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Ministry of Education rejects zone redraft

PARENTS met for another round of consultation this week at an at-times heated meeting after the Ministry of Education rejected a revised Gisborne Intermediate school zone.

Parents, the Gisborne Intermediate board and Ministry of Education representatives discussed the effect of a proposed zone, particularly on the rural-west communities.

The board redrafted the zone the MoE put forward in September to include the entire rural-west community. In the MoE’s proposal, only half of students in their last year at Makauri and Makaraka schools fall into the Gis Int zone.

The MoE, however, did not approve the changes. Instead it is suggesting parents send their children to Manutuke School, Patutahi School or Te Kura o Te Muriwai, which cater for Year 6 and 8 students.

Parents said this contradicted the MoE’s 1989 Education Act. The act states home zones must be drawn so that every student can attend a reasonably convenient school.

Parents argued that although the three alternate schools were convenient distance-wise, they were not satisfied they were suitable or opportune as per the definition of the word convenient.

They argued that sending their children to a school (Patutahi) that had only 17 students, and only two in Year 7, was not a suitable substitute for a large school like Gis Int to prepare them for high school.

Another concern around suitability came from the ERO reports of the three alternate schools and the strong emphasis on te reo Maori, which they said may not be a good fit for non-Maori children.

Patutahi School’s ERO report says there is work to be done around the governance of the school and health and safety practices.

Muriwai’s report says students are expected to be strong advocates for the Ngai Tamanuhiri iwi. Manutuke’s report shows the school has strong genealogical links to the Rongowhakaata iwi.

'Hard done by but a matter of policy'MoE Hawke’s Bay Tairawhiti director of education Marilyn Scott spoke on behalf of the ministry.

“You may not view them as the type of school to send your children to but they do offer an English medium. The short answer is we are not happy to put an enrolment scheme home zone around three Year 1 to 8 schools that already exist. I do accept you feel hard done by but it is a matter of policy.”

Parents who attended the meeting disputed this statement.

“Tikanga Maori is great, we need that in a community like Gisborne,” said a parent.

“It is not that I do not want that for my child. Exposure is good. But in terms of it being in context for my children’s overall educational needs, I have to do what is right for my family.”

Ms Scott said overcrowding was an unfortunate but serious problem the MoE had to act on.

“We have to operate within the boundaries of what our funding can do and how much money there is for all schools around the country.”

Ms Scott made it clear they would not be moving extra classrooms on to Gis Int when there were spaces at other intermediates.

Rural-west parents said they understood why the zone was being imposed but with the size of rural communities, allowing their children to attend would only add around 10 students a year.

“Rural communities are not growing,” one parent said. “They are static or declining. We are only asking for a small number of children each year.”

Economic repercussionsAnother said if rural-west children could not attend Gis Int, there would be economic repercussions.

“We have had farm managers saying they will leave the district or send their kids to Hawke’s Bay or sell their home to move into the zone.

“That is the last thing this district needs — good parents that want the best for their kids sending them away. We all agree the ministry has to put something in place but this is disrupting families, and that is where emotion comes into it.”

Gis Int’s roll sits at 615 students, 301 of them moving on to high school next year. The MoE has recommended the school reduce its roll to 565, with the number of in-zone enrolments determining the amount of out-of-zone spots.

The home zone must be finalised by November 18, as that is when the out-of-zone enrolment ballot takes place.

The ballot is based on a nationally-implemented priority basis. First priority in Gis Int’s case is not applicable, as the school does not run a special programme approved by the secretary.

However, there are five priority categories to which the school adheres. Second priority will be given to siblings of existing students at the school, third to siblings of former students, fourth to children of previous students, fifth to children of employees or board members, and sixth to all other applicants.

As it stands, anything south of the three rivers, identified as on the Kaiti side of the bridges, is out of the zone.

A Gis Int teacher questioned how the priorities were decided.

“I live 50 metres over the bridge and have worked here for 18 years and you are telling me my child cannot come here?”

Ms Scott said she would sit down and discuss with principal Glen Udall whether a special exemption could be made this year for rural-west students out of the zone, but this would not carry on for students in coming years.

“I can make absolutely no promises,” Ms Scott said.