Education officials warned their minister at least three times that a charter school trust - now accused of bribing kids with takeaways - was not experienced enough to teach Maori children.

Education Minister Hekia Parata went on to grant the Villa Education Trust contracts for two schools, with the second now subject to a ministry investigation following complaints.

Parents and teachers wrote letters saying the Middle School West Auckland, in Henderson, lacked leadership, used food to manage behaviour, and that there was bullying, drugs, and a lack of cultural awareness.

In one case, children were offered fried chicken as a reward, teachers said.


Parents believed the school had resorted to using food as it did not understand their children as Maori or Pasifika. Some regretted enrolling their children in the school.

"We believe it has caused us more harm than good," they said.

A leaked draft readiness review (BELOW) written by the Education Review Office seemed to back up the claims, highlighting at-risk children, leadership, safety and responsiveness to Te Reo as " priority areas to be addressed". That report is yet to be made public.

The school told the ministry yesterday it did not use food as part of any rewards or behaviour programme, saying it had a shared lunch just before the end of term, where pizza was brought in. KFC was never served, it said. It denied allegations of bullying and a suicide attempt.

Middle School West Auckland has 40 Year 7-10 children, who are mainly of Maori descent. Many were previously enrolled at a private school which teaches junior students on the same site.

Documents show ministry officials first raised concerns about Villa Education Trust's knowledge of Maori and Pasifika during its first application in 2013. It was granted permission to open a school in South Auckland.

In its application for a second school in 2014, officials advised again the trust lacked knowledge about the "priority group".

The ministry also had concerns about the trust's lack of connection with the West Auckland community. The ministry said issues were resolved or a plan was in place to address them by the time the contract was signed. Opposition parties questioned the decision, with Labour's Chris Hipkins calling the situation a "descent into chaos".
Green MP Catherine Delahunty called on Ms Parata to explain why she allowed the schools to open.


Post-Primary Teachers' Association president Angela Roberts said it was "baffling" the ministry would do a 180 degree turn on opening a charter school in West Auckland in the space of a year. "This makes it seem like they came under political pressure to find enough half-way decent applicants so the charter school programme can continue to grow." Ms Parata declined to comment.

MSWA Readiness Report - Draft (app users click here)