Merging schools worth it - Taihape

GERMARI HERSELMAN
Last updated 05:00 16/07/2014

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The Marlborough colleges won't be able to please everyone with the consultation process on the future of secondary education in Blenheim, but the focus should be on what is best for the students, says a North Island school past principal.

Taihape Area School in the central North Island went through a similar consultation process to the one Marlborough Girls' and Boys' colleges are going through. 

The school was formed in 2009 by merging Taihape's primary and secondary schools after consultation between the Ministry of Education and the community.

Taihape Area School past principal Boyce Davey said the process was tough and he would not easily do it again, but it was worth it for the students.

The new co-educational, decile four school for years 1 to 14, was described as one of the most technologically advanced schools built in New Zealand, he said.

The consultation process and planning left the town divided because the new school was built on a site in town instead of the preferred old college site.

"All that pulled Taihape through was that everyone put their agendas aside and focused on what the best result was we could get for the children," he said.

The Express contacted Taihape Area School after receiving a letter from Marlborough Boys' College teacher Dan Searle stating that Taihape Area School was promised modern learning environments, but the shortage of money meant the school had to find other ways to equip their classrooms.

Davey said the school didn't have enough money from the start of the project, but focused on what they needed to do to make their $26 million budget stretch for a new school.

"$52 million for a new school for 2000 students won't be enough for everything Blenheim might want, but it is a lot of money and by sacrificing sports fields, and rather negotiating with sports clubs for example, the schools could stretch the budget," he said.

His advice was for everyone to get involved from the start and to focus on getting every student into a job or into tertiary education when leaving school.

Taihape Area School principal Richard McMillan joined the school in 2010 soon after it opened.

Taihape had two issues to contend with: the site where the new school would be built and the fear that came with merging two schools. It completely divided the town and a division could still be felt today, he said.

His advice was to have open dialogue before any decisions were made with a focus on transparency.

"You will not be able to please everyone, but it is important that they are still part of the decision as there is no going back once a decision has been made and the school built."

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The reason for combining their primary and secondary schools was budget-based because of a decline in student numbers, McMillan said.

- The Marlborough Express

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