ON THE WALL JUST BEHIND THE SCREEN OF TOM RATIMA’S LAPTOP
IS HIS WHAKAPAPA. IT TRACES HIS LINEAGE BACK TO TE HAPUKU,
THE PARAMOUNT CHIEF OF TE WHATUIAPITI, THE PEOPLE WHO GAVE
LAND FOR TE AUTE IN 1854 TO ESTABLISH TE AUTE COLLEGE.
“It keeps me focused on why I am here,” says Ratima,
the Executive Manager of Te Aute College or CEO. Ratima has
gone to lead this school in what are troubled times.
Te Aute celebrates its 150th anniversary this year but is
fighting for survival. Their classrooms have produced some
of the most prominent leaders in Māoridom – from
Sir Apirana Ngata, Sir Maui Pomare, to Peter Sharples, Mason
and Eddie Jury. But two ERO reports last year identified several
problems including a lack of leadership, poor financial management,
questionable curriculum delivery and concerns about the well
being of pupils in the hostel.
There was also disquiet about the lack of cooperation between
Te Aute’s board of trustees and the Te Aute Trust Board,
which represents the Anglican Church, is the college’s
proprietor and runs the hostel. Many of the colleges problems
ERO blamed on the lack of cooperation.
Last year the Ministry appointed two limited statutory managers.
One is the former Mayor of Hastings, Jeremy Dwyer,
who is an ex pupil and taught at Te Aute in the 1970s and
1980s. The other is Andy Matthews who manages the school’s
Meanwhile, the college has taken action. A taskforce was formed
in October last year to consider the future of it’s
two schools – Te Aute and Hukarere. It pulled no punches
on the extremely serious situation at Te Aute and made several
recommendations. Te Aute, which has taught girls since 1992
would revert to boys only from next year and most importantly,
the school would reinvigorate its kaupapa or philosophy.
These moves have helped the college turn the tide, and it
was given a cautious thumbs up by the ERO this month after
a review in June. The latest report focuses mainly on the
hostel and finds several significant improvements - from plans
to refurbish hostel blocks, increased pastoral support for
students to communication improvements between the two boards.
A key area identified in the December taskforce report is
one of kaupapa or philosophy: what the school stands for.
Dwyer says historically, the college has provided a learning
environment steeped in language and culture with a religious
element. Mainstream schools now provide the cultural elements,
previously only assessable through Māori boarding
schools, and are able to offer a wider curriculum due to their
rolls in excess of 1000 students.
Board of Trustees chair Tutu Wirepa accepts there is a need
to rebrand the school. The Auckland businessman is looking
at workable solutions such as specializing in certain subjects
and building a reputation in these. Increasing the numbers
of day students is also an option however the school will
remain predominately a boarding school.
Tutu Wirepa says the school will not lose sight of its traditions.
“One of the unique characters of this school has been
its tradition and the place of tikanga Māori and we are
defining what that unique role is, in Māori society and
New Zealand society.”
These and other issues will be discussed during a wananga
at the college on September 13th, part of the schools 150th
Whatever the outcome, these three key members, Ratima, Dwyer
and Wirepa say Te Aute is not ready to lie down and die. Giving
up has never been in the Te Aute curriculum.
*This article is an edited version of an article written
by Martin Kay of the Dominion Post. It has been printed with
their kind permission.