Waitaki Boys found to be at 'point of crisis'

POINTS OF CONCERN: Waitaki Boys' High is at a point of crisis, according to an independent report.
POINTS OF CONCERN: Waitaki Boys' High is at a point of crisis, according to an independent report.

An independent report has found Waitaki Boys' High School (WBHS) to be at a ''point of crisis'', a conclusion rejected by the school's board of trustees.

An edited report, compiled by educational consultant Cleave Hay, was released by the board on Friday as well as what steps are required to rectify the issues raised.

Read the full report here

Names of individuals and staff spoken to as part of the report were removed on legal grounds.

In his report, Hay was critical of the school's board.

''In my opinion WBHS is certainly at point of crisis and needs immediate and comprehensive commitment to rectifying a number of significant risks.

''The board of trustees ... must take the leadership role of alleviating the serious concerns contained in this report. If these are left unattended there is a very high likelihood of seriously negative affects in student achievement, student welfare, staff welfare, staff turnover, plus health and safety complaints and personal grievances. The school's reputation and roll numbers are also seriously at risk.''

WBHS board of trustees chairman Garry McLeod said the board was focused on the future.

''Although the board took issue with some aspects of the report, all of the report's recommendations were accepted without amendment and we have since been focusing on how we can move things forward.''

While not convinced the report painted a true picture of the school, McLeod said the board was taking Hay's nine recommendations ''very seriously'' and is ''acting on them accordingly''.

The board will also consider other recommendations to come from the Education Review Office, which was due to start a scheduled review of the school on Monday.

In June, Hay was asked to investigate if there was a culture of bullying at the school, issues around high staff turnover, whether staff felt unsupported, whether accurate information had been given on scholarship and boarding funding and whether criticism of relationships with other schools were valid.

Several other issues were brought to Hay's attention during his four-day visit to Oamaru in June, when he conducted 28 interviews with current and ex-staff, parents and community members.

They included a lack of confidence in the school's student management system, a feeling that the school's board was ''not trustworthy'' and ''in the rector's pocket'', the state of the school's buildings and grounds, a growing drugs culture and concern for the school's reputation and inclusiveness.

The nine recommendations for the board were to investigate all reported matters, conduct reviews of all school-based systems, employment processes, staff welfare, student welfare, conduct exit interviews with staff who have left in the past 12 months, a full review of governance practices and the performance of the board and complete and satisfactory processing of all formal complaints.

One recommendation was edited from the report.   

McLeod said that despite issues raised, the school's results had improved and it was still one of the highest achieving boys' schools in the country.

''The issues raised should not overshadow the fact student achievement at the school is at a high level and improving. Although this does not in any way diminish the seriousness of the issues that have been raised by the school community ... it's something the school and its boys should be very proud of.''  

The Timaru Herald