Teaming up: Wakatipu High School Foundation chair Daniel Gibbons, left, with school principal Oded Nathan and school board chair Adrian Januszkiewicz

A Queenstown charitable trust, established just over 10 years ago to support Wakatipu High School, has just reached the $2 million funding milestone.

The Wakatipu High School Foundation (WHSF) was officially launched in October, 2013 — the locally-based Peter Wilding Estate was behind the initial $500,000 pledge, providing the first $250,000 to the school and promising to match, dollar for dollar, the next $250,000 raised by the foundation during 2014.

Until then, the foundation fund sat around $88,000 thanks to donations from Colliers International ($20,000), Trinity Construction and Harcourts ($10,000 each) plus a dozen other donors.

Celebrating the foundation’s 10th anniversary at a function at Forsyth Barr, in Frankton, last Thursday, WHSF chair Daniel Gibbons says the Peter Wilding Estate also enabled an endowment fund to be established, which the foundation aims to grow to $10m.

‘‘Over the past couple of years we’ve been giving the school $450,000 per annum, which has [had] quite an amazing impact,’’ Gibbons says.

‘‘There are some really great programmes the foundation’s been able to [assist with], probably the Āwhina Fund is one of the key things.’’

That ensures equitable access for all students to barrier-free education and extra-curricular activities.

Gibbons says in the past year, through that fund, the foundation’s helped 170 students — about 13% of last year’s school roll.

Principal Oded Nathan says already this year, applications for the fund have surpassed what they were in all of 2023 and 2022.

‘‘They’re pretty sad stories, but extraordinary kids and good kids from good families, people who have probably never asked for support in their lives and just want their kids to have uniforms and laptops, as other kids do, and be able to play sport or have music lessons or participate in whatever it is that they’re passionate about.’’

Gibbons says because ‘‘we are a one-school town’’, a key part is ensuring no student’s left behind.

That’s particularly important given the rapid growth at the school.

Nathan says over the past two years, the school’s returned to pre-Covid growth of about 3% per annum, on top of some ‘‘very large cohorts’’ arriving from the Basin’s primary schools.

The foundation’s helping the school ‘‘strategically resource’’ to stay in front of that curve, and funding extra teaching support, including nine teacher aides over the two government-supported allocation, peer support, student wellbeing programmes, and, increasingly, numeracy and literacy support.

‘‘This year … approximately 30% of our new entrant year 9s are coming in with literacy levels below what is required, really, to be successful in school,’’ Nathan says.

‘‘While we’re continuing to discuss this and work with the primary schools to try and mitigate the future, the reality is those students are at the high school now.’’

The school’s upskilled six staff to teach structured literacy, resulting in a four-fold increase in students they’re able to help.

‘‘In 2022 we were able to provide that structured literacy to 15 students a year, we’re now able to provide that … for 60 students a year.

‘‘We’re actually starting to see some really good progress in those students … after eight years of primary school, we’re seeing acceleration of their literacy instruction in one or two years,’’ Nathan says.

He notes, though, last year’s overall academic achievements were ‘‘well above’’ national and decile, or equity, band, with 85% of students achieving NCEA Level 1, 90% achieving NCEA Level 2 and 70% achieving university entrance.

‘‘We do have a world-class facility providing a world-class education for a world-class community,’’ Nathan says.

‘‘We have amazing families, we have extraordinary students — I would put our students up against any students, not only in the country but in the world.

‘‘They are truly phenomenal.’’

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