'Unsafe' kura silent on abuse allegation

FLORENCE KERR
Last updated 23:44 13/06/2014

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Allegations of child abuse are being investigated at a school that had previously been labelled as "unsafe".

It is alleged that a staff member at Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Ara Rima physically abused a young child at the school earlier this year.

The Waikato Times understands the incident involved a child being struck on his back then pushed head first onto the ground.

The school's principal, Gloria Takurua, would not comment on the investigation and the head of the school's board, Mahi Newton-King, could not be reached for comment.

Ministry of Education head of sector enablement and support Katrina Casey said the ministry was aware of the allegation against a staff member and that the principal was working directly with the teacher.

"The teacher accused of mistreating a child . . . was stood down by the kura for one week and advised to seek external support from NZEI. The teacher has since returned to the school, and is working with the principal on the issues raised by the child's whanau."

Casey said Takurua had also sought advice from the New Zealand Teachers' Council and the New Zealand Schools Trustees Association.

"We are confident the principal and the board are putting more focus on student safety and the principal has taken a number of steps to strengthen the kura's approach in this regard."

Casey said the family of the pupil involved had met with the education ministry and the principal and was working with the head of the board of trustees and the limited statutory manager (LSM).

LSM David Goldsmith was appointed to the school last year, before the issue was raised, to advise on employment matters and board systems and processes.

Teachers' Council head Peter Lind said the school had informed it of the investigation.

"The Teachers' Council have provided preliminary advice to the tumuaki [principal]," he said.

In 2010 an Education Review Office report highlighted major cracks in the school's management system, which had created a "negative, unsafe and unsettling atmosphere in the kura".

The report also criticised the principal at the time and the board of trustees for their "ineffective" ability to lead and manage.

An LSM is placed in a school at the direction of the Minister of Education because there are risks to the operation of the school or the welfare or educational performance of the students. Some of the board's responsibilities are temporarily removed from the board and are vested solely in the LSM.

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