School advocates push on with plan

Supporters of Golden Bay's emerging Democratic School are forging ahead with plans to set up a new educational centre.

About 50 people met on Saturday to discuss the best way forward for their educational centre.

After having their initial application declined earlier this year, the Kahurangi Educational Trust asked the Ministry of Education to support them to work within existing Golden Bay school systems. The ministry declined.

"We know where we stand now. The ministry are not going to help us. It's down to us as parents," said Pew Singh, chairman of the Kahurangi Educational Trust.

Mr Singh said they had two options - to create an independent, private school, or to get onto school boards.

There was widespread support from parents to set up an independent school. Some favoured setting up a Democratic School stream within an existing school, as a step toward that goal.

Tasman District councillor Martine Bouillir said she was in favour of the school.

"I'm really open about the possibilities - I can see several options that could come out of the current impetus calling for more choice in how our children learn. It's not just topical in Golden Bay - the whole concept of education nationally and globally is at last undergoing some meaningful evolution."

She said her daughter would benefit from a democratic style of education.

"I fully support the parents who want a "full immersion" democratic school, but my daughter is already part of the high school and we need something now.

"Like many other Bay kids, she's highly creative and tactile and needs much more in the way of theatre, the arts and other practical hands-on experimental learning.

"I would really support the schools we have now bringing more choice in for these students, letting them have a say in the direction they want their education to go. I suspect most kids would thrive in this sort of environment."

Trustee David Dwyer said there were many successful existing independent school models around the world. "It has been done before, we're not setting a precedent."

He said one bonus of setting up a private school was that after the first year the ministry would fund 25 per cent of the running costs.

He was optimistic about sourcing funding, resources and support to establish the new school.