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Introduction - CEO Interview - Educational Progress  

Repositioning For Success

“For lots of Māori kids, in town or country, there are too many distractions...or there may even be something missing like cultural identity, so attending a Māori boarding school is the thing that makes the difference..”

ATAWHAI TIBBLE, Ceo, Paerangi Limited
IV Good morning to you. These schools have had a lot of bad press.

AT Kia Ora and yes they have.

IV The perception I s’pose is that these schools got stuck somewhere in a timewarp where walloping kids was OK?

AT We thought that. So too did the bureaucrats in Wellington. But funnily enough our people didn’t. In fact, the results of research we commissioned in 2003 found that 36% of Māori families interviewed nationally had never heard of any of our schools. Moreover, 48% (even if they had heard of them) basically knew nothing about our schools.

IV What, 36% of Māori parents had never heard of the Māori boarding schools?

AT Yeah. It gave us a real wake up call. Because we thought everybody knew about our schools and our biggest task was to turn the negative perceptions round. To a degree this is correct.

But in reality lots of parents know very little if anything about these schools, so we actually have a bigger marketing issue - profile raising. This augurs well for our schools because in marketing terms, it’s easier to raise profile than correct a bad one.

So, now we are doing good things and have started turning the corner, the big task is getting the message out to our Māori community.

IV So convince us that you've turned the corner, because all of those ERO reports said these schools are not safe, that violence was tolerated that bullying was endemic that successive Principals and Boards have done nothing about it.

AT First of all, I need to correct the assertion that all our schools have had serious bullying issues. This is plainly not true.

But even amongst schools that had problems, things have changed for the better. And the evidence that we have is the roll growth. Growth means you’ve got parents who are confident that the schools can look after and teach their kids. Plus we have good and solid academic results in these schools. We’ve beaten national averages in terms of ethnicity and decile and we have outperformed what I would call the "rich, flash" schools. Good marks usually indicate a good school culture.

IV Your schools are low decile aren't they?

AT Yes, decile 1 - 3. But they’re performing brilliantly academically. Remember, last year, only 36% of Māori year 11 students got their level 1 certificate. Yet, schools like Hato Paora College had an 85.7% pass rate; St Joseph’s Māori Girls’ College 81% ; Hato Petera 70.8%; Turakina 69.8%; Hukarere 68.4%; Te Aute 45.7%. So our schools all beat the national average in terms of Māori - but they also beat the national average in terms of decile - only 35% of students in decile 1 - 3 schools got the Level 1 certificate.

Two other points are note worthy. We are performing with a group that is recognised nationally – and nobody wants to say it - as a tough group of kids: Māori teenagers. Furthermore, our schools can't (skim the) 'cream'. We don't have the luxury like other "flash" schools in terms of picking and choosing kids. So with the Māori students that we have - we do a damned good job!

IV So if those results are getting better - do we take it from that the bullying has stopped?
AT Well I think we need to step back and remember, bullying is a real issue in all schools in NZ. OK. But things have improved dramatically in that area. I talk to the Principals and parents about what's going on and I notice the difference in how they talk about their schools and hostels. It’s positive. The adults are in charge and leading by example. And again, this is backed up by what’s going on in the classroom. At boarding school, the hostel is your home so if things are good in the classroom, then they must be going well in the hostel.

This gets back to the benefits of Māori boarding school. Clearly, not all kids benefit from going away from home to learn and develop, but lots of Māori kids do. But for lots of our kids, there are too many distractions at home, or there are problems, or there may be something missing like cultural identity. For these kids, attending a Māori boarding school is the thing that makes the difference…

IV Are the schools cheap? What's the cost?

AT They aren't overly expensive - about $6,000 per annum.

IV But for your catchment that can be a lot of money. And ultimately you will have to get on with Trevor Mallard. How do you get on with him?

AT I haven’t spoken to the Minister. But I know the Minister of Māori Affairs, Parekura Horomia, and he supports our schools.

IV But if he closes down anymore - I mean we have 6 schools left.

AT If our schools weren't performing academically and growing the choice would be an easy one. But we have great results and growth.

IV Did you go to a MBS?

AT Yes. I have a wh_nau of 10 - Dad went to Te Aute, all 6 boys went to Hato Paora and all 4 girls went to St Joseph’s Māori Girls’ College. At university, my mates and I would wear our rugby jerseys and think we were cool. It's part of the way I was raised. Māori boarding school is part of me and who I am.

Can I see here though that the recent period of decline is just like anything in life, People and businesses can lose their way and fall off the mark. Every organisation one has their ups and downs. The real issue to me is - do you have a plan and a team to help you move forward?

That’s what excite me about these schools. They have developed or started to develop these plans and are identifying key people to help move them forward.

Moreover, there are huge opportunities out there for growth. Something like 70% surveyed indicated they are interested in finding out more and might send a student to one of our schools.

So again, the issue isn’t about falling down – every does that. It’s about getting up and making sure you know what to do so you don’t fall over again.

IV Well its been lovely talking to you.

That was Atawhai Tibble. He is coordinating the 6 Māori boarding schools and trying to reverse the trend of their falling rolls.

I/V Ends.

Introduction - CEO Interview - Educational Progress