Rotorua's education sector will have millions of dollars invested in it during the next three years thanks to a "game changing" partnership.

Access to digital learning environments and collaboration among all learners will be improved with a new partnership, announced yesterday, between Next Foundation and Rotorua's Nga Pumanawa e Waru. Supplying digital devices to lower socio-economic families is one of the partnership's aims.

Nga Pumanawa e Waru is an educational initiative, born out of Excel Rotorua's e-learning project, that has been selected by the Next Foundation to receive investment support.

As well as providing better access for students to digital devices, the initiative aims to make Rotorua a great place to learn with an emphasis on all students engaging and excelling in their education, at school, in the community and at home.

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A crucial part of the initiative is to engage with community groups, so they are not only informed about the initiative, but can be involved in supporting the region's schools and learners.

Thirty-two schools have confirmed they want to be involved in the initiative over the next 18 months.

Excel Rotorua Education Trust chairman Leith Comer said it was an opportunity for Rotorua to achieve better outcomes for all. "We want to bring everyone together to share the common agenda of making Rotorua a desired, high-functioning, educational hub.

"This isn't just about giving students digital devices. It is about connecting the whole community to improve education for all children. The digital devices are a tool, not the main incentive of the initiative."

Mr Comer said one of the biggest constraints to learning was the socio-economic situations of many Rotorua families.

"We cannot let this continue to be a barrier so part of this investment will go towards creating a fund that can be used by schools to ensure every child has access to a digital platform."

Nga Pumanawa e Waru director of engagement Mercia-Dawn Yates said it was "history in the making for Rotorua".

She was not willing to specify exactly how much the Next Foundation was investing but said it would amount to millions over the next three years.

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"This will be a game changer for the education sector and one that we are all very excited about.

"This is a huge deal and one we've had in the pipelines since last year so it is great to see it coming to fruition."

Next Foundation chief executive Bill Kermode said he was excited to announce its support.

"We believe this initiative will be implementing improved models of education that can benefit all young learners."

Investment distribution
•Staffing.
•Professional learning and development for educators.
•Equity of access fund for digital devices.