Parents pull kids from school


A dozen senior Shotover Primary pupils have been pulled from the Queenstown school over concerns about their learning.

Five parents contacted Mountain Scene this week with concerns about how well their children had been prepared for high school while at Shotover.

They had all removed their children from the school.

Principal Ben Witheford says the school is teaching to the curriculum and believes some concerns may be due to the changing nature of teaching and learning – but he acknowledges communication needs to improve.

He confirms of the roughly 70 pupils who started 2019 in year 7 or 8, 12 had left for other schools.

One of the parents, who asked to remain anonymous, believes the school’s “open learning environment” focuses on teaching social skills at the expense of core subjects.

She also says she knows of two former students who have said the school did not adequately prepare them for high school.

Part of the issue appears to be concerns around the way pupils of different ages are learning together in particular buildings – for example, year 7 and 8s have been separated into two groups in two different buildings, which also house pupils in years 5 and 6.

Witheford says: “We would argue whether you’ve got them split, or not split, we’re still meeting the needs of those kids.

“A lot of parents will talk about ‘ready for high school’, and I always ask, because I’ve heard that now for 20 years, I say ‘for you, what does ready for high school mean?’, because normally it can be anything from ‘I want my child at a certain academic standard’, to ‘I just want to know they can cope in that environment with older kids in the mix’.”

The issue was discussed in a board of trustees meeting last week attended by 11 parents.

The discussion itself was held in a public-excluded part of the meeting for privacy reasons.

Witheford says the school hasn’t done a good enough job of communicating with parents about how it’s meeting the needs of senior pupils, and that will improve. That’ll include meeting with parents who will have senior children in 2020, and bringing forward the school’s biennial community survey.

Witheford says like all state schools, Shotover teaches to the New Zealand curriculum.

“This means teaching a comprehensive curriculum that meets the needs of the whole child.”