Peeved parents push for a high school showdown


A group of worried local parents warn a “social experiment” on junior Wakatipu High students could have disastrous consequences. 

In what’s believed to be a first at a New Zealand school, Year 8-10 students aged between 12-15 years are being lumped together in classes according to learning ability – rather than age – in a curriculum revamp. 

It’s a move that goes against conventional education and has several parents concerned enough to confront the school board at a meeting next Wednesday. 

Fronted by mum Susan McIntyre, the group of 10 has written a letter to parents highlighting the issues.
“We believe this has serious social implications…your son or daughter may be ‘propelled’ from Year 9 or 10 into predominantly Year 8 classes,” the letter says. 

“These decisions have been made without consultation with parents, students or the majority of staff. There was no moderation of assessment [on how kids are streamed]. 

“As parents we do not have the research and evidence that this new ‘system’ works.” 

McIntyre urges parents to voice opinions: “We are hoping people will find out what’s happening with their children and get along to the board meeting to express their concerns.” 

The group’s fears are shared by a source who can’t be named because of former close ties to the school.
“[School management] is playing God with a lot of people here,” the source says. 

“Kids of the same age are more likely to be socially and developmentally in the same place, which is why they have been traditionally grouped the way they have been, whereas 12-year-olds and 14-year-olds don’t have that much in common. 

“If you’re a Year 10 student and you’re predominantly with Year 8s, how are you going to feel? I believe there’ve been 14-year-old boys coming home in tears.” 

Principal Lyn Cooper admits there have been timetabling problems associated with the new regime.
She’s adamant social development is just as important in the new format – and parents and kids are invited to express views if unhappy. 

“What we’re trying to do is offer flexibility,” she says. 

Unhappy kids can still move classes – “we’d have another [curriculum] level where they’d be appropriate”. 

“We’ve had it operating all last year and it had a considerable effect on [student] behaviour.” 

Cooper says she’d be “surprised” if there’s another school in New Zealand “doing exactly the same model we’re doing”.



Have you checked the classes your son/daughter has been placed in?

JUNIOR STUDENTS (Year 8, Year 9, Year 10)

There are no Year 8, Year 9 or Year 10 classes at Wakatipu High School for 2010. This is a change from last year when students were in their year group classes with a few students promoted to the next year level in a subject in which they excelled. This year all students have been placed according to the level they were working at, at the end of 2009. For example, many Year 9 and 10 students have been placed in classes with Year 8 students because that is the level at which they were deemed to be working. There was no moderation of assessment.

We believe this has serious social implications and also is very likely to limit the change of the students who have been “held back”, completing NCEA Level 3 before they leave school. These decisions have been made without consultation with parents, students or the majority of staff.

Contact the school to check where your son/daughter has been placed. Most Year 8, 9 and 10 students are working within the Level 5 band. Ask how many Year 8, 9 and 10 students are in each of their classes so you can more clearly see where they are working in terms of age groups.

As parents we do not have the research and evidence that this “new” system works, nor do we have the names of the schools that have supposedly trialed this “in various forms” as stated in the newsletter 9 February, 2010. This newsletter states that this system “allows us to readily propel students of all capabilities towards their optimal learning environment”. Your son/daughter may be “propelled” from Year 9 or Year 10 into predominantly Year 8 classes for some subjects. There are many students in this situation, some o whom have been “propelled up” in some subjects and “down” in others.

Do you want your son/daughter in classes with students of their own age as has been the case until this year and remains the case in almost all other secondary schools in NZ?

In past years Wakatipu High School teachers have been very good at meeting students; learning needs within year group classes, i.e. Year 8, Year 9, Year 10 and we would like to see this continued so that our children continue their education with peers of the same age.

SENIOR STUDENTS (Year 11, Year 12, Year 13)

Check that your son/daughter is being given the opportunity to sit NCEA Achievement Standards. Students have been placed in predetermined classes (some of which are Unit Standard classes) without consultation with parents and students. This may limit their future career/tertiary education prospects.


As parents, when we only have one choice for secondary schooling – that being Wakatipu High School. A “social experiment” with the entire secondary student population of the Wakatipu – in a system where research and evidence data in New Zealand schools is not proven – we believe is too big a gamble for us and our children.