Mt Hobson Middle School

Eleven year old New Zealander Florence’s winning speech

Charter Schools Perception Series: The Students

Display wall at South Auckland Middle School. -Photo Whaleoil.co.nz

Display wall at South Auckland Middle School.
-Photo Whaleoil.co.nz

When I visited Mt Hobson, South Auckland and West Auckland Middle School my son took the photos and my daughter ( Miss Whaleoil ) interviewed the students. The questions she asked were written by her as I wanted a student’s perspective. Many of her questions were closed yes/no questions unfortunately but she did manage to gain a reasonable snap shot of what the students of all three schools think about their school. ( Mt Hobson is not a Charter school but is the original model on which South and West Auckland Middle school are based.)

Rather than write a question and answer for each individual student interviewed, under each question you will find a range of replies have been labelled A) B) C) etc so you can tell one student’s answers from another ones. Some students were not asked all of the questions.

I have written the students’ replies as they were given, including slang and incomplete sentences.

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Charter Schools Perception Series: The Advocates Part TWO

Karen

Image – Whaleoil.co.nz

Background: Karen Poole has a B.B.S. (Marketing) and is a Business Manager for the Villa Education Trust with over 25 years administrative and business experience in the education sector. She implements strategy, provides development and compliance, and has worked within a number of education establishments around New Zealand.

TELL me how this all came about and why you wanted to do it?

I am the Business Manager for the Trust so I am in charge of  the resourcing, the teachers, the enrollments, the building facilities. Alwyn will have already discussed with you what his vision was and he does the curriculum and the academic side of it. I help facilitate all that. Mount Hobson Middle School being a private school was obviously where we started, it was the only way to start. Then when the Partnership schools agreement came into force it was an opportunity for us to be able to provide what we do, for other students which was always our aim.

NOTE: Karen and Alwyn are a married couple who sold their home to 
fund Mount Hobson Middle School. 

YOU put a lot on the line at the start, with selling your house.

Yeah we did, but it was something we very much believed in and could see that there was a real need for it and it was just something we wanted to do.

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Charter Schools Perception series: The Teachers Part Two

March this year  I was invited to visit three Charter schools, South Auckland Middle School, Vanguard Military school and West Auckland Middle School. Before I visited them I also visited a private school, Mt Hobson Middle School that has been in operation since 2003.

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Art in the hallway of Mt Hobson Middle School -Photo Whaleoil.co.nz

I did that because the Charter schools of West Auckland and South  Auckland are based on the model that Mt Hobson Middle school established when it opened in 2003.

West Auckland Middle school opened its doors for the first time this year but it has the 12 years experience of Mt Hobson Middle School behind it. Both Charter schools have a ratio of one teacher to fifteen students. Mount Hobson has a ratio of one teacher to twelve students due to space constraints.

Below is a transcript/ summary of my interviews with three teachers at West Auckland Middle school. Every teacher I interviewed was a registered and experienced teacher who had worked before in a State school.  The teachers at West Auckland Middle School on average are paid 3% more than their counter parts in State schools although one who is very experienced took a pay cut because he/she wanted to work there.

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Charter Schools Perception series: The Teachers Part One

March this year  I was invited to visit three Charter schools, South Auckland Middle School, Vanguard Military school and West Auckland Middle School. Before I visited them I also visited a private school, Mt Hobson Middle School that has been in operation since 2003.

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The model on which two Charter schools have been based, Mount Hobson Middle School which opened in 2003 -Photo Whaleoil.co.nz

I did that because the Charter schools of West Auckland and South Auckland are based on the model that Mt Hobson Middle school established when it opened in 2003.

South Auckland Middle school was opened in 2014 but has twelve years of experience behind it because of Mount Hobson Middle School. West Auckland Middle school opened its doors for the first time this year. Both Charter schools have a ratio of one teacher to fifteen students. Mount Hobson has a ratio of one teacher to twelve students due to space constraints.

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Science class at Mt Hobson Middle School. -Photo Whaleoil.co.nz

Below is a transcript/ summary of my interviews with two teachers at South Auckland Middle school. Both teachers that I interviewed are registered and experienced. The teachers at South Auckland Middle School on average are paid 3% more than their counter parts in State schools.

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Part of the Middle school model is community service.

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Some very impertinent questions for the SST and Simon Day

This morning the Sunday Star-Times and Simon Day did a hit job on Alwyn Poole’ Mt Hobson Middle School.

I have seen correspondence between Simon Day and Alwyn Poole.

In that correspondence Simon Day claims he was far too busy to attend Mt Hobson Middle School.

However when you look at the online piece for the same story it seems Simon Day and Fairfax had more than enough time to attend the boy’s news school and make 3 lovely videos with background music, but no time at all to visit their target.

However, we now know from the piece that the child in question attends Alfriston College.

Which raises some questions that Simon Day really should have included in his piece.

If Alfriston College have been complicit with Mr Day… and from the extensive video I would say they have, then perhaps they might like to answer these two questions from the get go.

These are questions Simon Day could have asked but didn’t given the planning that has gone into this hit job.   Read more »

Open Response to SST hit job by Alwyn Poole

I saw the Sunday Star-Times hit job this morning, on Mt Hobson Middle School by Simon Day.

It had all the signs of a pre-prepared hit job where the journalist has already pre-supposed the outcome and only seeks comment to try to ‘balance’ the article.

I contacted Alwyn Poole this morning offering a right of reply to the Sunday Star-Times that would be much more fulsome than anything that they would allow.

He has emailed his response.


