April 20 2014, updated 9:52am

Judge shuts door on Aorangi

BY TINA LAW
Last updated 05:00 22/12/2009
CASE DISMISSED: Aorangi School principal Stephanie Thompson speaks with media in Christchurch yesterday after a last-ditch High Court bid to save the school failed.
DAVID HALLETT/The Press
CASE DISMISSED: Aorangi School principal Stephanie Thompson speaks with media in Christchurch yesterday after a last-ditch High Court bid to save the school failed.

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Tears greeted a judge's decision to dismiss Aorangi School's last-ditch attempt to survive next month's planned closure.

A packed public gallery at the High Court in Christchurch yesterday heard Justice French reject all of the school's allegations over the process Education Minister Anne Tolley used to close the school from January 27 next year.

Board of trustees member Andrew Oh said the board was considering an appeal, but it would talk to the Bryndwr community before making a decision.

More than 80 pupils at the decile three school will have to find a new school, and 12 teachers and 14 support staff will be looking for new jobs.

"The Government has ripped the heart out of the Aorangi School community," Oh said.

At a two-day judicial review last week, the school said it was not treated fairly or with natural justice, and Tolley's consultation process failed to comply with common law.

It said the closure date did not provide enough time to "transition" the pupils to other schools.

The judge said yesterday she was satisfied that none of the school's allegations was sustainable, and she dismissed the judicial review.

She said things could have been done better during the consultation process, but what was done met legal requirements. She was satisfied Tolley had done enough to meet her obligation to consult over the school's closure.

"The lawyers for the board have said all that could be said on the board's behalf. No stone has been left unturned," the judge said.

She said the board should have been provided with some information without having to use the the Official Information Act, but it got the relevant briefing papers to make its submission.

It was not her task to assess the merits of the closure decision; her focus was solely on the process.

While she had some sympathy over the short time frame for the closure, she did not consider the date to be unreasonable.

"I am acutely conscious of the fact that the decision will come as a huge disappointment to the school community, who fought so hard to save its school."

She hoped the decision would at least provide certainty and enable parents, staff and the board to make decisions about the future.

Aorangi principal Stephanie Thompson said she was now focused on doing everything in her power to help the pupils find new schools.

"I personally do not agree [with the decision]. We have lived this for 3 1/2 years. We need to move on," she said.

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Deputy principal Anney Collin said she was sad for the children, whose interests had not been taken into account.

Pupil Serenity Bruce, 9, said the decision was sad and annoying. She had no idea which school she would attend next year and was nervous about switching schools.

Her grandmother, Mandy Bruce, said the decision "stinks". It was unjust and unfair.

"Not once in this whole process have the powers that be thought about the children. It's been all about money and about process," she said.

Parent and relieving teacher Wendy Oh said her son Angus, 9, would move to another school but would be unsettled.

Teacher Gavin Tucker said his contract allowed him to take redundancy or be redeployed to another school, and he would choose redeployment.

Thompson said she had given no thought to her future.

Tolley welcomed the outcome, saying she was always confident a proper process had been followed.

The focus should now be on the children, she said.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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