The Boys Are Back

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Caption: The original building from 1930 is now needing desperate repair.

St Stephen’s boarding school for boys’, is looking to reopen its doors after being closed for over a decade.

Te Mano o Tipene, or the St Stephen’s Old Boys’ Association, have been discussing plans to reopen the school after it was closed in the year 2000, due to high debts, poor achievement and chronic bullying.

Secretary of the old boys’ association, Dean Kidd says “we don’t want to open the school simply because we’re all old boys’, but that is a driving factor.”

A submission has been put forward to the Ministry of Education, in which they aim to have the school open by February 2016. However, the site of the school in Bombay has suffered greatly after its closure 13 years ago, being the target of vandals, as well as being used by the police, fire services and the army, in training exercises in which the empty buildings were used to practice urban warfare. This has resulted in the deterioration and rapid dilapidation of the old structures.

For this reason, there is some trepidation as to whether the school will be opened at the Bombay site, or at an alternative site which is owned by the St Stephen’s and Queen Victoria School’s Trust Board.

Mr Kidd says “Ideally the Bombay site is preferred, but it is up to engineering experts to decide, because of the state of the buildings”. There is another option if the buildings are semi salvageable, to keep the front and rebuild the back ends, keeping the beautiful and iconic structures.

As the assets are owned by the Board whose views are Anglican, the school will retain it’s religious values. But the old boy’s association is looking for other partners too, with the likes of computer companies, Apple and Microsoft.

With this potential support, they wish to offer alternative educational opportunities, which will follow the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) system, but will be different to the structure of public schools, described by Mr Kidd as being, “totally different, fun and cool,” with the emphasis centered on each student being responsible for their own learning.

Mr Kidd said that St Stephen’s will be completely different to every other Maori Boys’ school in New Zealand, being more innovative, and a place where people of all races will want to send their boys.

Originally opening in 1844, and moving to the Bombay site in 1930, St Stephen’s is one of the oldest schools in New Zealand, boasting an impressive and loyal history. The plaque mounted high on the office building of the school states that it is ‘a school for religious education, industrial training and instruction in the English language for the children of both races in New Zealand and the islands of the Pacific.’

In past years, students have come from all over the country. With the reopening, it is expected that this will not change.

Mr Kidd says there is still more to be planned before the grand opening, with policies to be passed, teachers and staff to be chosen and students to be recruited.

There will be high emphasis on academic study, as well as sport. St Stephen’s is proud of its past rugby achievements, in which they dominated New Zealand secondary schools rugby for over 70 years.

The school has also helped shape the lives of prominent Maori men, such as Shane Jones and Hone Harawira, who remember the camaraderie that they had at the school.

Mr Kidd says, “St Stephen’s has been a pillar in many people’s lives, and we would love to see it opened to the community again.”

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Caption: Outer building showing signs of the aftermath of army training

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