By: Simon Collins

Vanguard Military Academy is expanding to become a full Years 9 to 13 high school and has proposed it would like to move to the Hato Petera College site in Northcote. Photo / File

Prominent doctor Lance O’Sullivan wants to shift the Vanguard military school on to the vacant Hato Petera College site in Northcote, and wants his own Moko Foundation to reopen a hostel there for Māori boys.

O’Sullivan, a former Hato Petera student, has produced videos telling the stories of four Vanguard students in an effort to stop Parliament passing a bill to abolish charter schools such as the military academy.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins gave approval in May for Vanguard to become a designated character state school from next year and to expand from its existing 192 students in Years 11 to 13 to a full secondary school with up to 312 students across Years 9 to 13.

“The new school will initially be located at the site of the current school, while the Ministry works with the Establishment Board of Trustees to locate a permanent site,” he said then.

O’Sullivan said he told Hipkins about his proposal to bring Vanguard on to the Hato Petera site just before Hipkins announced Hato Petera’s closure on August 31.

A spokesman for Hipkins confirmed that O’Sullivan outlined the plan at a Hawke’s Bay principals’ conference at Wairakei on August 30, but said the minister was “non-committal” about it.

O’Sullivan had already proposed that the Hato Petera site should be used for a hostel for Māori students attending other schools in the area, on the model of Auckland Grammar School’s InZone hostel in Epsom.

“I have a proposal to look at a Hato Petera Leadership Academy, where Moko Foundation could take over and run [a hostel] and send them to a school at the same site that has a proven track record of delivering for Māori students,” he said today.

“It’s a proposal. It [Moko Foundation] has a number of Hato Petera old boys in governance and operational-level positions, so it’s a nice fit, because the Moko Foundation has a focus on education.

“We would see a value in bringing Māori students from out of town to have a hostel accommodated at that site.”

Separately, he said, the foundation was looking at the charter school model.

“We thought there was a real opportunity here for a school like Vanguard, currently housed in a warehouse on the North Shore, to perhaps find if there is an alignment to what I was wanting to achieve at Hato Petera,” he said.

“I have always talked about having a hostel that was separate from the school, separating out the living and learning environments.

“That is the conversation we are having at the moment with Vanguard’s chief executive and their board of trustees. I’m very excited we are on that journey.”

O’Sullivan discussed his plans today with representatives of Ngāti Paoa, the original owners of the Northcote site, and said they were “very supportive of this proposal”.

However he said he had not yet discussed it with either the Catholic Church, which now owns the site, or the Ministry of Education, which is looking for a new site for Vanguard.

“I do intend to meet with them.” he said.

Vanguard chief executive Nick Hyde said he was “very thankful” to O’Sullivan for his support.

“We will be looking to expand and help more children in the near future and his idea makes a lot of sense and is one we would support,” he said.

“However it is not Vanguard’s decision to make, as we will be a state school next year. Any decision made will be between the ministry and the Church.”

O’Sullivan said he envisaged starting the hostel with perhaps 20 boys, possibly in a former Hato Petera building in Akoranga Drive that now houses AUT students.

He envisaged catering only for boys, even though Vanguard is co-educational and the Hato Petera hostel took in both boys and girls in recent years.

“That’s been a model that has been problematic,” he said. “I do think a return to a boys’ hostel is a preferred approach.”

He did not feel that Vanguard’s military emphasis was too narrow.

“Hato Petera does have quite a military background. There was quite a lot of military training associated with that historic part of Hato Petera,” he said.

He denied persistent speculation that he was promoting charter schools as part of a bid to become leader of the Māori Party, whose co-leaders Te Ururoa Flavell and Marama Fox have both resigned in the past month.

“Am I going to put my hat in the ring for leadership? No,” he said.

“Do I support the Māori Party? Yes, I do, and I will support them in any way I can.”

Source: NZ Herald

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