Government’s ‘last resort’ interventions
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.
School boards needing extra Government guidance are most often troubled by employment issues, Ministry of Education data reveals.