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Anne Tolley

13 November, 2009

Waimokoia School to close

Waimokoia Residential School in Auckland is to close, Education Minister Anne Tolley has announced.


"I have made my decision to close the school in the interests of the students, and based on reports from the Education Review Office (ERO) and the school's Commissioner," said Mrs Tolley.


A recent ERO review noted that Waimokoia has had a lengthy history of governance and management difficulties, with a Commissioner in place for the last nine years.


"Children at Waimokoia have severe and challenging behaviour problems, and the school has been something of a last resort for addressing those problems.


"The funding from Waimokoia will be ringfenced to introduce a new service, which will provide intensive individualised support and therapy to students in their home and in their local school.


"Providing more support for these children with their families and communities, as recommended by the ERO report, will provide better and more sustainable educational and behavioural outcomes."


There are currently 35 students, aged between seven and 13, enrolled at Waimokoia. Students normally spend between six and 12 months there before returning to their usual school.


The closure follows a consultation process in which many submissions noted that additional support for students with severe behaviour difficulties is crucial, and that intervention is most likely to be successful when students are young.


"I am in full agreement with this, and I have made sure that significant resources will be available to ensure that support is provided," said Mrs Tolley.


The current intake of students at Waimokoia will finish at the end of this academic year, and the school will formally close on 27 January 2010. The new, intensive service for students with severe and challenging behaviours will be implemented for the 2010 school year.


Children who, for whatever reason, are unable to make full use of the new model will still have the option of attending the country's other residential schools, at Westbridge in West Auckland and McKenzie in Christchurch.


"This is an opportunity to provide a better education for some of our most behaviourally challenged students.


"The Ministry of Education will discuss the new service with principals and will ensure that the transition from Waimokoia to local schools is as smooth as possible for students."



Background

The 2008 ERO Evaluation of Residential Behaviour Schools is available on request, along with the Waimokoia Commissioner's submission. 



  • The annual operating cost for Waimokoia is close to $3 million.


  • After the school closes, this funding will be ‘ringfenced' to provide a new service for students aged 7-13 years old who have severe and challenging behaviour issues.


  • Support will be available for up to 50 students a year. The current roll at Waimokoia is 35.


  • Instead of a short-term placement in a residential school, the new service will provide intensive individualised support and therapy to students in their home and in their local school.


  • Each student will have a comprehensive intervention plan that will be funded at a significantly higher level than current resourcing levels allow.


  • This will enable provision of services such as the internationally renowned Incredible Years parenting and teacher management programmes.


  • Access to in-classroom supports such as additional teacher and teacher aide time will be enhanced, as will access to individual therapy for students. Short- term respite care will also be provided where required.


  • Research has shown that providing wrap-around support to students in their home and local school is the best way to achieve sustainable change for young students with severe behaviour issues.


  • The Ministry will coordinate access to this new service and to the two remaining residential behaviour schools. The Ministry will also strengthen the monitoring of outcomes for all students who are being supported in residential behaviour schools and by the new service.
  • Anne Tolley
  • Education