In Parliament yesterday NZ First deputy leader and spokesperson for education Tracey Martin blind-sided Education Minister Hekia Parata with questions about a charter school being set up by the Ngā Parirau Mātauranga Charitable Trust.
Martin made accusations about “a school based in pre-fab buildings and with port-a-loos set up in a paddock for the bathrooms”.
The school’s curriculum director Natasha Sadler says this is wrong and ridiculous - School dismisses prefabs and portaloos claim – telling Radio NZ that the toilets are brand new, permanent ablution blocks that meet all building code requirements and New Zealand First needs to talk to the people involved before making allegations.
Martin’s published ‘question for oral answer’ was very general and gave no indication of the specific allegations that would follow.
2. Student Achievement—Minister’s Statements
2. TRACEY MARTIN (NZ First) to the Minister of Education: Does she stand by her statement “We know that great teaching and learning goes on in our schools, but having modern learning environments just makes the whole process of raising achievement for all our young people that much easier”?
Parata gave a general Government promotional answer. Martin followed up with another general question.
Tracey Martin: Does she stand by her statement from 14 November 2013: “Raising student achievement and assuring that all young people can access high quality teaching in modern educational environments is one of the Government’s main priorities.”?
Still with no way of knowing what Martin wanted Parata launched into another speech, which was halted by a point of order. The Speaker asked that answers be kept brief, but with such vague questions it’s not surprising to get waffly responses.
Then Martin launched her actual line of attack via several questions.
Tracey Martin: Is the Minister aware that Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru, a charter school being set up by the Ngā Parirau Mātauranga Charitable Trust, has received over $1.6 million from the Government, which it has spent on 81 hectares of farmland in Northland, and it now finds itself without enough funds to build the school itself, so it is looking at placing portable accommodation and Portaloos in a paddock, and would she consider this to be a modern learning environment?
Tracey Martin: Can the Minister confirm that the agreement between herself as the Minister and the sponsor shows that the nearly 100 hectares of farmland, purchased with taxpayers’ money, now belongs to the trust, regardless of whether they build a school or not?Tracey Martin: Should the trust not build the charter school it claims it would, will she, as the Minister, take steps to recover the $1.6 million of taxpayer education money it has received; if not, why not?
Tracey Martin: Is the Minister able to confirm, with her knowledge of the contracts to date, whether there are any clauses inside of any of the partnership school contracts whereby should the schools close, the assets purchased with taxpayer dollars can be claimed back by the State?
Parata obviously knew nothing about the issue, closing with:
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I do not have that detail to hand, and I am happy to work with the member.
[In the House video]
Martin followed this up with a media release: Pre-Fabs And Port-A-Loos For Charter Schools
New Zealand First has questioned if the Government’s vision of a modern learning environment include a school based in pre-fab buildings and with port-a-loos set up in a paddock for the bathrooms.
“They now are considering using temporary structures for classrooms and toilet facilities after finding themselves without enough funds leftover to build the actual school.”
Stuff: School to open in prefab buildings
NZ First claims a Northland charter school had run out of money and would be established with prefab buildings for classrooms and portaloos for toilets have been rubbished.
I’ve seen prefab buildings used in schools for a long time – there was one at my school fifty years ago.
Natasha Sadler was interviewed on Checkpoint by Mary Wilson.
Wilson: The allegation, you spent $1.6 million dollars on farmland and now don’t have enough money to build the school.
Sadler: Yeah that’s not right, and you know the thing is the people can see online, if you go to the Ministry of Education website you will be able to access our agreement between Ngā Parirau Mātauranga Charitable Trust and the Ministry of Education. You will clearly see under Schedule 7 in Clause 1.3 (a) that we have been given an establishment payment to set up the school.
We have not run out of money. We’ve just appointed staff ready for next year.
Wilson: How much money were you given to establish the school then? What is the budget?
Sadler: Ok, sol there is a budget, we have a establishment payment of $1.4 million. That is to set up a school from green field, so really that’s quite modest.
Wilson: And what have you used that on?
Sadler: So we’ve used it to purchase some property to utilise as equity to build a school…
Wilson: And how much has that cost?
Sadler: We’ve used that to purchase the land, and also to hire staff, and also to get our curriculum in place, ready so we are ready for opening on the tenth of February next year.
Wilson: And that money then includes the buildings?
Wilson: And what are the buildings?
