Gloriavale Under Fire Over Sexist School Lessons

Publish Date
Sunday, 2 August 2015, 8:46AM
Girls at Gloriavale are taught domestic chores as part of the curriculum.

Girls at Gloriavale are taught domestic chores as part of the curriculum.

Politicians will demand answers from education bosses over what the secretive Gloriavale school is teaching girls... besides how to wash men's clothes.

The Education Review Office will be hauled before the Education and Science Select Committee this month to explain why the extreme fundamentalist school is allowed to stop education early and steer all pupils towards life in the community on the South Island's West Coast.

Green MP Catherine Delahunty, who has requested the briefing, and Labour MP Chris Hipkins, hope it will be the forerunner to a Parliamentary probe into the isolated sect's school.

Delahunty is concerned that the school's narrow curriculum, believed to be based on an American fundamentalist Christian course, prevents pupils, especially girls, from going on to tertiary study.

She understood the highest level of secondary learning was NCEA level 1, and there was a strict divide of subjects girls and boys could study to steer them for working inside the compound.

She is questioning how the ERO, which recently gave Gloriavale a pass mark, could rubber-stamp a school that appeared to be in breach of human rights legislation.

In the latest review, ERO found little fault with the school, saying the tuition standard was suitable for teaching its curriculum.

It noted students at the 161-pupil school achieved well in reading and mathematics.

"Almost all students in the senior school achieved qualifications on the national qualifications framework.

"Older students successfully transition into the working life of the community," it said.

But Delahunty is concerned this equates to females being forced into a life of domestic servitude.

"I absolutely respect practical education but I know there will be students who have a hunger for academic learning and don't want to spend their lives ironing and having babies.

"When you see women with eight to 10 babies from an early age you wonder whether they have that choice."

Delahunty was concerned the ERO was not asking Gloriavale leaders hard questions about the rights of children when it came to tertiary education options.

"The report says they are prepared for some type of transition to work but from my observations, work means girls having babies at a very young age and boys work on the farm. It may be that some young women may want to have babies and devote themselves to housework, but having an education gives choice and not all young women want to do that."

Hipkins, Labour's education spokesman, also thinks an investigation is warranted. "This isn't the 1950s. Girls have the same right to a well-rounded education as their male counterparts."

National MP and committee chair Dr Jian Yang declined to comment, saying it was not appropriate for him to pre-empt the committee's options on the school.

ERO's deputy chief review officer Graham Randell said the review, conducted this year, confirmed the school met the criteria for registration as a private school, as set out in the Education Act.

Since that review there had been no further inquiries.

Randell said when it came to private schools the Education Review Office operated under specific provisions of the Education Act and reviews of private schools were limited in scope and reporting.

Gloriavale Community spokesman Fervent Stedfast declined to comment to the Herald on Sunday.