Keep colleges apart

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 06:45 03/12/2013

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A public meeting in Blenheim last night overwhelmingly supported keeping Marlborough Boys' College and Marlborough Girls' College on separate sites.

About 200 people attended the meeting, called by the two colleges and the Ministry of Education, to discuss the future of secondary schooling in Blenheim.

Both colleges have significant problems with their buildings, and the ministry estimated it would cost about $13.6 million to repair them, ministry southern region property manager Simon Cruickshank said.

Facilitator Janet Kelly said the two colleges were driving the review, and the ministry was supporting it, as an opportunity to look ahead at what was best for students in Blenheim.

There was no preferred option, she said, and everything was on the table.

Mr Cruickshank said Blenheim was the only town in New Zealand not to have a choice between single-sex schooling and co-educational schooling.

Meeting organisers were criticised for a lack of information on the possible options, arguments for and against, and costings.

Ms Kelly said the two schools did not want to put options in people's heads and were trying to be objective about the consultation.

However, many at the meeting thought it was unfair people were expected to say what they wanted on such an important issue without enough information.

Other possibilities raised at the meeting were putting both schools on the Marlborough Boys' College site in Stephenson St or building a completely new co-educational school or co-located schools on a brand new site.

Deputy mayor and Marlborough Boys' College old boy Terry Sloan spoke passionately about not wanting to lose the college's history, and called for a show of hands.

About 90 per cent of those at the meeting supported having two schools on two sites, keeping single sex education. Only about 20 people supported a move to co-educational schooling.

The main issue was the lack of space on the Marlborough Girls' College site in McLauchlan St.

The site was about 8 hectares, which was at the lower end of the space the ministry would require for a school that size.

Former Marlborough Boys' College board chairman Phil Robinson said the proposed school would be significantly smaller than those of other colleges at the top of the South Island.

Several other speakers highlighted that it would only have one sports field, which would not be enough for the students at one college now, let alone both of them together. Another issue was that research indicated students, particularly boys, learnt better in single sex schools.

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Some pointed out a wider range of subjects to study could be possible if the schools combined.

Marlborough Girls' College principal Karen Stewart said a problem with sharing classes now meant the students had to travel 20 minutes between schools. If more classes were shared, that would cause timetable problems, mean buses would be needed, and could mean a longer school day.

Marlborough Girls' College board chairman Bernie Rowe said the leaky buildings at Marlborough Girls' College and the old and earthquake-risk buildings at Marlborough Boys' College were "reasonably significant".

The two schools were sharing some classes and this had led them to ask the community what it wanted them to do.

Public submissions should be sent by email to Janet Kelly at janet.kelly@xtra.co.nz by January 20.

- The Marlborough Express

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