Putting the record straight on Middle School West Auckland

Mulitalo Filipo Levi from Middle School West Auckland writes:

It was with significant dismay and anger that I saw that a statement of an attempted suicide was repeated, even though that is not accurate. For the record, the following statements are important.

* It is a fact that children at MSWA were never bribed with KFC nor brought KFC on any occasion. We do have shared lunches but the only high value incentive provided was full sets of C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia for some children who had completed extraordinary reading tasks.

* There was no suicide attempt and to report that there was caused significant pain to a family who thought it was directed at them. If and when such occurrences occur in a school, they are of such importance that they should never be used for political point-scoring or to try to cause further damage.

* To the best of my knowledge, and I am there a lot, there has been no drug use within the school.

Relatively early in the year a group of families quite rightly raised concerns through a proper process. We met extensively and addressed those concerns and made changes as fully as we are able to under the terms of our contract with government. We even employed one of the group’s members to assist further within the school.

Some of what they had expressed was highly inaccurate and other points had a level of validity that we were not afraid to address. For some families the clarifications as to what our contract specifies around the level of academics, mode of provision and behavioural expectations meant that they exercised their right to leave the Pohutukawa site. For others, our response was just what they had looked for and they stayed and have seen significant progress for their children.

Responding positively to concerns and perceived failure is exactly what a good organisation should do.

Our first ERO report was good, and we expect the recently completed one to be the same. We work closely with that organisation and hope and expect they will tell us how to get better and better as is their job. As a staff and organisation we are resilient and expect to grow and learn on a daily basis. It is on those terms that we expect the same from the children and families that work with us. We are an organisation with very high expectations and aspirations for the young people.

It’s appalling that you can just make up allegations against a school, have politicians repeat them and media report them – despite them being false.

It is important to note we do not believe that that there are subject pathways and careers in New Zealand that some cultures are not capable of. Sadly it is the case in our country that “cultural awareness” is all too often used as an excuse for a lack of achievement by young people. Earlier this year, when confronted by University Entrance results, some Auckland principals chose to state that UE may not be for “our children”. By that they could only mean their predominantly Maori, Pasifika and lower-socio-economic students.

As a Samoan I found that offensive. Some politicians seem to believe that being culturally aware means excusing patterned failure and having lower expectations for children from certain races and social groups who have a massive historic achievement gap.

When the very supportive Maori Party MP Marama Fox visited our sister school in South Auckland earlier this year and asked a class how many wanted a university education, every student raised their hand. That is the level of aspiration that was imparted to me as a part of my “cultural awareness” as a young person and my “responsiveness” were the achievements I outlined above.

The education and lives of young people is not about political points scoring. It is about expectations of excellence and clear pathways of which I am a proud to be a part. There is a Samoan proverb which states “E le sili le ta’i ilo le tapuai”; “One cannot achieve without the help of many”.

It is my hope and prayer that we come together and help our children and provide an opportunity for academic excellence.

I look forward to the ERO report on them.

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