By: Danica MacLean

Junior students welcome Prime Minister Bill English with a rousing haka. Photo/John Stone

Yesterday Prime Minister Bill English told students at Whangarei Boys’ High School more than $50 million would be invested in a major upgrade of their school.

Staff and students will be involved in the planning of one the country’s largest school redevelopments.

But the money for the project is not yet in the bag, with the redevelopment likely to be funded as a Public Private Partnership (PPP).

“You deserve the best facilities, the same as every other kid in New Zealand, so we’re going to spend $50 million doing up Whangarei Boys College (sic),” Mr English said.

Minister of Education Nikki Kaye said the school’s haka as part of the welcome was one of the best she had seen in her role.

“This project has been two years of hard slog by the school. I think you’re going to be the third largest (school) redevelopment in New Zealand in terms of the cash.”

She said it was one of the most difficult sites, with flooding issues, leaky buildings, earthquake strengthening and the slope of the land.

Under a PPP arrangement, a private funder is responsible for the building and maintenance over a long period of time and the Government makes a regular payment to it.

Mr English said doing it this way allowed the Government to get more done sooner, and freed the school up to focus on the achievement of the students.

Ms Kaye said it saved money, while enabling the Government to deliver more redevelopments.

Whangarei Boys’ High School principal Karen Gilbert-Smith said the students deserved to learn in classrooms “that are inspirational, innovative and exciting spaces that are fit for purpose for today’s students and not those of 60 years ago.

“We have the opportunity now to transform our school so that we can deliver a curriculum that is future-focused and designed for purpose.”

She said there are few milestones in a school’s history but it was fair to say yesterday’s announcement was “monumental”.

She credited the staff and students for being able to improve student results despite challenging outcomes and said the new facilities would allow the school to deliver the highest quality education.

Mrs Gilbert-Smith said the next step was to begin negotiations about what the redevelopment would physically look like. Staff and students would be involved in the consultation.

The school’s board chairman, Tim Robinson, said the board was told a month ago that a decision had been made but not what it was. He said the board was confident it was going to get what it had been discussing with the ministry along the way, but the $50 million figure was only confirmed to the board on Thursday.

Mr Robinson said the board first started looking at what upgrades needed to be done four and half years ago, and the ministry’s team of architects and engineers had been involved for the past two.

He said it was great result not just for Whangarei but for Northland as the school offers the region’s only boarding hostel for boys.

The school has a roll of 1102. It has hovered around the 1150 mark for the past few years. The redevelopment is expected to commence in 2019 and be complete by 2022.

Source: Northern Advocate



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