Top option spelled out for colleges

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 11:30 09/12/2013

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Keeping Marlborough Boys' College but building shared specialist teaching facilities at Marlborough Girls' College would be the best option for the future of the colleges if student numbers dropped as predicted, says a report prepared for the Education Ministry.

The report by consultants Aurecon, written in August last year, compared four options for the colleges when the ministry started work last year a solution toproperty issues at the Blenheim secondary schools.

The report was made public on Friday as part of consultation with the Marlborough community about the future of secondary schooling in Blenheim.

A public meeting was held last week, with another one to be held on January 20.

The report says Blenheim was served by two single-sex colleges, which was unusual, and noted that there was no co-education except at Queen Charlotte College in Picton.

"In addition, the schools are linked to one intermediate and several contributing primary schools.

"There is no indication of whether the community supports this configuration. However, it is increasingly being replaced elsewhere in New Zealand."

It said the Marlborough population was generally declining, with statistics suggesting the college-age population would drop over the next five years by 15 per cent, then return to the current level before dropping again.

"On top of the demographic changes, there are population shifts which are difficult to estimate."

The drop in staff at Woodbourne air force base was likely to have a large impact, and the report predicted student numbers could drop as much as 30 per cent below current levels if the base shut.

The report looked at four options:

Keeping both schools and upgrading and replacing existing buildings, at a cost of $13.58 million.

Building a new school on a new site for both schools, at a cost of $51.75m.

Rebuilding the boys' college on the girls' college site, and sharing specialist facilities at a cost of $34.68 million.

Some form of shared specialist facilities on the girls' college site, with the boys' college staying largely in its existing site, at a cost of $13.44 million.

The only options that worked were option one of rebuilding both colleges or option four of a partial rebuild at the girls' college, the report said. "The concept of option two of rebuilding on a new location or option three of rebuilding the boys' college on the girls' college site is too expensive to justify the investment."

The difference between the two feasible options was "relatively minor", the report said.

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"The choice should be based on the long-term strategic vision for education in Marlborough, rather than the relative minor difference in investment."

However, if there was a decline in student enrolment numbers, option four became "significantly more attractive", the report said.

"More importantly, amalgamating the two colleges' specialist facilities could provide opportunities for better education delivery and in particular to improve vocational training for the Marlborough community."

The report said it considered only the two colleges' operations. "However, the detailed analysis should include the neighbouring Bohally Intermediate. This school already operates the Marlborough Technology Centre, which caters for primary education technology education in the region. It is already a model for co-operation between schools and may play a role in any future solution."

People can have their say on the future of Blenheim's colleges by writing to facilitator Janet Kelly at janet.kelly@xtra.co.nz or 31 Courtney St, Motueka 7120.

- The Marlborough Express

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