A charter school in Whangarei that is at full capacity appears to be going from strength to strength following an announcement that it would also open a primary school next year.

Te Kura Hourua O Whangarei Terenga Paraoa, located on Lower Dent street, opened its doors on February 23 to 50 students. It has since grown to 53, with a waiting list for next year. The kura, sponsored by He Puna Marama Charitable Trust, is a co-ed secondary school that emphasises Maori education.

It was one of five charter schools, or “partnership” schools, that opened this year, including another in Northland – Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru. The two Northland charter schools that opened this year are not connected.

Last week Minister of Education, Hekia Parata, announced four new charter schools would open in 2015. It included a third for Northland, Te Kapehu Whetu (Teina) in Whangarei, which was also sponsored by He Puna Marama Charitable Trust. The new kura will be a co-ed primary school for years 1-6 located at Jubilee Park, where the trust already has an early childhood facility.

Te Kura Hourua O Whangarei Terenga Paraoa principal, Nathan Matthews, said the kura has had positive feedback since it opened this year, which is reflected in its growth.

“I think the Maori nature of the school has probably been appealing, and that’s not to criticise local high schools, but I mean we have a whole school dedicated to that type of thing,” Mr Matthews said. “I think that’s the opportunity some parents were looking for.”

Te reo Maori and Maori performing arts are both compulsory at the kura and there is an emphasis on blending Maori learning into other parts of the curriculum, he said. The school reached full capacity earlier this year and has a waiting list for next year.

Mr Matthews, who has a PhD in Maori education, will initially be principal of both schools. He has been particularly interested in Maori education because of the low achieving statistics with Maori students.

“Thinking about better ways of doing things for Maori kids is something I’ve been researching and writing about for a number of years,” he said.

Charter schools are funded by the Government but set their own curriculum, school hours, holidays and pay rates. They were part of the Act Party’s confidence and supply agreement with the National Party. The system has been criticised by many political parties and teachers’ associations. However, Mr Matthews said the kura gave Maori families another option to mainstream schooling.


Originally published in the Northern Advocate, September 18, 2014
Maori performing arts teacher Ralph Ruka speaks to Sylvia Wano, 15, at Te Kura Hourua O Whangarei Terenga Paraoa. Photo / John Stone