she said.

"The meeting was held. We were given documents and read the first line and when we saw the word 'close', that hit home."

Ms Biddle-Amoroa said the school would be meeting on Friday to discuss the school's options.

Ms Parata said she had initiated the consultation with a "heavy heart".

"Turakina has more than 110 years of educating young Māori women and has produced some fine students. However, ongoing financial and governance issues, as well as the declining roll, have created a situation that is potentially detrimental to the education of Turakina's current students."