Single site among options

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 12:11 27/03/2014
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Marlborough Boys' College and Marlborough Girls' College have asked the Ministry of Education to work towards a new school site, where both colleges would exist side by side with the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology included.

Officials from the Ministry of Education's Nelson regional office met the colleges' principals and boards in Blenheim yesterday morning.

The meeting was to discuss the report by facilitator Janet Kelly on feedback from the community about the future of secondary schooling in Blenheim, after two public meetings in December and January.

Neither college wanted to comment earlier yesterday, saying it would not be appropriate till the ministry had made a statement and published the Kelly report.

A copy of the report was not available yesterday. However, the Marlborough Express understands the report says feedback suggested six main options.

Sources close to the discussions said the six options were discussed in detail, and the colleges' boards recommended to the ministry that it do more work on three of them.

Those options, in order of the colleges' preference, are:

Operate the boys' and girls' colleges alongside each other on one site, with a tertiary institution, such as the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology, also on site. The status quo, with greater co-operation between the colleges and extra assistance from the ministry to provide buses for students. A combined co-educational college on one site.

It is understood the options do not recommend particular sites but were more general concepts.

Ministry acting head of sector enablement and support Jill Bond said last night the meeting with the principals and boards of both schools was "very positive".

It was agreed three options accurately reflected views that had been expressed by the community during the consultation process, she said.

More information would be developed for each of them so communities were better informed.

"We will continue to work with the schools to help them make the right decision in the interests of each school community and the wider area."

Marlborough sources said that Bohally Intermediate, which is on a site next to Marlborough Girls' College, may have felt it had been dragged into the process, despite intentions it would be separate.

The original proposal was for the two colleges to combine on the girls' college site in Springlands, but many in the community felt it was too small and that Bohally should be moved and the new school take over its site as well.

However, sources said the preference was to see the colleges work more closely with the tertiary education options to give pupils clear career paths, rather than take over the intermediate school or similar options.

The ministry would now do more work on those options, including assessing the cost of each option, the opportunities and challenges facing each option, and what was most feasible.

It was expected to report to Education Minister Hekia Parata with that information and its own recommendations by the end of next month.

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Ms Parata would then make her decision about the options, which people here expected would be brought back in May to the Blenheim community for feedback, before a final decision was made later in the year.

Sources said it was important the ministry analysed the options and provided the community with information about each option, so that people could assess them properly.

The consultation process was criticised at the start for the lack of information given to the community, particularly the lack of financial information. People felt that without knowing how much the Government was willing to spend on Blenheim, it was impossible to assess what options could be the best.

Cost was likely to be a deciding factor in what final decision was made.

Sources said it was hoped the Kelly report would be made public shortly, so that people could see the results of that part of the consultation process and so they would stay engaged and interested in the process.

While the future of Blenheim's secondary schooling was in Ms Parata's hands, it was heavily influenced by what the community said it wanted, they said.

- The Marlborough Express

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