New Zealand Children and Families deserve much better from the Minister.

(updated below)

For the Villa Education Trust our passion has always been for working with kids who have barriers to otherwise succeeding in school. Why? Because it is so desperately needed.

In 2002 we took a model to the Ministry of Education for a Middle School (Y7 – 10) that had all of the traits that we ended up building into Mt Hobson Middle School, South Auckland Middle School and Middle Schools West Auckland. A split day (academic morning, arts and activity-based afternoon), small classes (max 15), high-quality academics (core plus cross-curricula projects), a high level of family engagement and well-being care.

In 2002 the Ministry (Mallard) turned us down flat. So, as a family, we took all the risk and started as a private school. For 18 years we have worked with kids who have behavioural needs, anxiety, autism etc, and the results have been outstanding. 96% of the students subsequently passing L1 NCEA and moving on from there.On that basis we were approved for South Auckland Middle School and Middle School West Auckland as Charter (now Designated Character) schools. They are also outstanding. They have the same model as MHMS but with uniform, stationery and IT provided. We have outstanding academic results for our leavers – at least 20% above the national average for Maori, Pasifika and decile 1 kids. Attendance at 90% and transience at 3%.

Over the last two years, we have applied to the Minister for Mt Hobson Middle School to become a Designated Character School – near a transport hub – for up to 480 “diverse learners”. The Ministry has – both years – significantly misrepresented our proposal to the Minister – in this case about the State school level of provisions for diverse learners and the proposed location and cost.

This year, Hipkins declined the application (so far – we are not quitting) and said that there is no need for a school like this, as “there are available supports for all learners in existing State schools.” The responsibility for the rejection lies with him and his kind and transparent government.One of our parents last week disputed that these children are catered for as she has an 8-year-old with autism and ADHD who the Ministry has rejected any funding for. To help him (the teacher and the class) she volunteers the funding. She wrote to Hipkins last Monday afternoon with the amount she had funded for the term.

That night a Ministry official contacted the school and informed them that they must stop accepting the money. The next day the school’s special needs co-ordinator contacted the family to tell them this Minister lead decision. Clear political interference in the operation of a school.

The implications of this Ministry action are massive throughout the country and yesterday the media storm that has blown up even got Hipkins out of his Covid cave to talk education for two minutes. He told porkies about what had happened but at least admitted that his rejection letter to use was highly inaccurate.

Dear Chris

In your Newstalk interview today you told a story very different to the one that the Ministry official told the Principal at Jo Martin’s school and also very different from that the school then subsequently told Jo and Paul Martin.

I am also interested that you acknowledged the need for more work and professionals for children with needs. That is exactly what our DCS application offers you. Yet; in the rejection letter the reason you give is that “there are available supports for all learners in existing State schools.”

Either you were not telling the truth in the rejection letter – or you were not telling the truth to the NZ public today.

Can we meet please? I know I have asked many, many times over the last 4 years. This school is needed and we will do a superb job.

You were misled by your officials on potential locations and cost (etc).

You may also want to know that South Auckland Middle School – with great consideration – applied for in class assistance or IWS for 19 students this year. They got 1 (as in ONE) though.


Alwyn Poole

Villa Education Trust


Dear VET Supporters and Interested Parties

In the last 10 days I have had the privilege of working alongside two amazing groups of people.
1. Mike King and team – working with us in Russell, Bay of Islands, being involved in three events and doing an incredible job bringing his mental health message to the Far North (where it is desperately needed).
2. A group of courageous, passionate and highly informed parents as the Friends of Mt Hobson Middle School advocating for diverse learners across the country, putting their own stories in public and challenging the Minister of Educations view that a new school for 480 students near an Auckland transport is not needed because (his words): “the are available supports for all learners in existing State schools” and that a new school of 480 students would make “no material difference to the network.”

Both causes have gathered significant traction and remarkable public support. 

Those with the purse strings have preferred to fund a white elephant bike and footpath from Birkenhead to Ponsonby and a gang led drug programme. 

I have just watched Jacinda Ardern explain why: 

“Our position is to fund what works, fund what makes a difference.”

(40 secs into this:

Surely she jests!

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