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Early childhood education (ECE) for under-fives in Kakahi is accessed in Taumarunui and participants were satisfied that ECEs were of a good quality. However, ECE was in high demand, had limited capacity, and thus difficult to access for some:

"As soon as you know you’re pregnant you have to get on the wait list. I'm trying to get my little boy in, but they have got no places. There's nothing out here, it's so hard. If you're trying to go to work, like you're trying to go to work, to work more and get more money, but then your kid can't get in and you've got to pay children care and it's just..."
"My two went to kōhanga (in Taumarunui) and that was just school hours, and not holidays."
"There's Tamariki Akoranga and the early learning does full-time so you can work. But even that, me and my husband have to work around what we can get. We've got no family support here, we've got no option so that's all I can do."
"There’s a Playcentre in Manunui, but they have a wait list too."
"The only thing about kōhanga reo is that they're underfunded. And the buildings that they're in aren't fit for purpose. They need some serious funding that so that our children are accommodated better. The service that is provided for them is second to none, but then you can't get your kid into them either because of the size of the building. They could take more children if they had a bigger building, but they can't afford to have a bigger building. And even the building they’re in at the back of Taumarunui Primary School... they need a whole new building so they could accommodate more whānau."

The quality of ECE was well-regarded:

"Oh, they're brilliant. Akoranga is so good. They do heaps of te reo, they're brilliant."
"There used to be informal playgroups for preschoolers and parents within the Kakahi community, but these were not currently active. The primary school in Kakahi closed approximately eight years ago, to the regret of residents: "
"I was really sad when the school closed and then suddenly when had an influx of children. Oh my stars! But education had said they would never, once we closed, they would never re-open."
"They didn't come to the community with any support, or..."
"No, that was sad. I really think the school could have stayed open."
"You should never close a school unless the Ministry closes it."
"Mmm. It was terrible. Since then we've got quite a few children in the village."

As a result of the school closure, children from Kakahi travel to various primary schools in the area:

"They go to Manunui, Taumarunui, various other ones. Ōwhango."

No bus was available to take children to the closest primary school in Ōwhango, approximately 10 kilometres away, however a bus was available to take children to Manunui and Taumarunui. Safety concerns were held regarding those children who caught the bus to Taumarunui for school:

"Most of the kids catch the bus and go to Manunui or Taumarunui."
"Some ridiculous time in the morning!"
"Seven-thirty, with no shelter."
"We take our children to Ōwhango, there's no bus so we drive there and back twice a day, every day. Ōwhango is actually our closest school."
"You know how all the children…not all, catch up the bus? I see them walking in the dark going to catch that bus, and I see them walk back too. And it's only twenty past seven and they've missed the bus. And I think in the winter that's appalling, that we're only twenty minutes from town and they have to be on that bus so early."
"And they get to school at eight o'clock when the classrooms aren't even open, you know? I mean lucky at Taumarunui Primary one of the classrooms is open for those early ones but generally school classrooms aren't open until eight thirty and those kids are left to their own devices in the school playground."
"And also there's no bus shelter. There is no shelter for them. I don't know who is responsible to give them a little shelter shed?"
"This morning it was dark at seven thirty, and it was raining and they were just huddled, huddled under Manu's little bit of shelter there. With their umbrellas and it was almost pitch black."
"We used to catch the bus at quarter to eight, now it's more like quarter past seven."
"My children go to Taumarunui Primary, but I would love for them to go to Ōwhango. But it is, I mean (redacted) has offered to take them, but then on days when (redacted personal name) can't take them, I'm sort of thinking, um... I work in town so it's going backwards and then having to finish early to get there in time on the reverse, so there's that."
"That would be amazing if there was a bus to Ōwhango. It's so hard when you're working and you have to change all your hours around so that one can drop off, or can pick up."

