Sue Bedford, from Rotorua, enrolled her children Katelyn and Elliot at ACG Tauranga before the soil was even turned on the school’s 14ha site at Pyes Pa.
Her husband Andy thought it was a risk and they should wait until it was more established.
“But I thought, why wait?” she explains. “I knew the teacher-student ratios would be good and it would provide great opportunities for my kids. And I wasn’t happy with the options near us. My children were pupils on the first day, and it’s been amazing for them.”
Over the last four years, Sue has watched her daughter Katelyn transform from a reserved, quiet child who had fallen through the cracks at her previous school, into a confident, outgoing young woman.
“She started asking questions, standing tall. She doesn’t want to be at the back and miss out on things anymore. My mother came over one day and said ‘something’s changed about Katelyn.’ She was right – she just blossomed. It’s been an amazing change for us.”
Much of this Sue puts down to Katelyn’s teachers, and one in particular – Mr Pratt – who made goals for where he wanted Katelyn to be at the end of two years.
“Finally, somebody was actually showing an interest in her as an individual. He took the time to work out how she learns best. When she started to achieve, he continued supporting and encouraging her the whole way.”
So, did the risk pay off?
“It’s been a life-changing experience for us as a family,” says Sue.
“We believe we’re filling our children’s toolbox up with tools. I don’t want my kids to look back and say, I couldn’t do this because my education wasn’t good enough. I want them to say ‘we had the best opportunities ever’.”