Green MP Catherine Delahunty has been a critic of the Gloriavale school, demanding it be deregistered. Gloriavale have responded by inviting her to visit them for the day, and she did so. Credit to both of them for the invite, and acceptance, as that is better than just firing off press releases.
Delahunty writes about the experience at Stuff:
The welcome my colleague and I received could not have been more open and hospitable despite the challenges I have made in the media about the breadth of their senior school curriculum and in particular the lack of options for girls.
I spent much of a full day at the Gloriavale community, talking, listening and being shown around their impressive facilities.
They even put on a show for us. And at the end of the day the women asked me if, when I left, would I champion their community to the outside world. And in all honesty I had to say no.
Because as free as the adults of Gloriavale should always be to pursue the values they hold, my concern has always been about the rights of children, and in particular the rights of girls, to an education that allows them to think critically about their place in the world, and find their own voice.
Over the course of the day, two Gloriavale men, and several women gave us a tour of their midwifery rooms, early childhood centre, sewing rooms, schoolrooms and accommodation blocks as well the large new school they are building out of a kitset of spruce timber.
We were served a lunch of local produce – mashed potato, beans, mushrooms, and a roast, and given litres of home-made sparkling apple juice, bread and cheese to take home.
Then we had a frank dialogue about the roles of women and the role of education. It was made clear to me that education is valued at Gloriavale, but in a functional way which prepares members to serve in the community they live in.
That’s probably a fair criticism. The school does educate them, but mainly to prepare them for serving in the wider Gloriavale community.
This community feels they are under attack by people like me and throughout the day the women and men I met did their best to share their vision of a safe, structured and practical world led entirely by men who consult with women.
I appreciated their generosity, their hospitality and their candour, but I also felt claustrophobic.
Later buying fish and chips in Westport we talked to a group of young women who had chosen to travel down from Rotorua to study deep sea fishing. I found their sturdy independence a relief.
Their world may not be so “safe” but they looked like they were living on their own terms.
I defend the right of Gloriavale to exist and have a private school so long as it meets the required standards. But that doesn’t mean I’d want my daughter to live there or attend it!