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My Story: Gareth Morgan - Putaruru High School

When I attended it had 700 pupils – only 10 in Year 13. Nowadays it includes the town’s intermediate school years so goes from Year 7 (was 9) to 13 - & has 350 pupils. The roll is 35% Maori students which is well up as a percentage from my days (1966-1970).

The town’s population hasn’t changed really – at 3,800 it’s down 8% from a peak of around 4,200. Its composition has – more older people enjoying the cheaper housing, fewer working families (from 7 sawmills in the surrounds to zero) – and a higher proportion of low income, and social benefit-dependant families.

But the school has had a tumultuous time and been the victim of abandonment by many of the more well-to-do families who nowadays ship their kids out to St Peters in Cambridge & other private schools in Hamilton and beyond. Even the vast majority of the teachers no longer live in the town. To be blunt the school entered a spiral as a result of these shocks. Nowadays it is a Decile 3 school, despite being located in the heart of thriving South Waikato dairy farm area.

The ERO has been helping the school since 2012 when the stresses of families was spilling over to performance issues at the school, and even tragedies.

Pleasingly, the school now is well back on its feet and its curriculum is far more attuned to the pastoral care needs of its students, it has an appropriate whanau ora component, and is going forward rather than backward – albeit from a much changed starting position.

The example really shows the damage that economic change, coupled with the discrimination that our education system has encouraged since Tomorrow’s Schools descended. The intergenerational impact on the families of Putaruru has been horrific – and in my view quite unnecessary.

Yes the economic change was unfortunate but is all part and parcel of reality – we economists call it “creative destruction”. But our schooling regime is a public good, it plays a massive role in the pastoral care that equips all of our children for life’s journey – not just those of them fortunate enough to enjoy a parental ability to pay.

If Putaruru College (as it’s called now) had keep all its local students, if it had had the whole community’s support instead of being cut off because of (largely) white, affluent flight – it would not have travelled to Hell and back, damaging so many children en route.

It’s the community that makes the school perform the best for the children. If you allow the community to fracture by using taxpayer money to sponsor that phenomenon – bussing in effect – then the school and the students left behind get crushed. The families left in Putaruru were in large part those most damaged by Rogernomics and Ruthanasia – they were in no position to provide the social, Trustee, and financial leadership the school needed to navigate that economic shock.

Tomorrow’s Schools buggered Putaruru HS and it is taking a lot of effort & taxpayer money to stabilise and turn it around. And the children are the victims. Equality of opportunity goes out the window for those children without community. If you introduce policies deliberately aimed to fracture community participation, establish elites and condemn the most vulnerable to support of last resort, you will exacerbate inequality & poverty.

Tomorrow’s Schools is such a divisive policy. We need to fix it, acknowledge that the neoliberal experiment in education has been a failure and just as we had to with the Crown Health Enterprises in public health system, kill it. Getting schools to compete is wasteful and damaging. 

Give me Yesterday’s Schools any day as the foundation, and let’s build a Scandinavian type education model upon that. We should move from an obsession with wasting teacher and student time testing to more time educating and learning whilst prioritising the 4 Cs (communication, critical thinking, creativity and collaboration) above the 3 R’s (reading, writing and arithmetic). Come on, we’re in the 21st Century now.

Showing 12 reactions

  • Oliver Krollmann
    followed this page 2017-02-22 14:43:24 +1300
  • rich Bruce
    followed this page 2017-02-21 21:12:59 +1300
  • Rosemary Hendrikse
    commented 2017-02-21 19:38:35 +1300
    Must be great to be able to support a school you identify with that is in need. Would be really interested to hear how you are able support this community school Gareth.
  • Sue Turnbull
    commented 2017-02-21 19:35:14 +1300
    I worked for the number 2 employer in town – Greyson gates, who were Number I gate manufacturer in NZ. We got sold downriver by the Perry Group in Hamilton who sold us to the number 2 gate manufacturer – Franklin gates (who are owned by Gallagher). All production moved to Pukekohe. Recently worked for the now Number 1 employer in town Rangiura Rest Home and Hospital. What about decentralizing a few Government Departments as we have ample land for them – in Tokoroa as well. We are becoming a land of secondhand and $2 shops. The Warehouse also kills off a lot of local trade with cheap and disposable imports. Would be nice if the Council had said NO to them…but that’s free enterprise.
  • Rachelle Oxenham
    commented 2017-02-21 18:25:59 +1300
    Kiwi lumber still there dude, so still at least one sawmill in the town.
  • Sue Turnbull
    commented 2017-02-21 15:42:20 +1300
    Oh get real. If you cannot read, you are largely isolated from any new ideas. If you cannot write, your medium for expression is also limited…and as for maths, well money is an international commodity that most of us cannot live without. No one type of education suits all, my kids have been through the gamut of education systems in the UK, NZ, and OZ. They have survived, and they both have Honours Degrees and are multi-lingual too. The one thing that made a difference in Education was passionate teachers that wanted the best for all their kids in their class. However if the kids have parents that don’t teach kids to have an inquiring mind, to question what they the see and hear and read, you get a very stunted society. We live in a time when ‘star’ worship, be it screen or sport, is hero worship. How damaging is that, we get the so called heroes we deserve, drunken rugby players, drug addled so called stars. You judge.
  • Alanna Barrett
    commented 2017-02-21 06:37:28 +1300
    One of your best summaries. But with all legislation governments have to create victims to increase funding. Being a mother of a child whom has been exposed too this abusive system these victims grow up and they never forget. These actions is well imbedded in the rural schools through out NZ. As a means to secure the funding for the elite Schools in the cities. And all supported the Business managers in this wellington government department. Very sick people to claim these children whom are the victims have never been exposed to abuse under these stressed out situations. Which our children are exposed too in this states care. Prejudice does grow and these victims never forget. Thanks NZ government you teach our children well. Just a pity many parents did not have too live through this broken system. Which teaches inbuilt state funded prejudice is well grounded in NZ education system.
  • Troy Hogan
    commented 2017-02-21 06:29:44 +1300
    no testing wtf your a twat dude i suppose giving sll the kids the same marks is the go lol
  • Valerie Craymer
    commented 2017-02-20 23:33:31 +1300
    If the kids can’t read, write and do maths then critical thinking etc is a waste of time. You need the tools. Tomorrow’s Schools was a load of scrap which the Labour Government refused to acknowledge and the damage done to the children was irreparable. I left the country with mine.
  • Annie Catterall-Waterworth
    commented 2017-02-20 23:13:34 +1300
    I work with this school on a daily basis with all of their Secondary-Tertiary programmes and along with Tokoroa schools, the new programmes being delivered and developed are leading New Zealand and collaboratively putting the needs of the students first. Perhaps a closer look into what is actually being delivered may be worthwhile. Innovative, engaging, creative and integrated programmes are now being co-designed from Year 10, aligned with industry and/or relevant further education. I would say that your views are a perception that may need an edit.
  • Greg Wiechern
    commented 2017-02-20 19:17:10 +1300
    Lets make education relevant to the world that these children are growing up in. Not only academic, but how to survive and prosper in the real world. Too many go to university and too few into trades. The learning up to year 8 is critical and contains the basis of what will be used in real life. Bring back further education at local schools for adults to add to their learning, when they have built up life skills and know what further education they need.
  • John Cussins
    commented 2017-02-20 16:51:21 +1300
    We saved for years to go private. So glad we didn’t, as we now have two well rounded young adults ready to take on the Worlds challenges, such as they are.