James Ihaka

James Ihaka is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Kawerau school to fight closure plan

Kawerau Intermediate Principal Daryl Aim says the Ministry of Education 'doesn't give a stuff' about children in the town. Photo / Alan Gibson
Kawerau Intermediate Principal Daryl Aim says the Ministry of Education 'doesn't give a stuff' about children in the town. Photo / Alan Gibson

Ask any of the kids at Kawerau Intermediate what they think of the proposed closure of their school and most will give you the same answer.

"I think it's rats***," says a young girl, who gives her first name as Riki.

The decile 1b school has a roll of 150 students, 95 per cent of whom are Maori, and boasts Health Minister Tony Ryall, lawyer Annette Sykes and New Zealand's Next Top Model winner Danielle Hayes as former pupils.

The small Eastern Bay of Plenty town has also been told that its three primary schools are likely to merge into one under Ministry of Education plans to streamline schooling there.

But Riki, 12, told the Herald the changes, which could see her school merged with Kawerau College, were "scary".

"There are bullies and gangs and heaps more kids that are older than us," she said.

Riki is among at least 300 people who will cram on to seven buses today, leaving Kawerau for Wellington.

Tomorrow, the group will go to Parliament to protest against plans to close the school.

Education Minister Anne Tolley said Kawerau schools had experienced some of the most rapid roll declines in the country, with the six schools losing about 60 students every year.

Her preferred option is to reorganise the schools in Kawerau, closing two of its primary schools and Kawerau Intermediate.

The intermediate school's principal, Daryl Aim, said the town had overwhelmingly chosen an option - provided by the ministry - to retain the intermediate and college as separate entities. They have until June 1 to convince the ministry.

Mr Aim said a petition of 70 per cent of adult residents in Kawerau also supported retaining the intermediate.

"I honestly think the ministry does not give a stuff about children in Kawerau," he said.

But Kawerau College principal Steve Lewis said a long-term view about quality education needed to be taken.

He said reorganising the two primary schools and the college would strengthen education in Kawerau.

Mr Lewis said the numbers in all phases of schooling would be squeezed eventually.

"The question becomes what structure will be best equipped to meet the needs of our children and grandchildren in 2030 and beyond. Holding on to how things are today will not provide this."

Ms Tolley did not respond to Herald questions but in a statement said there was community support for establishing a Maori immersion wharekura for Years 1-13.

She said any changes to Kawerau schools would be implemented from term one 2012.

- NZ Herald

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