Rufer pushes for football-playing charter school

JODY O'CALLAGHAN
Last updated 05:00 03/02/2013
rufer
Wynton Rufer

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New Zealand's greatest footballer wants to set up one of the country's new charter schools.

Oceania Footballer of the Century and devout, born-again Christian Wynton Rufer predicts he will be "adding a bit to the controversy" of the schools being hotly debated in the education sector.

Details of "partnership" schools will not be formalised until the Education Amendment Bill 2012 is passed, but a working group has collected expressions of interest from potential founders of the non-state schools.

Wellington-born and raised Rufer is in talks with a Christian middle school trust to create a school of "excellence", specialising in football.

The intended location of Rufer's school is South Auckland, but the Villa Education Trust - which designed Auckland's Mt Hobson Middle School and Upper Valley Middle School - also intends to open charter schools in West Auckland and Whanganui.

The trust is open to ideas for what the other two schools could specialise in.

Rufer said he had been looking for ways of extending the opportunities offered at his WYNRS football academy in Auckland, to more children than the present 3000.

He jumped at the chance to combine talents with Mt Hobson Middle School and Villa Education Trust founder Alwyn Poole, and his wife, Karen.

They ran an "outstanding" school already, which gave his own youngest son an education that no state school could offer, he said.

"And from my side of it with sport and football, we're the leading football academy in New Zealand.

"If tied in with school, kids can train during the day as part of the school programmes like in Germany, Switzerland and America." It would be a big advantage, since "sometimes they're quite tired after school".

Preliminary indications had been fairly positive, but "like with anything, there is a lot of politics".

"To set up anything, it's so political it's pathetic.

"I'm controversial as it is myself and have enough dramas running my own programme."

While he understood the fears of allowing unregistered teachers to teach, their model would only "deliver excellence".

"I'm not going to hold my breath on it, but I know we'll do a brilliant job."

Poole said he wanted to work with Rufer to offer "the opportunity for some superb sports provisions" and good academic support to those struggling in the present system.

"Something else to give these kids something to live for. I think the football would be an interesting start." After working in classes of no more than 15, pupils in year 7 and 8 could spend a couple of hours three afternoons a week in football training, increasing in frequency for those showing potential by year 9 and 10, he said.

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The restriction on charging fees would open the roll to children from lower socio-economic families, where there was a potential to find some real football stars, he said.

While there was a "lot of nonsense" being spoken about charter schools, schools such as that of tennis pro Andre Agassi, in America, had proved successful, Rufer said.

"A lot of the controversy to me is about patch protection from unions." He believed in strong accountability, despite charter schools not having to answer to probing under the Official Information Act.

"I would be very, very uncomfortable with being secretive because it is taxpayers' money. And we want people to see what we're achieving, and if we're not achieving then we shouldn't be in business."

A select committee will report back to Parliament on the legal requirements of the school model by April 18.

- Sunday Star Times

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