Students, staff farewell classes

Last updated 05:00 10/12/2013
Civic Milford
LIFETIME OF LEARNING: Takapuna’s Rosemary Murdoch will miss Rangitoto College’s community education programme.

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The scrapping of community education is the end of an era, one student says.

Rosemary Murdoch went to her first course, Spanish, in the early 1960s and has since studied small boat safety, computing, digital photography, Mandarin and singing.

"I must be addicted," she says.

Dr Murdoch, a retired GP, has been learning Mandarin at Rangitoto College for eight years.

But both Rangitoto College and Northcote College are cutting their community education programmes at the end of this year.

Dr Murdoch says community education has made her a more interesting and valuable person and she will miss it very much.

The classes helped her understand Mandarin-speaking patients when she worked as a doctor.

Rangitoto College principal David Hodge says the community education programme was running at a loss.

"We had to fund it out of locally raised funds that needed to be allocated to our secondary school students. We couldn't morally continue to do that."

Government funding for community education was slashed by 80 per cent in the 2009 Budget.

The Rangitoto College Board of Trustees tried everything it could to keep the programme going, Mr Hodge says.

Northcote College made its decision in July this year.

Principal Vicki Barrie says when the Government funding was cut the Board of Trustees teamed up with the Birkenhead Licensing Trust to try to make community education financially sustainable.

"Despite our best efforts . . . we haven't managed to do that without it being a drain on the school's resources."

Ms Barrie has been a community education tutor and student herself and says she is very sad to see it go.

"It keeps communities together and that's why we wanted to keep it going."

Community education administrator Liz Godfrey says before the funding was cut Northcote College used to get 2500 to 3000 enrolments every year.

Those numbers have since halved.

The only school on the North Shore still running community education is Glenfield College.

The school receives Tertiary Education Commission funding to run English language classes for people who qualify and courses for target groups such as local Maori and Pacific Islanders.

Principal Ted Benton says he can understand why the other schools are dropping community education.

"If we didn't have that side of the programme we'd probably be having a long, hard look at it. That's the reality."

The rest of the Glenfield College's classes are self-funding.

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Mr Benton says it has become much more difficult, but they still break even.

"As long as they're cost neutral, if there's a demand in the community and we are able to meet that demand, we see that as an education facility, it's part of our role."

Long Bay College, Birkenhead College, Takapuna Grammar School and Westlake Boys High School dropped their community education programmes when the funding was cut in 2010.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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