Gauging interest in private school

Bruce Tong
Bruce Tong
An Auckland school principal is next week holding a public meeting in Queenstown to gauge demand for a co-ed private school in the resort.

Bruce Tong is principal of Wentworth College in Whangaparaoa - one of three private schools he has established in the North Island.

Mr Tong's two sons and other family members live in the resort and he says he had heard a lot of anecdotal evidence indicating there was demand for a private school in the resort.

"We are not saying we're going to come down there and build one, I'm coming across to relate some ideas, see who turns up - the public, developers - and see who's interested."

He will be in the South Island to support his school at the Maardi Rowing Cup national rowing regatta in Twizel and decided to take the opportunity to gauge the interest himself.

Mr Tong founded Wentworth College from a "greenfields site" 10 years ago and sees great potential for a similar school in the Wakatipu.

Similar to Wentworth, pupils could have the option of taking Cambridge examinations instead of NCEA, with a school focus on academic, rather than pastoral, special character.

Likewise, analogous to Wentworth's co-curricular focus which includes sailing and golf academies, it could have a snowsports academy.

Mr Tong said he was not "up to play" with what the Ministry of Education had planned for the area, but thought the option of a private school would fit in well.

"I know they are thinking of moving Wakatipu High School or building another high school and I think a private school has a style of education that would provide an alternative for parents."

He said it would not compete with WHS, but could instead be a "win-win situation", keeping pupils - and families - in town and opening up more community facilities.

The cost of setting up a private school was undertaken only by those who could see a return on their investment, he said, and there were no financiers being courted at this stage.

"All we are looking at here is coming down and explaining in broad terms, and there could be someone at the meeting who thinks it's a great idea and wants to take the chalice and invest.

"I'm just opening the lid and seeing what comes out," said Mr Tong.

The meeting will be held at the Copthorne Lakefront Hotel on Wednesday, March 28, from 5.30pm.



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