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People living in Ohakune experienced challenges accessing ECE and childcare in Ohakune. Although a number of centres were available in Ohakune, sometimes parents struggled to get early childhood care for their children. This was due to a lack of capacity in current facilities to take any more children, or because the centres could not offer the hours of care needed to enable parents to work:

"They would get four or five applications every week. Maybe a few of those are local but the rest are just sending an enrolment form because they are going to move here and when they move up. I’m moving out of the rat race and coming somewhere quiet; my child needs these days, and this is what I want and when can it happen. But there is a current wait list."
"There’s a Kindy, child care and three kōhanga. The kōhanga has a lot of space available for the kids, Māori and Pākehā. Any kind of… but it might not be what people are wanting for their children to be learning."
"(Redacted) is able to take children, to offer at least something."
"I think there is also a consistency. I know people whose children who have enjoyed kōhanga reo but they actually need consistency because sometimes they close."
"Sometimes they could say, we can offer you a Tuesday or a Thursday until we can get more. But they can’t find anywhere else. So there is a need. But there’s not enough space."

In Ohakune and the surrounding areas there were a number of primary schools:

"There is a primary school here in Ohakune, one in Raetihi, Waiouru. There's also lots of rural schools. National Park. There's the Māori school here. So there are quite a few primary schools around here."

The Ohakune Primary school was considered to be growing and potentially above capacity:

"Growing massively."
"I don’t know about Raetihi, but Ohakune has had to put in new classrooms."
"That’s a whole other topic what the teachers are going through at the moment. There are so many kids in one classroom."

A few children in the area were home schooled, though not a large component. Some children in the area commenced home schooling as a result of COVID mandates or restrictions, coupled with general dissatisfaction with mainstream schooling.

Participants expressed concern that children with extra or complex needs were not well serviced in the current school system, and that the services which were meant to be available were understaffed and therefore, often unavailable in Ohakune.

"Neurodiversity is a real big thing. Just children with, on the spectrum, ADHD. The school is constantly employing teacher aids to keep up looking after children who have issues. It's very challenging. And accessing the support, so for example, early learning support, if you have speech language issues, the Whanganui region, which covers us as well, is meant to have eight speech language service people. They have four. The demand is so big now, they can’t fill it. For all services. Then when you do realize that ok, this child needs help, so we’ll talk to someone but then it’s a wait. Then they will come and see you in a month. It drags it out. There are delays. We’ve got to wait for this, and this."

Childrens’ ability to function well at school was considered compromised by their wider social circumstances, which, in the school setting, was confounded by larger class sizes:

"And they're trying to make them bigger. So at kindys it's one (teacher) to ten (children), at new entrants' school it's one to fifteen but I think they're trying to up that."
"Correct me if I’m wrong but because of some of the social issues we're seeing from COVID but also just households not living in a comfort level, so you're getting some behavioural challenges from those kids as well so you're requiring kids that need a little bit of extra guidance, supervision, in an environment that is trying to do the absolute opposite. "

Poor housing and financial pressures putting some families in “survival mode” is seen to affect children’s wellbeing and participation in education.

“There’s also different groups, students that come from families that are financially stressed and living in overcrowded situations. Those kids are stressed. You see that stress. It comes out in their behaviour, their wellbeing. It increases during the winter months because of the housing stresses”.

Some participants felt that the quality of both primary and secondary schooling is slipping due to teachers being overloaded and burdened with complex and multiple demands.

"My daughter loves going to school, the teachers are all really lovely. But, um… I don’t know if my children are progressing as fast as I would have expected?"
"I think the kids go in, if they’re academic and they get it, they’re good, they’re fine. But if they don’t quite get it they just kind of get lost. There’s not enough teachers, the focus becomes on the kids that always puts their hand up and always wants to be involved in stuff. But if they sit back they kind of just get left to it."
"I think that’s just because the teachers are overloaded. Because the classes are so big they’re missing out on just that bit of time, the one on one."
"There are a lot of stress layers at the moment with teaching in schools you know, that's teachers are now not just teaching. No. They're counselling, they're ...which is having a huge impact on teaching. Behaviour, I would say over the last ten years has gotten a lot worse so now, that behaviour in the past may have been a couple of students which was manageable, and it may have been low key behaviours. But now that behaviour is more students, the behaviour is worse, so there's teachers spending far too much time having to manage that behaviour instead of actually the quality of teaching."
"It’s often about what’s happening at home, the behaviour. Dysfunctional homes, unstable homes, overcrowded homes. All that stress goes to school."
"There is also an increase in children with high needs. They are getting a high needs building put in the school. Also children with dyslexia, dyspraxia, all these things where they are… their level of literacy and numeracy is very low. Teacher aids are doing the best they can but they’re not always qualified to be able to work with those students."

It was considered that in Ohakune, the majority of high school aged children went to Ruapehu College, and the high school was growing.

"The role has been increasing. It’s a flow on effect from the primary school, but also from out of town, people moving to the area but also sending their kids to the area to live with family."

As in 2020, it remained quite difficult to recruit teachers to Ohakune. Participants felt that without the housing that the high school was able to make available to teachers, things could be much worse:

"It's always been difficult to recruit teachers to our area. Like, those new teachers, they'll stay just long enough to get their... um, full registered. Then they'll go off because they don't have any ties to the place. The school owns a number of houses but if they didn't have those houses, they would struggle."

It was noted that some of the issues facing the schools in the area were not necessarily localised problems.

"Some of the things I think we’re describing in education is more of a national problem. It’s not necessarily a problem just for here. Attendance at school is a national thing as well."

It was thought that about half of the students who attended Ruapehu College went on to university. The key barriers for those who didn’t were thought to be economic. The cost of going away to university had contributed to proportionately more young people being interested in pursuing trades and apprenticeships:

"A number of students, about 50 percent of the students went to university. It goes up and down depending on the year and home situations. A lot of kids don’t go because they can’t afford it, didn't get a scholarship, or need to go work for their living and they're in a two-bedroom home and need to help out. They need to buy groceries."
"That's where there's been a shift so now, they're talking about trades, internships, apprenticeships. I think that the cost of going to university as a student is swaying some of that. Going into the defence forces because they pay for the training."
"The college has a great gateway programme, so you can actually go and learn to work with a trade. Whatever that trade might be. "

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