By: Stephanie Arthur-Worsop

Te Rangihakahaka Centre for Science and Technology will be run by Te Taumata o Ngati Whakaue Iho-Ake Trust, the educational arm of Ngati Whakaue and will be the first of its kind in the city.

It will be open to Years 1 to 10 and cover the full New Zealand curriculum but with a focus on science and technology, teaching literacy and other learning areas through science topics defined in Maori terms such as whakapapa (genetics) and ahuwhenua (agriculture).

The move has been received positively by many, but some educators are questioning why a new school is being set up, rather than putting the extra resources into existing schools.

The announcement was made yesterday at Tunohopu Marae in Ohinemutu, along with the announcement of a new boys’ boarding school in Taupo.

Te Rangihakahaka Centre for Science and Technology will be “trilingual” in English, Maori and computer coding.

Trust general manager Roana Bennett said the school would have an “open door” to anyone who wanted to study there, not just Ngati Whakaue.

There will be no fees, and the school will negotiate increasing its roll if more than 200 students want to attend.

The trust is looking at three property options in Rotorua, including building new facilities and leasing existing ones.

“If we build, we’ll have an interim facility while the build goes on,” Ms Bennett said.

The school aims to have 80 per cent qualified teachers, with the remainder being “specialists”.

She said the goal was to successfully integrate the students into mainstream education after Year 10.

“We think that by the time they reach Year 10 they will be well-rounded students who will have a clear idea of what they want to achieve,” Ms Bennett said.

“The style of delivery will be wananga style, with open plan learning spaces where children are placed based on their interests, rather than age group.

“Formal learning time will be between 10am and 4pm but the school will be open from 8am to 8pm. We anticipate the students and their whanau will be so excited about what they are learning they will want to stay and continue with self-directed learning.”

Trust chairwoman Haehaetu Barrett said the new school was not only about teaching science and technology, but giving students an understanding of who they were as Ngati Whakaue.

“We are leading the crusade of positivity for our people … I know as soon as these students transition back to the mainstream sector they are going in strong and as Whakaue.

“Twelve years ago a hui was called to discuss who we are as Ngati Whakaue. It was around education, integrity and leadership … We wanted our own kura (school), we wanted our babies, our kids and our families to understand science, technology, engineering and mathematics, but also who we are.

“That vision is realised today.”

New schools are announced at a meeting. Photo / Stephen Parker

Rotorua MP Todd McClay said parents and students would have more choice for schooling options next year.

“This is a vote of confidence in Rotorua as we continue to grow. These schools will help drive education outcomes for local students and will mean that we keep pace with a growing population.”

Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell supported the introduction of two more kura hourua (charter schools) in Waiariki.

“Combining kaupapa Maori aspirations with a STEM [science, technology, engineering, mathematics] curriculum base is an innovative approach and any kaupapa that encourages our tamariki to achieve better results is a positive for all New Zealanders.”

Rotorua Boys’ High School principal Chris Grinter thought the proposal was exciting.

“As a high school also promoting and gaining improving results from students taking STEM subjects we will welcome young men from this kura with a stronger background in those subjects.”

But he said the impact on school rolls and learning outcomes for students would need to be carefully monitored.

“Certainly our little city is now offering a great many schooling options for families and whanau, given also the changes released regarding Chapman College, and so our school environment is becoming increasingly complex, and schools as well as families and whanau will need to take care with choices and pathways.”

John Paul College principal Patrick Walsh said it seemed odd the Government was putting money into setting up a new school when existing schools were doing great work with Maori students.

“Why not give that extra resourcing to existing schools?”

Post Primary Teachers Association Bay of Plenty regional chairwoman Alex Le Long said the news was frustrating.

“Opening charter schools is not going to raise the achievement of our children. It’s not going to close any gaps. It’s not going to level any playing fields. The only thing charter schools do successfully is reward mediocrity by using scarce education money to prop up private owners.”

Ms Le Long said she “totally gets what Ngati Whakaue want to achieve” but disagreed with it being a charter school.

“I hope for the sake of Ngati Whakaue it works. I hope they are the exception to the rule because they deserve to have that success, but we need that support in our existing schools – this will only pull from the limited resources of our schools.”

NZEI Te Riu Roa also expressed concern about the announcement, saying charter schools did nothing to help the majority of Maori students learn, and could work to fragment and weaken the public school system.

Laures Park, NZEI Te Riu Roa Matua Takawaenga, said it was cynical to couch charter schools as an educational solution for Maori.

“I have no doubt that the people in the organisations behind these schools have nothing but the best intentions for the welfare and future of their tamariki.

“But the fact is, more than 85 per cent of Maori tamariki go to mainstream public schools. It’s a cop out for the Government to present charter schools as a solution for Maori, while failing to adequately resource the schools that the vast majority of Maori attend.”

Source: Rotorua Daily Post

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