Council to seek Phillipstown School reprieve

LOIS CAIRNS AND RACHEL YOUNG
Last updated 11:03 12/06/2014
Phillipstown School protest
IAIN MCGREGOR/FAIRFAX NZ

THE GOOD FIGHT: Parents and teachers, including principal Tony Simpson, centre, have fought hard to keep Phillipstown School from being closed.

Vicki Buck
Stacy Squires/Fairfax NZ
VICKI BUCK: "I have never supported the closure of Phillipstown. I think it is a daft move."

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The city council is going to try and persuade the Government to delay the closure of a Christchurch school battling for survival.

After hearing an impassioned plea from Phillipstown School principal Tony Simpson, the Christchurch City Council this morning decided it would ask Education Minister Hekia Parata to give the school, which is slated to close at the end of this year, a two-year reprieve.

"The closure of Phillipstown School is not OK. It is being forced on us against our will,'' Simpson told the council, noting that 97 per cent of the community were opposed to its closure.

"We are a strained community. We are hurting. We must not let this happen.''

Deputy mayor Vicki Buck said she totally agreed with the people of Phillipstown that the council needed to stand up for what was right.

"I have never supported the closure of Phillipstown. I think it is a daft move,'' Buck said.

Phillipstown has been battling to stay open since Parata announced almost two years ago that it was one of several schools in Christchurch she intended to close.

It went to court last year to challenge the decision-making process used by the minister and won. The minister was ordered to pay the school's court costs when Justice John Fogarty declared in November that her consultation process over its merger with Woolston failed to meet the requirements of the Education Act.

But in April Parata announced she was going ahead with plans to merge the Christchurch primary school with Woolston School at the current Woolston site from term one, 2015.

Simpson told councillors that closing the school was not in the best interest of the children of Phillipstown. It had been proven in the High Court that the initial decision was illegal and the board maintained there was no justification for closing the school.

The Phillipstown area had been identified as an area for housing intensification and more families were moving into the area.

If the school closed it would have a hugely detrimental impact on the community, and children's wellbeing would be compromised by having to move schools again.

"This is not in the best interest of the children of Phillipstown. It must not happen,'' Simpson said.

Cr Yani Johanson said he was totally opposed to the school's closure and believed it was based on flawed information.

"This is about local democracy. We know this is a government that does not respect local democracy but we do,'' Johanson said.

"We should be sending a clear message to the Government that what they are doing here is fundamentally wrong. If you take the school away from this area, you take away this community's heart.''

Cr Andrew Turner said the merger of Phillipstown with Woolston was illogical and would damage the community.

Cr Paul Lonsdale said if the council did not support Phillipstown's bid to stay open, it would not be supporting keeping communities together.

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 "I thought it was a daft idea from the start and I think it is a daft idea now,'' Cr Jamie Gough said.

The council's vote to intervene on Phillipstown's behalf was unanimous.

- The Press

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