Caution over super-school proposal

KAROLINE TUCKEY
Last updated 11:28 22/05/2014

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Manawatu College has asked to be included if a review of education in Horowhenua goes ahead, but is happy to not be part of talks about a possible Levin super-school.

The school's principal and Board of Trustees chair are among signatories who have lent their support to a letter from Mayor Brendan Duffy to the Ministry of Education proposing a ''community discussion'' on ''the future of education delivery in Horowhenua''.

Duffy has previously declined to discuss the existence of the letter or whether he has been involved in talks about combining Waiopehu College and Horowhenua College.

Manawatu College acting principal Waynne Napier said after being formally approached the board had decided to take part in the discussions, however felt the possibility of a Levin super school was outside their immediate concern, and chose not to become involved in that aspect.

The discussions at the school had taken place ''in committee'', so their reasons for backing a community review of education in Horowhenua could not be discussed, he said.

''Personally, I am aware of informal discussions that have taken place about the concept of setting up a single, large secondary school in Levin in part to address concerns in relation to local parents sending their children to schools outside the district.

"Manawatu College doesn't necessarily share these concerns because, although we are always developing initiatives to improve the quality of educational delivery, we are currently comfortable with the personal character of the broad-based education provided at Manawatu College and we retain the majority of potential students from our catchment area while attracting our share of students from outside the district.

''Meanwhile Waiopehu College principal Barry Petherick has questioned Duffy's grounds for requesting the review. Waiopehu College is named on the letter to the ministry from Duffy as not supporting the request. 

"The actual NCEA results for the three schools show they are all performing very well, above their decile ratings,'' Petherick said.

He expressed scepticism that there were disproportionate numbers of parents sending their children to schools outside the area because of perceptions that education in Levin was not satisfactory - the concerns said to have prompted the discussions.

Horowhenua schools and teachers were already working hard and accountable to a number of entities he said, including their own board, the education officer, principals, parents,  students, and the ministry.

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''I think another layer of scrutiny from local government is not going to be welcomed with open arms at all. ''I think they would have expected the support of the mayor in defending what is the very high performance of the schools in this area.''

Duffy has declined to discuss his reasons for approaching the Ministry about discussions on the future of education in Horowhenua, and has said he is not aware of any data that indicates how many Horowhenua children are being sent outside the district for school.

- Horowhenua Mail

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