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Early childhood education and playgroups did not operate out of Ōwhango, so residents accessed these services in Manunui and Taumarunui. As noted in other areas, the main challenge was a lack of capacity to take more children, resulting in wait lists:

"There's nothing locally but even in town, the centres are there but they don't have the staff."
"There's plenty of choices in Taumarunui."
"Oh, but they're, they're.... there's no availability."
"Oh yeah."
"They're packed. Well, it's not that they're packed. They just don't have the staff."
"So if you go to a pre-school or a day care and you say, “Would you look after my child?” they'll say, “Oh yeah, we'll look after him Monday to Friday.” “Oh, no, I only want Monday to Wednesday.” That means they've got two days unoccupied. “Nope, not interested sorry, you'll have to go on a waiting list.” Is that your experience?"
"Ah, no, that's not my experience where I am, but I have heard of that’s an issue with other providers. The issue for us is that we are trying to get another day and they just can't, they just don't do anymore at the moment. The waiting list is massive. I hate to think what the wait list is now."
"The government offers this subsidy for three-year-olds, it will be two-year-olds in a few months’ time. There will be no way that the system here can handle that."

The quality of early childhood education and care was expressed in somewhat positive terms:

"There's not a centre that receives universal condemnation. There are people that love every centre and there are Kura Kaupapa which again, people enjoy and like."

It was noted that there used to be a playgroup in Ōwhango, however, it closed and even though there were more pre-school children in the village now, participants thought that a parent-run group would no longer meet the needs of working parents:

"We did have a playgroup here. It formally closed. Not enough children."
"There probably would be now. That's changed."
"But it also takes parents willingness to run it. It takes a lot. And they want someone else to look after their kids because they're working."
"Playcentre, playgroups, they require the parents to be there."
"When they closed it last time, they sold all the stuff."
"When I had my children, we had a group of women who would meet up. But I don’t think that happens quite so much now, no. I don't know why. Why doesn't it? Why aren't young mums communicating?"
"We did in our case. (Redacted, names) and a few others, and (redacted name), but I think some of that might have come about from the midwife. I don't know."
"The pre-natal, it starts before the kids are born. But if you move from outside of the area, then.... I don't know."

Whereas in 2020 it was thought that the Ōwhango Primary School role may be decreasing, in 2023 it was felt to be stable or even increasing.

"It’s in the 70s now but I think there are more coming at the end of this year."
"The school is the biggest it’s been in 20 years. It was 40 for a while."
"But that’s driven by the staff and the people there."
"I do think thought that there are more kids now in the Ōwhango area now, it’s not just out of towners coming to the school."
"It’s a challenge for the school, too many kids. They’re limited to three classrooms. The ministry won't give them anymore because they area, the district has got too many classrooms."
"The school doesn't have a zone but may need to put one in place if they continue to grow."
"At the moment the school can't say no, right?"
"No, unless they put a zone in, so, at the moment there are a lot of kids who would be out of zone. Some were living here and then shifted out of the area, some just came to the school because of the reputation or connections with other people at the school."

Most children from Ōwhango attended school in the village, though some travelled to Taumarunui.

"Usually because their parents work in town, or they started at another school in town and then moved out here."

Ōwhango Primary School is highly regarded and valued by the community, and it was noted as a desirable primary school to attend with children travelling some distances to go there. The school was considered to hold a central role in connecting the wider community:

"Kids who go to that school are so lucky."
"The role wouldn't be what it is if the school wasn't so good."
"The school, the other thing about the school is it connects the community, not just because it is geographically in the middle of the community, but if you want to find out what's happening it's the school who knows to tell you what is happening. The school invites you to things that are on in the hall."
"The school has the community dinner at the end of the year."
"And the PTA at the school is very active so there are usually things that they are appealing to the community for help."

However, participants noted that a lack of any school bus meant that parents were committed to arranging their time, including work hours, around school attendance hours:

"It's really hard if you don't finish in time to get here to the school, because there's no public transport, no buses. So you sort of need to know someone or be there at three o'clock. The children come from too many different directions to have a bus."
"It's impossible if you don't know anyone and you finish at five o'clock, I couldn't send my kids to this school. After school care is an issue for some people. There are some families, not many, who that's an issue for them and that's why they go into town."

Approximately half of the high school students from Ōwhango travelled by bus to Taumarunui Highschool, while the remainder went to boarding schools.

"We lose a lot of families when they go to high school because often the families will shift to go to high school to look after their kids, and they don’t come back."
"So often the families who shift are the ones who have got the wherewithal."

Local high schooling was considered problematic.

"Well, that’s a problem."
"A few kids recently went to the (Taumarunui) high school but now they've left the high school to go elsewhere because they're just not happy with what they're getting there."
"I think the expectation is if you've got money then you send your kids away. The concern is that they don't learn a lot there."
"I've heard that they've got rid of, you know, when I went to school you had your maths class, you had English class, you went to science class. Now one teacher teachers all those things and that may have been the Art teacher or Science teachers, but now they're teaching maths or English and there are often difficulties with that."
"But they're doing those subjects through correspondence. They're doing maths through correspondence and English through correspondence."
"I've had friends who have sent their kids there and they get a worksheet to do, they hand it into the teacher and they never get it back. They don't know if they've done it right, they don't know if they've done it wrong..."
"The idea looked good when it was first started, because they didn't have specialist teachers. So the kids who were into maths could go to the maths teacher and have really good tuition. But then they've struggled to get teachers, I think, which is why they've got rid of the maths teacher being the maths teacher. Now he's just a teacher for everyone. Just a general teacher. And so, this is through kids who I know who are at high school now, they're bored. They're not extended, they're not being taught very much."

One participant felt that the model adopted by the high school was theoretically promising, but in practice did not work for many children:

"There will be kids who survive and do well in any school, no matter how bad that school is there will always be those kids who do well. Admittedly, those kids could do better in a really good school. So, this isn't a school for you if you want to go to university. OK? So for a few years there were kids doing correspondence physics. You can't do physics by correspondence. Then they introduced a new philosophical way of doing things which is about enabling the children. So what we used to call the third and the fourth form are what you would expect like when we went to school, but as soon as you get into fifth, sixth, seventh form, you're expected to figure out a project yourself and then you go to advisors who teach, sorry, who help you weld the curriculum into those projects so that you learn to apply those projects. The kids that I’ve spoken to, like the girl (redacted), thought it was fantastic, she's ready to handle the world. Not like when I went from high school to university, and then, f'n hell, what do I do now? You didn't have a clue how to survive. These kids will be much more motivated. But the problem is a good 2/3 of the kids are just sitting there as passengers and distracting the other kids."
"There’s one other school in New Zealand that does it like this but they’re a decile 10 though."

Participants were also concerned that the high school no longer offered technology classes to their own students, nor to primary school students who traditionally attended the high school for these classes:

"They’ve got rid of woodwork and metal work. The primary schools no longer go to the high school for tech. They’re no longer offering that. They couldn’t replace one of their teachers."

After high school there was “a mixture” of things that young people may do.

"If you look at the local paper, you sometimes see an article about someone from Taumarunui High school who has graduated and gone on to be a nurse or a lawyer or something. But they're generally not returning to Taumarunui"

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