Gov­ern­ment’s ‘last re­sort’ in­ter­ven­tions

Central Leader - - OUT & ABOUT - ADELE RED­MOND

One in ev­ery 16 New Zealand schools has been the subject of a gov­ern­ment in­ter­ven­tion in the last three years.

Maori-lan­guage im­mer­sion and low-decile schools were dis­pro­por­tion­ately rep­re­sented in in­ter­ven­tion fig­ures re­leased by the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion un­der the Of­fi­cial In­for­ma­tion Act, with one in nine kura kau­papa and nearly 85 per cent of decile one schools af­fected.

The min­istry said in­ter­ven­tions were a ‘‘last re­sort’’, though some be­lieved the agency was fast to step in and slow to with­draw.

Schools are usu­ally self­manag­ing, gov­erned by an elected board of trustees, but a Crown man­ager can be ap­pointed to su­per­vise or re­place a board plagued by con­flict or oth­er­wise un­able to per­form its du­ties.

In the three years to Jan­uary 19, 154 schools ei­ther had a limited statu­tory man­ager (LSM), who han­dles spe­cific re­spon­si­bil­i­ties on the board’s be­half, or a com­mis­sioner who acted as the board. Sixty-five school boards around New Zealand are cur­rently un­der Crown man­age­ment.

The av­er­age length of in­ter­ven­tion was 19 months, with the long­est at Auck­land’s West­bridge Res­i­den­tial School last­ing 14 years.

Eigh­teen schools had mul­ti­ple – and of­ten es­ca­lat­ing – in­ter­ven­tions cul­mi­nat­ing in sev­eral years of ex­ter­nal gov­er­nance, ac­cord­ing to the min­istry’s data.

New Zealand School Trustees’ As­so­ci­a­tion ( NZSTA) pres­i­dent Lor­raine Kerr said these ex­treme cases were ‘‘still too many’’ but in­ter­ven­tions had im­proved in re­cent years as the stigma around them waned.

‘‘Nine years ago those in­ter­ven­tions were there for seven years – that’s two board terms.

‘‘We’re com­mend­ing those schools that ask for help be­cause schools didn’t use to do that,’’ Kerr said.

Em­ploy­ment was the main rea­son for in­ter­ven­tion, af­fect­ing 88 per cent of schools, fol­lowed by prob­lem­atic board pro­cesses, or­gan­i­sa­tion or man­age­ment (51 per cent) and fall­ing stu­dent achieve­ment (35 per cent).

NZSTA pro­vided sup­port with hu­man re­sources, prop­erty is­sues and emer­gency staffing so­lu­tions, but ‘‘some­times it’s re­ally hard to deal with per­son­al­i­ties, shift­ing egos aside and fo­cussing on the kids’’, Kerr said.

She said NZSTA was ad­vo­cat­ing for mul­ti­ple schools that felt they had out­grown their in­ter­ven­tions.

ROBERT CHARLES

School boards need­ing ex­tra Gov­ern­ment guid­ance are most of­ten trou­bled by em­ploy­ment is­sues, Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion data re­veals.

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