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$1000 for children to attend school

Tuturumuri School. PHOTO/FILE

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The families of some of the children now attending Tuturumuri School were paid a $1000 incentive per child but they would have gone there anyway.

That’s according to board chairwoman Kerstin Gruender, who has two children at the school.

She said the financial incentive was the idea of the Tuturumuri Steering Group and the board was not involved. She did not know where the money came from.

“We have a roll of six and I believe it has definitely been paid out to four and I don’t know what happened with the other two,” she said.

“I don’t believe the children are there because of the grant. They would be there regardless.”

Education Minister Chris Hipkins on Tuesday announced an interim decision to close the school and the board has 28 days to respond.

Gruender said the board would meet the steering group and an email had been sent out to the community inviting input and ideas form anyone. She was waiting to hear back from people before deciding what to do next.

The school’s limited statutory manager Denis Asher confirmed the community was being consulted.

A confidential ministry report sent to Hipkins in May says all 28 submissions during a consultation period from February 28 to March 28 wanted the school to remain open, although three schools in the area did not make a submission.

It reveals the cut and thrust of the debate in gripping detail.

The ministry argues 10 children in Tuturumuri bypass the school to attend others, there are few pre-schoolers in the area, other schools in the area at Martinborough, Pirinoa and Kahutara have the space for the six children and it would be difficult to find a teaching principal. There are 44 pupil spaces at Martinborough School alone.

The steering group argues it is bad for the community, it is a good school, the journey to other schools is too long and Primary Industries Minister Damien O’Connor has promised all government decisions will be “rural-proofed” – that is assessed for their impact on rural communities.

The steering group also argues community attempts to save the school have been undermined by incorrect statements throughout, including that the school was without pupils. It also says the publicity about the plight of the school hasn’t helped the community save the school.

The ministry says those trying to save the school have been talking to the media.

The board also claims that the ministry told families who may have sent children to the school they couldn’t, but the ministry denies this.

Four pupils arrived at the school in term one of 2018 and the ministry alleges some were from families recently employed in the area to bolster the roll of the school. Two started at the beginning of term two.

The ministry says the ages of the pupils mean they may not be at the school long.

The ministry doesn’t like the $1000 incentive.

“There is a risk that if the school stays open, it may attract students from across South Wairarapa due to financial incentives currently available to enrol at Tuturumuri School,” the report says.

Gruender said she was overseas when the idea was brought up by the steering group and she was not part of it.

She said it was almost like bribing people and the board was “steering clear” of it, and it obviously had not led to enrolments in the 10s or 20s.

It was done with the best intentions and the school was not involved at all.

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