Mid­dle schools get the nod

The Southland Times - - National News - Kata­rina Wil­liams and Piers Fuller

The find­ings of a Govern­men­tap­pointed task­force into the To­mor­row’s Schools sys­tem have cast a shadow over the fu­ture of the coun­try’s 115 in­ter­me­di­ate schools.

An in­de­pen­dent task­force ap­pointed by Ed­u­ca­tion Minister Chris Hip­kins has rec­om­mended the schools – which cater for year 7 and 8 stu­dents – be scrapped.

The sig­nif­i­cant change was among 31 sweep­ing rec­om­men­da­tions across eight key ar­eas re­vealed yesterday as part of a bid to over­haul the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem no longer con­sid­ered fit for pur­pose.

In­stead, the group, led by chair and for­mer prin­ci­pal Bali Haque, favoured an in­crease in the num­ber of mid­dle (year 7 to 10) and com­pos­ite schools (in­clu­sive of both pri­mary and sec­ondary teach­ing).

‘‘We’ve got very big ques­tion marks about the fu­ture of in­ter­me­di­ate schools.

‘‘The two-year tran­si­tion there seems to us re­ally prob­lem­atic,’’ he said at a me­dia briefing yesterday.

The re­port said the task­force had spo­ken with a num­ber of in­ter­me­di­ate prin­ci­pals over the course of the re­view.

‘‘All were in agree­ment that a longer pe­riod of ‘mid­dle school­ing’ would pro­vide a greater learn­ing and well­be­ing.

‘‘We are also of the view that the twoyear in­ter­me­di­ate school­ing model is un­nec­es­sar­ily dis­rup­tive of learner/ a¯ konga path­ways and we are sup­port­ive of the net­work mov­ing to­ward a mid­dle school­ing ap­proach,’’ the re­port read.

The stance was re­it­er­ated at yesterday’s briefing. ‘‘We’ve talked to in­ter­me­di­ate schools and prin­ci­pals about this and they quite like the idea of mid­dle school be­cause they want to hang on to their stu­dents for a longer pe­riod of time.’’

The move to mid­dle school­ing would al­low for the de­vel­op­ment of se­nior col­leges to pro­vide tu­ition for year 11 to 13 stu­dents with a fo­cus on qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

Carter­ton cou­ple Donna and Joe Hintz were faced with the de­ci­sion of keep­ing their chil­dren in ru­ral Gladstone School, with a roll of 140 chil­dren, or send­ing them to Master­ton In­ter­me­di­ate.

They liked the lead­er­ship op­por­tu­ni­ties at the full pri­mary school and the smaller stu­dent num­bers in the older year groups.

‘‘There are a lot of kids at in­ter­me­di­ate and there might be less op­por­tu­nity to shine and to find your own way,’’ Donna said.

But Gladstone par­ents Karen and Michael Wil­liams can see the mer­its of both forms of school­ing with their eldest child go­ing to a ru­ral full pri­mary and a younger sib­ling to Master­ton In­ter­me­di­ate. ‘‘Some­times the small school en­vi­ron­ment suits; some­times they need a big­ger pond,’’ Karen said.

Haque de­nied the move would cre­ate derelict in­ter­me­di­ate school cam­puses up and down the coun­try.

‘‘We don’t see empty build­ings, they’ll just be used dif­fer­ently.’’

New Zealand Ed­u­ca­tional In­sti­tute (NZEI) Te Riu Roa pres­i­dent Lynda Stu­art felt raising the is­sue of in­ter­me­di­ate schools should be ‘‘seen within the con­text of a wider con­ver­sa­tion’’.

‘‘It’s been some­thing that has been dis­cussed for a long, long time, so it’s re­ally good to be able to bring it out into the open and re­ally put it into the per­spec­tive of not just get­ting rid of in­ter­me­di­ate schools, but

The move to mid­dle school­ing would al­low for the de­vel­op­ment of se­nior col­leges to pro­vide tu­ition for year 11 to 13 stu­dents with a fo­cus on qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

what is the best thing for our chil­dren,’’ Stu­art added.

The task­force’s rec­om­men­da­tions are out for con­sul­ta­tion un­til April.

Master­ton In­ter­me­di­ate School prin­ci­pal Rus­sell Thomp­son said year seven and eight stu­dents were go­ing through im­por­tant phys­i­cal and emo­tional changes and be­ing to­gether through that process could be very ben­e­fi­cial.

With 515 stu­dents, the school was one of Wairarapa’s big­gest and meant they were able to pro­vide an im­pres­sive suite of ex­tra cur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties that smaller schools couldn’t.

Bali Haque, chair of the In­de­pen­dent Task­force re­view of To­mor­row’s Schools.

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