Taupō educators would like us to dream a little.
The combined boards of trustees of Taupō-nui-a-Tia College and Tauhara College are hoping to consult the community to find out what sort of secondary education we would like for our children.
Last week the colleges told their respective school communities of the Taupō Secondary Schooling Project, a new initiative to work together.
Taupō-nui-a-Tia College principal Peter Moyle and Tauhara College Board of Trustees chairpeople Julie Yeoman and Kevin Insley acknowledged the relationship between the schools has often been strained, especially with competition for enrolments.
The Boards of Trustees for both schools met on June 9 as a first step in co-operation between the two colleges. The meeting was facilitated by education consulting firm EDSOL consultants Michael Leach and Peter Gall. Focus groups were held on Thursday and Friday last week with students and staff. Ministry of Education approval is required and after that the wider community will be consulted.
The school boards said they are keen to arrive at a range of options that will give voice to the community's aspirations.
"When approved and implemented they will futureproof the existing school network, so all secondary school learners in the area can access an effective, efficient and equitable education."
Mr Gall said the resources allocated to a secondary school is dependent on the number of students on the school roll.
"It's always a tricky environment, the number of students dictates the funds you get, the staff numbers you get and the property you get. Whether the community likes it or not, this creates competition. There are winners and losers."
Mr Gall said it shows tremendous leadership for both schools to be willing to work together.
"I can categorically say there are no preconceived ideas about what the outcome would be. The agenda is what is going to be the best for the future of Taupō students."
He said one outcome will be to futureproof secondary education in Taupō for the next 10 to 20 years.
"This is not being directed by the ministry, but the ministry has to be involved."
In 2004 both colleges had similar rolls: Taupō-nui-a-Tia had 798 students and Tauhara College on 589. But when the Education Minister dissolved Tauhara College's Board of Trustees in 2006 and appointed a commissioner, enrolments shifted to Taupō-nui-a-Tia College, which led to the introduction of a school zone for the school. The roll growth led to a new gym in 2011, a new Design, Innovation Technology Centre in 2012, and a new music room and two new classrooms last year.
In December 2018 Tauhara College forged ahead with a proposal to rebuild the entire school.
A baby boom in 2007 and 2008 will result in secondary school resources being stretched in 2021 and 2022 as these students reach Year 9. Current school rolls are: Tauhara College 664 students and Taupō-nui-a-Tia College 1089 students.
Asked about the large number of students who go to private schools out of the district, Mr Gall said a common reason is because their parents have a connection to the school.
"When people are succeeding at local schools the community won't see the need to go private."
He said if the opportunity to consult with the wider community was given the go-ahead then anything could be on the table, as long the proposal followed the rules and regulations laid down by the Education Act.
"After the Christchurch earthquakes there were significant changes to the Act that have opened up all sorts of opportunities."
Mr Gall said approval from the Education Ministry to begin community consultation was not a given. He expects an answer will be forthcoming at the end of this year at the earliest, or at the beginning of next year.
Comment: Dreaming a little
Imagine a high school with a focus on outdoor education (Mt Aspiring College), or perhaps where Year 10 students spend a term at an outdoors school (St Paul's Collegiate's Tihoi Venture School). Or perhaps Year 9 students could learn New Zealand history in a te reo Māori class (kura kaupapa Māori). Maybe the Year 12 and 13 accademic classes from both colleges could be jointly held. A junior high and a senior high, the option for single sex eduction for core subjects at Year 9 and 10. The dreams go on.