Hekia has encountered some risky behaviours, too, but is giving troubled charter school another chance

Mrs Grumble shied off doing some online checking into the charter school that has been told to pull up its socks.

She had been keen to find out something more about the Northland school that has been told it is failing and has already cost taxpayers about $1.5 million – a number that (according to Stuff’s education sector sources) could double.

This bothers Alf and the missus because this is money that might well be spent on something dear to we Nats, such as Team NZ.

So what’s the school got to say for itself?

When a Google search to the school website was undertaken, our anti-virus software sounded a warning:


Are you sure you want to go there?

http://tkhkwhangaruru.ac.nz/ may be risky to visit.

Why were you redirected to this page?

  • When we visited this site, we found it exhibited one or more risky behaviors.


Risky behaviours?

What possibly could this mean?

Mrs Grumble took the advice but did check out the cache.

She learned that Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru is sponsored by an outfit called the Ngā Parirau Mātauranga Trust, and it claims to bring together the education and business sectors with the whānau, hapū, iwi and community

…to provide new opportunities for our young people in achieving educational success. The acknowledgement of culture, language and identity are an intrinsic part of the values, practical education and life skills taught as part of the academic subjects within our curriculum.

The school operates on a farm 65km northwest of Whangarei and was one of five chosen after a lengthy selection process to prove privately-run, publicly-funded schools can work in New Zealand.

Alf recalls Hekia Parata announcing the school would be one of the first five back in 2013.

Her media statement then said:

Te Kura Hourua o Whangarei Terenga Paraoa sponsored by He Puna Marama Charitable Trust.  It will be a co-educational secondary school for years 7-13 located in Whangarei.  The school intends to raise the achievement of Māori students by reconnecting them with an ethos of leadership and pride.

But Alf is not talking out of school when he says Parata approved Whangaruru as a charter school despite Ministry of Education concerns it  had not outlined a “safe environment” for students.

It didn’t take long for us to learn something had gone wrong with its formula for reconnecting the students with an ethos of leadership and pride.

In September last year TV One news reported the school had been plagued with problems from the start.

Documents released by the Ministry of Education to ONE News show one of the country’s first charter schools was plagued with problems from the start.

Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru, north of Whangarei, has lost three staff members and more than 16 percent of its student role since opening in February.

Emails between the school principal Natasha Sadler, her staff and the Ministry show the school’s been struggling to keep up because of a raft of problems.

The emails raise concern over children arriving at school high on drugs, reports of stealing, bullying, racism, vandalism of school property and gang associations.

A subsequent news report  said the flagship charter school had lost nearly a quarter of its students and was still battling problems as it neared the end of its first year.

Problems at Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru come as new charter or “partnership” schools prepare to open.

The Ministry of Education has extended a review of the Northland school and put it on notice, saying it expects issues to be resolved “in a very timely manner”.

The school’s roll had dropped to 47 or so by then , well below its guaranteed minimum roll of 71 and the 61 students who started the year.

Hekia is a generous soul, however, and was reluctant to have the school expelled from the charter school experiment (Alf is bound to say he would have been less tolerant of failure). She said:

“There are contractual provisions that bind the school and the ministry and they’re acting in accordance with those provisions. Whangaruru knows it needs to do better.”

Dear old Hekia is still calling for the school to do better.

She met the trust that operates the school the other day and issued it with a performance notice instructing it to take “immediate action to address areas of serious concern at the school”.

According to this Stuff report: 

The warning comes after the Education Review Office found the school “would not be able to operate effectively without further substantial support”.

In September, the office provided Parata with a readiness review that was highly critical of the school.

The trust then put together a remedial plan, but little progress has been made.

Parata has now given it a final chance to fix matters. “This sets out exactly what the performance failures are and what must be done to address them.”

A specialist audit will be done in a month to assess progress. Alf will be fascinated to hear what it finds.

But he is mindful that indigenous persons are involved in this tale of a school on the skids, and indigenous persons can expect special treatment.

Obviously they are getting it.


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