Private school planned for Russell
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.”
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.