Schools, parents out of pocket

A children’s after-school programme has allegedly left both schools and parents out of pocket.

My After-School Headquarters (Mash) provides programmes for primary school pupils in the South Island, including until recently Green Island School.

Green Island School principal Aaron Warrington said the school had decided to terminate its contract with the business after experiencing "a whole range of issues and problems".

"We had all sorts of complaints from parents about the way they ran things.

"They would do things such as charge for the extra two hours if they arrived five minutes late, they would cancel programmes at the last minute and they would not pay back credit to the parents.

"We never should have signed them up in the first place."

One issue was the company would change venues for its after-school programmes at short notice without informing parents, he said.

The school was also owed money by the company, which was meant to pay the school for using its grounds and facilities, he said.

"We decided to write off the debt in the end because I got tired of asking for it. I seriously can’t believe they’re still operating."

Outram School principal Kim Allan said the school had had no contact with Mash managing director Craig Fortune since issues over payment arose.

"We would really like to hear from the owner.

"It is very hard to have a conversation about the future of Mash at our school if they don’t talk to us."

Mash, whose headquarters are based in Christchurch, runs many after-school and Ministry of Social Development-funded Out of School Care and Recreational (Oscar) programmes in Christchurch and Dunedin schools.

A concerned parent of a Green Island School pupil said she was also owed money by Mash.

She had been attempting to contact Mash and Mr Fortune, but had not received a satisfactory response from either.

She had been waiting for the repayment since July, she said.

"I’ve left voicemail messages, emails and contacted their social media.

"I would really like a response; there doesn’t seem to be any avenue to complain."

After taking to social media, she discovered "there’s a whole bunch of frustrated parents with no way to contact anyone about it" who appeared to be all owed money.

This is not the first time an after-school care provider has come under fire.

In September 2022, the Otago Daily Times reported Mash taking over Magic Kids Club, which had run programmes for up to 19 schools in Dunedin.

Magic Kids Club received multiple complaints from parents, and an assessment from government agency Te Kahui Kahu later revealed it had failed six of the nine standards required to keep accreditation.

At the time, Mr Fortune said the business would be undergoing major reform in the coming months.

"When we work with children we have an obligation", he said.

While expanding the business had played a factor, the driving force was to make sure Dunedin parents had a place they could comfortably rely on for their childcare, he said at the time.

Mr Fortune was approached several times for comment yesterday.

In a recent post to a Linkedin profile, he said: "I am looking for a new role and would appreciate your support. Thank you in advance for any connections, advice, or opportunities you can offer."