Sadler: So we’re looking at, firstly we’ve got, so there’s been some allegations that we’re going to have portaloos, well I need to clear that up. We’re working with a Portacom Buildings, they are building brand new toilets or ablution blocks for our female and male ablution blocks. They meet all building code requirements and consent requirements. They are brand new. And we are also at the moment…
Wilson: And what precisely, just tell us a bit more about Portacoms, what are they?
Sadler: Well Portacom is a building, it’s a permanent building, so it’s a company, a manufacturer who is building our ablution block. That’s the name of the manufacturer.
Wilson: All right. So does that mean that the buildings are plumbed in that there is a sewerage system to connect to?
Wilson: So there is now way that you’re going to have to rely on portaloos?
Sadler: No, that’s ridiculous. We couldn’t have portaloos starting a school of seventy children and five staff, that would be, that’s ridiculous. We wouldn’t be allowed to. I mean we have to meet all resource build…, you know we have portaloos at Christmas fairs and so forth, we couldn’t run a school with portaloos, that’s…
Wilson: So what’s your response to New Zealand First then.
Sadler: My response is maybe come and talk to the people who know, maybe come and talk to us first before making allegations about where we’re at.
Portacom Building Solutions seem to be an appropriate provider of school buildings:
Buildings to Learn
If you need extra space for fluctuations in enrolments or additional staff areas, we can accommodate you with our range of modular and transportable teaching facilities. Over the years we’ve helped schools and educational institutes throughout New Zealand find fast and cost effective answers to their expansion requirements. Our range of portable learning facilities are innovative in design, extending from Pre-School to Adult Learning Centres.
Our educational range of buildings includes;
From standard classrooms, learning centres, administration buildings and toilets, to science labs, computer rooms and art studios, Portacom Building Solutions can tailor a temporary or permanent solution to suit your exact needs with a range of designs and finishes to choose from or we can custom build to your requirements. We manufacture off site, then install within a matter of days, including permits and service connections.
Portacom New Zealand delivers complete turnkey solutions, from large remote accommodation villages, commercial offices or an entire school
We have delivered several signature projects, view some of our experiences below:
- Manukau School – Manukau School required a new large scale building with 3 classrooms, an administration block and toilet facilities in the same complex.
- Tautoro School
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Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru on Facebook:
Based in an authentic setting, we are a small, bilingual secondary kura with an innovative vision for schooling where the child is at the absolute centre.
Our Purpose: to provide a secondary schooling option in an authentic cultural, land and water environment that engages, excites and expects great things of every learner.
Our Vision: to develop youth into courageous, motivated learners who are supported to reach their potential in whichever positive pathway they choose.
School starts February 10th, 2014.
Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru is sponsored by Ngā Parirau Mātauranga Trust, and brings together the education and business sectors with the whānau, hapū, iwi and community to provide new opportunities for our young people in achieving educational success. The acknowledgement of culture, language and identity are an intrinsic part of the values, practical education and life skills taught as part of the academic subjects within our curriculum.
NZ Herald: Charter-school trust spent Govt money on farmland, MP reveals
Education Minister Hekia Parata has requested a full briefing from her officials after revelations in Parliament that a trust in Northland spent Government money buying 81ha of farmland for a charter school it will be opening next year.
Last night, Ms Parata confirmed there were temporary facilities there but said they were for the workers developing the site and the school.
The school’s curriculum director, Natasha Sadler, confirmed the trust had spent $625,000 buying the farmland. The money came out of the $1.6 million implementation and establishment fee the school received from the Ministry of Education. The trust was doing nothing that had not been agreed with the ministry.
A claim that the trust had run out of money to build the school was wrong.
Ms Sadler said students would be involved in environmental learning, building greenhouses and growing plants.
Teaching space would be in a temporary building for the first two months and buildings would be finished by April 10.
Tracey Martin asked Ms Parata to clarify what would happen to the land if the charter school closed.
Ms Parata said: “We can confirm that, as is the case with any school, if the school closes or in this case if the contract with the sponsor is terminated, then payment to the sponsor may be recovered through usual commercial processes.”
It will have an initial roll of 71 students, rising to 128 by 2015.Ms Sadler is a trained secondary school teacher, and has been a national assessment facilitator at the NZ Qualifications Authority, a deputy and acting principal at an area school and a senior adviser at the ministry.