By LOUISA CLEAVE
New allegations of poor standards at a police recruitment course run by Te Wananga o Aotearoa have emerged as police admit they were involved in its development.
The Herald has learned students enrolled at Tauranga last year complained to wananga management, but their concerns were not addressed.
The wananga is the country's largest tertiary education provider, receiving more than $110 million in Government funding in 2002.
Hundreds of fee-paying students have enrolled for the Certificate in Police Preparation course since it was launched in 2001.
Students who paid $2000 for the course at Manukau last year have complained of substandard tutoring and failure to provide course items.
The New Zealand Qualifications Authority will investigate a complaint from students.
The authority, which cleared the wananga over another complaint about the course last year, is also planning an "unscheduled audit" of the 18-week course.
Police national headquarters last week denied any involvement with the course and rejected a claim made on the wananga website that the police recruitment office was involved in developing the course.
But yesterday the police admitted that that information, also given to Police Minister George Hawkins to respond to a parliamentary question from Act MP Rodney Hide, was wrong.
Commissioner Rob Robinson spoke to students on the course in 2001.
A police spokeswoman said the answer given to Mr Hawkins was based on the present recruitment manager's knowledge.
"The last national manager left a year ago and there were no records of her dealings with Te Wananga. It is acknowledged that there had been some discussions between her and the course developers and that some courses had visited the Police College.
"We've ... apologised to our minister for giving him inadequate information."
A student, who attended the course at Tauranga, yesterday joined Manukau student Hinemoa Nikora in calling for an inquiry into the programme.
Sharie Morehu, 35, said her class's written complaint to wananga management about the course organisation and resourcing was never followed up.
Mrs Morehu said the Tauranga course was merged with the Rotorua course and the class was driven there every day in a wananga van.
However, classes were often cut short and students had to wait for the driver, a tutor, to finish teaching and drive them back to Tauranga.
"There were days we sat there doing absolutely nothing."
Mrs Morehu said the greatest disappointment was a promised stay at the Police College.
About 20 students went to Wellington, but were told they could not stay at the college for "terrorism" reasons.
They spent four days "touring" Wellington, but on the last day sneaked into the college with their tutor.
"We walked through the college, through their cafeteria, their gym. When we found a door open we'd go in and have a look," Mrs Morehu said.
She said uniforms, paid for as part of the $2000 course fee, turned up incomplete or not at all.
Gym access covered by the fee was organised only a month before the course finished.
Mrs Morehu accepted a family loan to pay for the course but, she said, she never asked for a refund.
Her husband cared for their three children while she was away during the week. She never received a certificate and was not contacted by the wananga with her results.
Te Wananga chief executive Rongo Wetere said he welcomed an audit of the course. He stood by the content and was not aware of any complaint from last year's course at Tauranga.
Carlo Ellis, head of security and police at the wananga's Rotorua campus, said he had met the Tauranga students and believed their concerns had been addressed.
"We ensured every resource we had committed to on the course was delivered."
That included the uniforms, which arrived from Wellington in week 11 of the course, he said.
Herald Feature: Education
By LOUISA CLEAVE