Let’s be straight up; schooling in Kawerau needs to be reorganised. While I think Anne Tolley ignored a section of the community and that is undesirable, I think she came to the right decision. The current schooling arrangements in Kawerau are unsustainable. The numbers don’t exist to justify four separate primary schools (one of which is a full primary school i.e. years 1-8), one intermediate and one high school. Basically, supply outstrips demand. The costs of maintaining six schools with massively declining rolls are unacceptable.
Tolley has approved the establishment of a dual campus year 7-14 school on the Kawerau College site. The school will be split along the junior/senior high model, meaning there will be one years 7 to 10 school and another catering for years 11 to 13/14. Some specialist facilities will be shared, for example science labs.
Some members of the community are disappointed with the lack of consultation. I don’t accept this; the consultation was more than adequate. The community was given adequate time to submit to the Minister and convey their concerns to the Ministry of Education. Several hui were held for the entire community and each school held their own individual hui to determine what model they would support. Kawerau South, Kawerau North, Kawerau Central and Putauaki all supported the closure of the Intermediate. Even though the Mayor, Malcolm Campbell, even says it is time to move on and make education in Kawerau work.
Tolley’s reorganisation will facilitate a culture change in Kawerau schools. The useless management will be rid of and the deadwood on the College and Intermediate boards will be rid of too. Useless staff will not be rehired either. I understand some Kawerau people, as former students, have an emotional connection to the Intermediate. But they need to put that aside and face reality. The schools have to be reorganised and closing the Intermediate is the most sensible option. When the new school comes to life in 2013 the government will spend millions upgrading facilities and attracting high quality staff. This can only be a good thing.
As an aside, Steve Chadwick is taking a gamble. Should, on a slim chance, Labour form the next government Steve will have to make an about face. She has come down on the side of the Intermediate supporters, but if she came into government and saw the official advice I'm of the view that she would change her position and support the reorganisation. The advice from the Ministry is, I believe, emphatic. Schooling must be reorganised and the best model is to shut the Intermediate and partially merge it with the College.