Principals back shared site for new colleges

HEATHER SIMPSON
Last updated 08:30 03/07/2014
schools meeting
SCOTT HAMMOND/FAIRFAX NZ

COMMUNITY SUPPORT: Around 300 people turned up at last night’s public meeting on the future of secondary school education in Blenheim

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Repairs and refurbishment of "third world" classrooms at Marlborough Boys' College won't cut it and a new, modern school is needed, its principal told a public meeting in Blenheim last night.

In a dramatic U-turn Marlborough Boy's principal Wayne Hegarty said maintaining the status quo and refurbishing the boys' and girls' colleges in Blenheim was no longer an option.

Both principals announced that they support the option to co-locate with two single-sex schools on a new site, with a shared board and management structure.

The review of secondary school education in Marlborough had been prompted last year by the need for the colleges to repair and refurbish old and leaky buildings.

The Education Ministry was prepared to stump up $10.8 million for refurbishment, but Hegarty said the lack of funding meant it was not a viable option. Two new single sex secondary schools, co-located on a greenfield site, had become the preferred option for the future of Marlborough Boys' and Marlborough Girls' colleges.

A co-located site, with an estimated building budget of $51.5m from the ministry, would provide the modern learning environment students required, both principals said.

"Our hearts say fight and stay where we are. Our minds say don't turn down $51 million to provide for the future," Hegarty said.

Around 300 people turned up to last night's meeting at Boys' College to hear the panel of ministry specialists and both college principals speak on the review of the schools and to ask questions.

The three options on the table are: two single-sex colleges co-located on one site, costing $51.5m; retaining and maintaining the existing colleges, at a cost of $10.8m; or building a new co-ed college costing $52.6m, excluding land costs.

Hegarty said he and his school board had decided it was no longer viable to retain and maintain the existing college.

Some of the buildings in the college were like something from the third world, he said. The college had old buildings, some of which required earthquake strengthening, and there was insufficient gym space for a school of its size, he said. A simple fix-it job of repairs and some refurbishment was not sufficient.

"In 10 to 15 years there might be a new technology and art block but the rest of the school will be 10-15 years sadder," Hegarty said.

The school had historical and architectural significance but they had to be pragmatic to future-proof the excellence in boys education the school had built up.

Girls' College principal Karen Stewart said both schools had a shared vision to retain their single sex status but work more collaboratively.

Her preferred option of a co-located site could extend learning programmes with the opportunity for some students to have shared co-ed classes. It would bolster the range of academic and vocational courses, cut student subject clashes and increase the shared use of specialist teachers.

Co-location could enable tertiary level courses to be offered and bolster links with polytech nics and universities, she said.

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A single site would see closer collaboration between teachers to develop academic and pastoral programmes to meet the specific needs of their students.

Sharing areas such as the school hall and sports fields would cut costs and increase socialisation between the schools.

The culture and traditions of each college would be retained, but both should be governed by a single management structure, Stewart said.

This would make for efficiencies and economies of scale and leave the the school leaders to focus on students' learning.

The public have until July 30 to make written submissions on the ministry proposals.

They should be emailed to consultation leader Janet Kelly at janet.kelly@xtra.co.nz or posted to her at 31 Courtney St, Motueka 7120.

- The Marlborough Express

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