Academy option offers school new opportunity
The playground could become a parade ground if a military focused academy at Ngaruawahia High School gets support from the community.
The school board and community are searching for solutions to its declining roll and poor student achievement and former All Black captain Wayne Shelford said an academy would be a good fit.
The school board called a community meeting attended by 50 parents, grandparents and their children and heard how the programme would teach students "command, discipline and leadership".
"We think there are schools out their wanting it and I know from Lex Hamil [Ministry appointed limited statutory manager], he said it was the type of programme we probably need here."
Shelford is involved in the programme and said it was in 28 schools around the country, was for students who were serious about education and a career in the armed forces. It was not intended as a last option for "ratbags".
"It's just another avenue, it's another job," he said. "It's working in line with everything else that goes on in this school. It's the tautoko [support]. It's another dynamic of learning and the stuff they learn with us helps them learn in other classes."
Drills start before school and pupils were expected to attend all of their classes and acting principal Chris Jarnet said it was "a brilliant idea".
"I went to Tipene [St Stephen's School] where we had cadets and it was compulsory. It gave you a lot of self-worth, it gave you a focus."
In 2012, the school asked for help from the ministry and a review of high truancy and low achievement and an annual overspend of $40,000.
Hamil told the meeting the school was virtually bankrupt when he took over and was in a "gloom and doom situation".
A third of the teaching staff was cleared out, budgets were slashed to bring spending under control.
Jarnet said the report was the catalyst for huge change but would take time for the school to show the results.
"We are building the plane as we fly it. We've got wings in the air but there are no seat belts, one motor is built and the other one we are building."
They planned a modern learning environment with open-plan classrooms, wi-fi access beyond the school gate and a clawback of some of the 75 per cent of the town's children who caught a bus out of town every morning. "We've got to continue getting academic results, we've got to continue offering programmes that are interesting, we've got to have staff that are motivated and want to be at this place."