By: Stephanie Arthur-Worsop

Rotorua’s education sector has had mixed reactions to the country’s new Government and what it could mean for controversial projects like charter or partnership schools and National Standards.

Rotorua’s first partnership school, Te Rangihakahaka Centre for Science and Technology, to be run by the educational arm of Ngati Whakaue, was announced in July to much fanfare.

Now, with the prospect of having a new Government opposed to the partnership model, change could be on the horizon before the school even opens.

But Te Taumata o Ngati Whakaue Iho Ake Trust general manager Roana Bennett said it was “highly unlikely” contracts would be reneged.

“We may see a push for no new partnership schools or moves to change the schools to distinctive character schools, but we don’t believe the Government will go back on those contracts already established.

“We wouldn’t welcome a move to change to a distinctive character school, we like our partnership agreement but at this stage we don’t know any more than anyone else.

“It’s not just the Government that doesn’t like partnership schools, there is a really big cohort of New Zealanders who dislike the whole philosophy of privitised education.

“But we are a prime example of how the New Zealand model differs from the American model – it is not being picked up by businesses, it’s community organisations and iwi that have whanau and student needs at the forefront.”

Te Rangihakahaka Centre for Science and Technology is on track to open at the end of January.

National Standards, the way primary-aged children are tested, is another aspect of the sector likely to be reviewed by the new Government.

Western Heights Primary School principal Brent Griffin said in its current state, he would be happy to see National Standards disappear.

“National Standards is a ropey system at best. In a low decile school with high levels of transient children, the system does not match up.

“It shouldn’t be about getting children to a certain benchmark, if our children are making good progress, that’s what we’re after.

“This is a good opportunity for a new system to be put in place that focuses on value-added progress and allows teachers to be more creative and innovative in the classroom.”

Linda Woon, principal at Otonga Rd Primary School, said she was “a lone voice” when it came to National Standards.

“I believe it has a place in the sector, I just think a review is needed to refine and improve the annual reporting of the data.

“Each level is two years long yet the current requirement is annual reporting. A review is needed to make this more natural, more common sense.”

Ms Woon said she would also like to see the new Government focus on special needs education and wages.

“But I don’t want to see any gung-ho decisions – those are rarely beneficial. The Government needs to take its time and not be hassled to do everything in its first 100 days.”

What the students say:

Rotorua Lakes High School Year 13 students Maggie Donovan-Cotter, AJ Jackson and Summer Milner, all 18, had been waiting with bated breath for the new Government to be announced.

“We all voted for the first time so it’s been pretty exciting. It’s the first time I’ve seen people our age so interested and involved in politics,” Maggie said.

“I think now it is as important as ever to vote. It actually upsets me when I see young women not voting, particularly because there are women around the world who aren’t given that opportunity at all.”

The trio said they were pleased with the final outcome.

“I can’t wait until our generation starts to get into positions of power because I think the younger generations are much more environmentally and socially conscious than some of those in older generations,” AJ said.

AJ said it would interesting to see if there was “enough agreement between the three-way coalition”.

Source: Rotorua Daily Post

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