The quality of primary schooling, particularly in nearby Ōwhango, was considered to be very good:

"Ōwhango is fantastic, it’s It is, it is a really, really, good school."
"Most of the primary schools are pretty good, It's the high school, yeah, the high school that's not. "

Sentiments about the closest high school in Taumarunui remain negative, with the same concerns expressed as in 2020, those being regarding the quality of education and the learning model the school had adopted which was thought to cater only for a narrow range of children:

"I don't have children, but I have heard, I know that they have implemented ah... a very different form of education."
"They don't have teachers, they have advisors, so basically they provide, if the student is interested in a particular topic the advisor will help them gather information and give them all of the information and send them off and be there if they need advice. But I know that there is one teacher who is responsible for all of the math subjects, and one is responsible for all of the science disciplines, it all comes under one person. I know many parents of children who have tried to send their children to Taumarunui to support local but have pulled them out because it is not a, ah…, environment conducive to learning. Because you're dealing with teenagers, who, you know, unless they're an exceptional um... individual that is totally focused on their learning, you know, they're going to go and vape in the toilets and go off with their mates because that's what teenagers do, you know. So yeah."
"You ask people, "Are you sending your kid to Taumarunui High School?" And you just get the same reaction, ha ha ha ha!"
"I know a few kids that have gone there and did OK."
"My daughter did correspondence. Kura correspondence. She did Japanese and art, most subjects. She was able to do that from here because she left the high school. She was at Whanganui, finished there. We tried her at Taumarunui Highschool, it just wasn't her, so ...correspondence was basically the only option after that."
"When I went there over sixty years ago there was 700 odd students there and now, it's 200? Just over 200 I believe? What's that say for our high school?"
"That's right. That's right."
"The quality has deteriorated. Particularly in the 2000s."

One participant pointed out that Taumarunui High School has a long been perceived negatively due to historical circumstances where wealthier families tended to send their children to boarding school:

"I went to Taumarunui High School and lasted about three months. It's ah.. had a stigma for a long time. I think those that could afford it sent their kids away, then that was less attractive to get quality teachers. We were just the rough lot left."
"Several participants felt that the school no longer adequately catered for Māori students, nor incorporated te ao Māori or appropriate tikanga into the school:"
"I went to high school, too, here. And it was real awesome. We had a lot of te reo, you know, they were teaching a lot of te reo and I don't know, in the last ten or fifteen years it's declined real bad. In terms of everything. I mean, my daughter was sixteen when she got kicked out of school and there was no support for her except for a couple of teachers that were trying to help. They got shut down, just about lost their jobs trying to help the kids. So she ended up working at the age of sixteen because that was the only thing we could do. We couldn't send them away to boarding school, because the cost, it's just way up here. But back then, we had the support of our old people as well. There was a lot of family support when we went to school. Nowadays, it's different. We even offered to teach te reo, but the school didn't want a part of it at the time. I sort of wiped my hands of it all."
"For your people (who want to learn te reo) there's not much there, compared to when we were at school, the three of us, we all went to school together and there was plenty, plenty for us Māori. There's not much there except what we do amongst our families, all of us. Other than that there is nothing really out there and if they want a pōwhiri, it’s like, dial a pōwhiri. Shocking, when their own students can’t perform a pōwhiri. And if it is, you’ve got to be royalty to get a pōwhiri. Back in the day, we did a pōwhiri for everyone who entered the school. Not just for Māori, for Pakeha as well."

As a result of dissatisfaction with Taumarunui High School, high school aged children from Kakahi sometimes went to boarding school, though the costs of doing so mean that only those who could afford could do this:

"A lot will go to Hamilton, Hamilton Boys or Hamilton Girls, Whanganui. Fielding, a lot go to there."
"If you can afford it."
"Well, you can get subsidies, but you have to be clever in that as well, you have to know all that, know what they want to be able to get the grants. So, they'll cover about three quarters of the boarding costs each year, not for anything else. Just the boarding costs."
"It's not affordable."
"No way!"
"Hell, no."
"I had my daughter in at Whanganui and on top of the subsidy that I was getting it was still costing me about, and this was just boarding costs, it still cost me over $800 a term, and then you've got all your other costs, education costs and extras."
"New Plymouth boys is $14,500 a year, just for the boarding and nothing else. And I think the grant is $8,500"

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