Students' parents urged to have say in shake-up

Community to shape future of education

HEATHER SIMPSON
Last updated 09:13 26/06/2014
 Bohally
SCOTT HAMMOND/FAIRFAX NZ
COMMUNITY CONSULTATION: Students from Bohally Intermediate school face-off as the secondary school debate continues.

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Parents of primary school pupils must have their say on perhaps the biggest shake-up of secondary school education to happen in Blenheim, leading educationalists say.

Primary and intermediate school principals say there must be a strong community voice at next week's crunch public meeting on the future shape of Marlborough Boys' and Marlborough Girls' colleges.

Children up to year 8 will be most affected by the Ministry of Education proposals, the head teachers warn.

The community has until July 30 to choose between three options the ministry has identified for the future of Blenheim's colleges. A public meeting will be held on Wednesday at Marlborough Boys' College.

The three options are: Two colleges side-by-side on the one site, with the option of a tertiary addition, costing $51.5 million; retaining and maintaining existing colleges costing $10.8 million; and a co-educational college costing $52.6 million, excluding land costs.

Both college principals said the community first had to decide whether Blenheim should have single sex or co-educational colleges.

Riverlands School principal Dave Parsons urged the community to grab the opportunity to have its voice heard at the public meeting. He supports the idea of getting a new campus, rather than spending on renovating existing buildings.

"Be it single sex, co-ed or a blend, the parents of Marlborough's primary pupils need to get involved and help create the best campus they can for their children and those that follow and not be hamstrung with a footprint, location and perspective that limits their vision and ultimately the provision of secondary schooling in Marlborough," he said.

Bohally Intermediate principal Andrew Read said it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for parents to be able to review what secondary colleges would look like for the next 60 years.

Parents he had spoken to had diverse opinions on the shape of secondary schools.

"The ministry has narrowed the range of ideas to three options. However, I hope there is still some room for innovation for the community to receive what they want. It is important that the Government listens to the voice of the community. I hope the Government does not have a pre-planned outcome and this consultation is genuine and not tokenism.

"Should there be a contentious decision made it is important that the community is engaged in the process so their collective voice gets what they want, not what some government bureaucrat who doesn't live in the area wants."

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Renwick School principal Simon Heath said a community voice was critical to the consultation. However, he would not say what was his preferred option.

"My preferred option will be what is best for the kids in the 21st century. We can't just be looking five or 10 years into the future but 30 or 40," Heath said.

Redwoodtown School principal Gary Hildyard said research showed boys did better in single-sex classes but the colleges debate should go beyond single-sex versus co-educational.

"As long as they work closely together for the benefit of the kids," Hildyard said. "If both schools shared facilities, I see that as a win, win situation," he said.

Mayfield School principal David Nott said single-sex schools had worked well for teenagers in Marlborough.

The public meeting is at 7pm on Wednesday, July 2, at the Boys' College hall.

- The Marlborough Express

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