Did ERO make an ERROR?

Opinion Piece by Liz Gregory.

The news broke a few days after the Employment Court ruling, that ERO (Education Review Office) was doing a review of the Gloriavale school. But don’t get excited, it wasn’t because of the ruling. It was planned before that. The timing was just coincidental.

Brian Henry had taken aim at ERO in three interviews after the ruling.

First interview with Heather Du Plessis-Allan Newstalk ZB Brian said, They were only educated to stay there. In my opinion is looks like slavery. Where has ERO been? They were a frontline Govt agency. ERO has to know that school was teaching them entrapment and enslavement. If they didn’t see it what are they doing.”

Second interview with Lisa Owen RNZ Checkpoint Brian stated, “They were educated in entrapment. How does ERO, who is regulating the school, work that out against their report saying this is a good one. This is a school training slaves. And we’ve got a Government agency saying that’s okay. Or didn’t they realise it?”

Third interview with Mike Hosking Newstalk ZB, Brian said, “This is tax-payer funded teaching of female servitude and ERO needs to stand up.  How does this happen?”

ERO’s job is to assess schools to ensure they are meeting the registration criteria. Gloriavale is a private school and so the criteria is more limited, but it does require the school to have suitable staff, suitable tuition standards and a safe environment (physically and emotionally).

ERO are apparently looking at the Gloriavale School and its various muddly learning pathways:

  1. They have a  privately registered school (which is barely functioning due to many of their staff under teacher council investigations). New staff have come up from the Early Childhood Centres (which are currently closed) to keep the school running. It appears barely any of the staff have teaching experience in the school.  (I am sure these ladies are lovely people who must be thoroughly exhausted with the upheaval)
  2.  Te Kura (Correspondence School for some of the older children). Because they lost so many teachers due to complaints, coming from interviews with current and former members, there were no teachers left to teach the high school children.
  3. Awhina Pathway – an MOE approved Gloriavale-specific programme where traumatised children, or those that are too difficult for the inexperienced new teachers to teach, are allowed to have their name on the school roll but not go to school. Instead the inexperienced teachers are somehow supposed to deliver the work to the parents, (who themselves have large numbers of children and currently no operating pre-school), and expect them to teach their children. This seems very unfair on these poor women. And what about the children? What’s happening to their education?
  4. Home-schooling families (which Gloriavale and their Home-Schooling Steering Committee are apparently trying to control. Even the home-schooling money is being controlled by the leaders and dished out according to their criteria of need. I thought home-schooling was about parents taking responsibility for educating their children – but when overbearing leaders hold the financial purse-strings and don’t even give vehicles to each family, how are they supposed to do a good job of this?)
  5. They’re onto their fourth Principal in less than three years. The first one got disciplined by the Teaching Council for signing off a teacher he knew had sexually offended against a student, the second one is currently under investigating for similar issues, the third one (a lady) has stepped down after less than a year, and now they’re onto another lady who has been the Community midwife for many years….
  6. They have a newly assembled School Board to try and show there is some school structure separate from the beleaguered leadership (which according to information we have, is just a paperwork exercise. As the judge noted, all power leads through the Shepherds and Servants to the guy at the top). Leavers are very familiar that any power the Board has is only delegated to them, or more likely, they are just puppets unable to actually do their job within the framework.

Criticising the Criticisers

Gloriavale has taken two opportunities to publicly express their disapproval at the Gloriavale Leavers’ Support Trust for laying complaints.  One was at the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Faith-Based Hearings and the other was during the Employment Court Hearing. It felt like they were tying to get sympathy from the public, that they were being attacked. The reality is that people who leave Gloriavale sometimes need to be given pathways to lay complaints, and we are very happy to assist with the process. Gloriavale should be spending it’s time asking, “are these complaints true” rather than firing shots off at the people who made the complaints.

I’m not even sure if Gloriavale have read the Ministry of Education report on Leavers and their Educational experiences. It makes it clear things are not okay at the Gloriavale School… I had to get an OIA (Official Information Act) to get the report, If you’d like to read it, please contact us.

Back to ERO.

It’s just a co-incidence that they are visiting Gloriavale the week after the Employment Court ruling. So why are they there?

It appears to be three years since the last review. Perhaps it was just that time again?

Or perhaps it’s because some leavers and advocates have been dropping vast amounts of information on the door of the Ministry of Education for the past year and as things got warmer and warmer they decided ERO might need to get involved? I am not sure if that’s the case or not. Apparently if you send information to the Ministry of Education, it doesn’t necessarily get sent to the places you think it should. The walls of separation that exist can have a dangerous silo effect when you’re dealing with a group like Gloriavale.

I’ve heard from inside Gloriavale, that they came because they were invited to come. (Perhaps they think a good review will quell the stormy waters and they can get back to normal?).

I’m pretty sure ERO’s visit is not in response to the Boy’s Employment Court ruling in May 2022, because surely it wouldn’t have taken them 14 months to organise a review of a school in crisis?

The judge herself expressed her displeasure at ERO during the Courage ruling stating,

“It is true that the Education Review Office was apparently satisfied with what was being delivered – it is unclear why this is so, or what information it relied on in reaching its conclusions. For present purposes its apparent satisfaction must be viewed with significant caution given the evidence in relation to the rigorous management of Gloriavale’s engagement with external agencies, and Peter Righteous’s admission in cross-examination that the programme was not operating as it should have been, and that work transition/vocational placements were made where labour was needed within the Gloriavale businesses.

I am still scratching my head why ERO didn’t immediately announce a review in May 2022 with a report like that. I think I’ll email the Education Minister and ask that question…

Oh dear.

Perhaps I expect too much of the Government?

Or perhaps I’ve been let down – having spent countless hours (along with incredible leavers) over several years, alerting every possible Government Department to the issues inside Gloriavale.

It seems like court is the only way to go. Three cheers for Employment Court Judge Christina Inglis, who immediately spotted how power, control, coercion and undue influence work in high-cost groups. I’m not sure why others couldn’t see it…

I digress. If I sound a little frustrated, you are right. Perhaps I sound unprofessional too. But leaving this to professionals to join the dots has failed so far.

Like Dennis Gates said to TV Three News 14 July, “I’m sick and tired of doing basically what is the Govt agencies job.” “I would love to see them (Sic. in Gloriavale) on Monday, but I think it will be Monday in a decades time before they get off their butts and do anything.”

Pearl Valor, “Look past the smokescreen Look past the façade. Look past the trained responses. This is a cult you’re dealing with.”

Here’s to plain speaking…

If you’ve been upset by what you’ve read here, feel free to contact your local MP. There’s an election coming…


Disclaimer: All opinions are those held by Liz Gregory, at the time of writing. They can be “amended from time to time”, and do not necessarily reflect the views of other members of the Gloriavale Leavers’ Support Trust, their relations or pets. No animals were harmed in the making of this production.