 Mr Slater

Thank you for the invitation to respond to the Fairfax media article relating to the Villa Education Trust. I have to acknowledge that I won’t be reading the article but after interactions with reporter, Simon Day, during the week, I am aware that there would be two main thrusts – and a broader implication. Although I will not be reading it people who look after our interests no doubt will and I hope Mr Day has taken all care (he chose not to meet or come to the school to clarify his points). I will reply here only because the quality of Mr Day’s methods and questions left me in significant doubt that he would be accurate and/or fair.

The thrusts:

1) That Mt Hobson Middle School did not meet its obligations with a child that attended during term 1 of 2014.

2) That special needs funding was not fully used.

The implication – that because the Villa Education Trust runs Partnership Schools there could be a problem with that model.

On the specific student situation I will not comment on the child or the family. Clearly we consider we work very hard and skilfully with every student. In 2014 the family did question that through a formal channel and the school was found to have fully done exactly as they specified they would. This information was given to Mr Day – it was inconvenient for him so he ignored it.

On funding. I doubt that there is an organisation that works more closely with official bodies such as the Ministry of Education and ERO than the Villa Education Trust does. We take all care with systems and when in doubt, or when we get things wrong, we take full care to clarify and correct. We are an organisation that is audited financially and fully reviewed by the ERO. As a Charitable Trust and an organisation operating Partnership Schools – we take massive care. In this case we will pro-actively ask the Ministry to re-check if there is any legitimacy to the claim the parents appear to be making through the media – which conflict with written understandings we had with them. If any detail is found to be needing to be rectified that will happen immediately as would be our normal process.

Why the confidence?      Read more »

An Embarrassment to the University of Auckland

Drama Professor Peter O’Connor goes even further than his indulgent self interviewing on Charter Schools by getting his comments published in the University of Auckland alumni magazine. (Interesting to note he appears to have disabled/deleted comments on his youtube post. Such a supporter of free speech).

– He again states the nonsense that they could have been started under old legislation.

– He “mis-states” re funding.

– Despite ERO reports to the contrary he says they are struggling (wouldn’t imagine he has visited even a single charter school).

– And then he names a private school – Mt Hobson Middle School – as a Charter School.

Even more telling – he is unhappy about a Maori name:

“You can dress them up with a Maori name….”

Wonder what Willie Jackson and others involved with Charter schools who are passionate about Maori achievement feel about these statements.  Read more »

Some more thoughts on today’s watershed Charter Schools article from Fairfax

A reader emails about Charter Schools:


Simon Day of Fairfax has gone where few have gone before him in NZ and gets some depth into the Charter School situation.

He notes the good beginning for Vanguard Military School and South Auckland Middle School (which comes out of Newmarket’s successful Mt Hobson Middle School.

Day even bothered to read the official ERO reports of the positive starts for Vanguard and SAMS.

Even better, and perhaps more astoundingly – he went to the schools and found out things from Vanguard like:

The talented BMX rider spent most of his time at the skate park. This year at the Vanguard school, Berry has discovered he also has academic talents. “It was when I got my first excellence I realised how far I could push myself,” he says.

Now he has 70 credits and is certain to to pass Level One NCEA.

and from SAMS like:

At SAMS his teachers have reached him and motivated him. They know his needs and personality. His grades have lifted. “They are more like role models to me. I am not afraid of them any more,” he says.

Day even read overseas research (unlike the PPTA) and found that:

[I]n its 2013 report on the 6000 US charter schools, Stanford University found dramatically improved results, where achievement was either ahead or at the same level of public schools. It also showed key benefits for black students, students in poverty, and English language learners.

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Guest Post: The Point of Teaching

It is with growing frustration that I read press release after press release (and some reporters even pick up on it) that children cannot learn in NZ classrooms because of inequality or learning difficulties. A classic example is that of former NZEI President Judith Nowatowski:

“No matter how fantastic a teacher is, the socio-economic background of a child is by far the biggest indicator of educational success. We want every child to reach their potential, but that is difficult for children who live in transient, unhealthy homes with near-empty fridges,” she said.

While there are no doubt research correlations, and no doubt economic problems to be solved,  the very last thing any teacher should take into any classroom is a preconception that any individual child cannot succeed because….

Education is about ensuring that a child is a victim of nothing and teachers – collectively or individually giving it the … “you can’t because”… is not what they are paid for.

A key aim of teaching is to work with individuals to defy the odds. Teaching should always be 100% aspirational – never a finger pointing exercise. Teachers, parents, children and communities are all affected by negativity from those whose job it is to inspire and educate the next generation. (This was another NZEI bleat: “This government has tried to create a ‘crisis’ atmosphere in schools to justify its agenda that includes National Standards, charter schools and a competitive, business approach to education,” she said. “They’re trying to blame teachers for children not reaching their potential when poverty is the real cause.”)

It only takes one example to state why it is important for teachers/educators to never write children off – or even cite background – as a deterministic factor in why they cannot succeed. So, I have been doing some reading, and here are two extreme international examples to really fill the pot.

Wilma Glodean Rudolph was born premature and sickly on June 23, 1940, in St. Bethlehem, Tennessee, the 20th of 22 children to parents Ed and Blanche Rudolph, and went on to become an African-American pioneer of track and field. But the road to victory was not an easy one for Wilma Rudolph. Stricken with polio as a child, she had problems with her left leg and had to wear a brace. It was with great determination and the help of physical therapy that she was able to overcome the disease as well as her resulting physical disabilities. She overcame her disabilities through physical therapy and hard work, and went on to become a gifted runner. Rudolph became the first American woman to win three gold medals at a single Olympics in 1960, at the Summer Games in Rome, and later worked as a teacher and track coach.

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