Tauranga primary school educating high need pupils is crippled by debt

A Tauranga primary school's reputation for providing quality education to high-needs pupils is leaving the school buckling under debt.

Greerton Village School can no longer afford to pay teachers or relievers salaries, or spend money on learning resources for its students. 

By the end of the year the school fears its debts will be up to $200,000.

It's a mainstream school, but it's built a reputation as a school that cares for children with the highest needs.

A third of its 405 students need additional learning support, 27 are in the highest need category, six are legally blind and five use wheelchairs.

The school is a victim of its own success. Parents have been moving their children into zone to get the help they need... now, nearly half of its staff are teacher aides.

"We have absolutely no money left, so we can't buy anymore resources, so literacy books, we have books that are just falling apart, held together with sellotape," Teacher Rachel Mcgarva says.

It's a reputation it can literally no longer afford. There's no money left to pay relievers to cover sick teachers.

Parents are even being asked to keep their children home because there's no one to look after them.

And teachers are having to take two classes at the same time.

Last week - every single day - classes had to be split up and spread around the school.

"If the Ministry was to ring up tomorrow and say we need to pay back everything right now, what would happen to you? Well I'd first of all get the resuscitation unit out from the hospital and then I'd say well we're on our way to hell in a hand cart," Greerton Village School Principal Anne Mackintosh says. 

The teachers pour their heart and soul into this school and all of its kids - educating, feeding and looking after them.

As of term two, the school can no longer afford any extras that means, no more english or maths resources.

Ms Mackintosh says the school would reluctantly look at laying off staff but she can't even afford the redundancies.

The only reason Greerton can keep its doors open at the moment, is because the Ministry of Education has delayed its debt repayments.

The Ministry of Education is working with the school to find a way forward but for these kids who depend on this school, that's little comfort.


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