Pri­vate school planned for Rus­sell

The Northland Age - - Local News - By Peter de Graaf

A not-for-profit trust is plan­ning to open a pri­vate school in Rus­sell cater­ing for Year 9 and 10 stu­dents.

The Villa Ed­u­ca­tion Trust al­ready op­er­ates three schools in Auck­land for Year 7 to 10 stu­dents — a small pri­vate school with 48 stu­dents and two part­ner­ship schools, or char­ter schools, each with about 200 stu­dents.

Al­wyn Poole, who founded the trust with his wife Karen, said the pro­posed new school would be closely modelled on the trust’s Mt Hob­son Mid­dle School, which had op­er­ated in New­mar­ket for 16 years.

He didn’t want to cut across any of three “very good” pri­mary schools in the area.

The trust’s ap­proach in­cluded a split school day with a four-hour aca­demic morn­ing of core classes in English, maths, sci­ence, so­cial stud­ies or tech­nol­ogy, and an af­ter­noon pro­gramme of mu­sic, art, com­mu­nity learn­ing, sport and com­mu­nity ser­vice. Stu­dents also had an hour a day to work on cross-cur­ric­ula projects. Class sizes were lim­ited to 15.

Mr Poole, who has lived in Rus­sell for a year but works in Auck­land dur­ing the school term, said he aimed to open the school in 2019 and grow the roll to 60 stu­dents.

Mr Poole said he be­lieved ex­ist­ing high schools would ben­e­fit in the long run be­cause fam­i­lies would have an ex­tra in­cen­tive to stay in the area, in­stead of mov­ing out or send­ing their chil­dren to board­ing schools in Auck­land and Whangarei. When the stu­dents ar­rived at Bay of Is­lands Col­lege af­ter two years at mid­dle school they would be well pre­pared for their last three years at high school.

The trust had no lo­ca­tion or build­ing yet.

The fees at Mt Hob­son Mid­dle School are $14,000 a year, not in­clud­ing ac­tiv­ity fees, but Mr Poole said that was re­lated to prop­erty costs in the area. His aim was to make the Rus­sell school as rea­son­ably priced as pos­si­ble. If the new Gov­ern­ment was in­tent on abol­ish­ing char­ter schools it was pos­si­ble other forms of part­ner­ship could emerge and sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce the fees.

The trust’s web­site states the schools are based on Chris­tian prin­ci­ples.

“It’s a thread that runs through what we do, but it’s not an overtly Chris­tian school for Chris­tian kids,” Mr Poole said. He had spent the past six weeks meet­ing people in Rus­sell to dis­cuss the pro­posal and would hold a pub­lic meet­ing in mid-April. The re­sponse so far had been pos­i­tive, he said.

“It’s not that par­ents are neg­a­tive about the ex­ist­ing schools, they just feel there should be an­other op­tion. We think there’s an op­por­tu­nity and we’re pretty ex­cited about it.”

PIC­TURE / FILE

PLAN FOR SCHOOL: Al­wyn Poole, pic­tured here at this trust’s South Auck­land Mid­dle School, wants to set up a Year 9-10 school in Rus­sell.

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