James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Sponsors get new school off to good start

Free kit and stationery takes pressure off parents of Tarawera High School students.

Kawerau in the Bay of Plenty. Photo / Alan Gibson
Kawerau in the Bay of Plenty. Photo / Alan Gibson

A new Kawerau school is kitting out its near-500 roll with free uniforms and stationery when it opens its doors for the first time next year.

Tarawera High School is providing its Year 7 to Year 13 students with new school uniforms, books and pens when the school opens in February.

The school replaces Kawerau Intermediate and Kawerau College, which were merged as a result of a Ministry of Education directive.

Tarawera High School principal Helen Tuhoro said the school had secured sponsorship from within Kawerau and other benefactors around New Zealand for it to provide clothing and stationery for its students.

Mrs Tuhoro hoped the gesture would help ease the financial burden on families affected by the loss of dozens of jobs at the Tasman pulp and paper mill in Kawerau.

She would not reveal the financial amount donated but said the full cost of a junior's clothing was about $175.

"It was a huge ask to expect parents for the students to come into the new school and to say to them "it's a new school, we are going to have a new uniform and you have to fork out for it".

"It's about making that transition and giving that quality education to those kids without making it a hardship and ensuring for them the ability to be present in our school, to look smart and a big thing is to have pride in their appearance and hence pride in our school and bringing pride back into our town."

Junior students have already been fitted and a week before school starts will be able to collect their uniforms, which include two polo shirts, a pair of shorts, a polar fleece, two pairs of socks and a cap as well as a physical education uniform. Senior students will receive a voucher enabling them to go to a Whakatane store to collect their uniforms.

Mrs Tuhoro said the community had responded positively to the new school after initial apprehensions of younger children going to school with older students. She agreed the decision to close both the town's college and intermediate was a controversial one but many parents had got on board to help.

"We have transport issues so we have got members of the community who will be supplying vans and being at school that week to take kids to Whakatane to get their uniforms and the truancy officer has offered her services to drive kids.

"It means a lot for the community and I think from my point of view if we can make one thing easier for families then education is not such a hard thing to achieve."

The school is also looking to supplement an existing breakfast programme in place at Kawerau College.

"There are some fantastic kids at that school, top sportspeople, top musicians, dancers, kapa haka performers and we only hear about the negatives," she said. "All they want is a chance and it's my job to give them a fresh start."

- NZ Herald

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