Closing schools means hefty tab for taxpayers

CHARLEY MANN
Last updated 05:00 22/11/2012

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Taxpayers paid nearly $25,000 to facilitate the Education Ministry meetings that led to the closure of two residential special schools.

And transforming Christchurch's remaining all-boys residential school so that it can accept girls will cost about $2.6 million.

In May, the ministry proposed closing four of New Zealand's residential schools for intellectually disabled children and those with serious behavioural difficulties, in favour of an "intensive wrap-around" system in mainstream schools. Last month, Education Minister Hekia Parata announced two of those schools, McKenzie Residential School in Yaldhurst and Salisbury Residential School, in Nelson, would close.

Salisbury school has taken action to fight the closure in the High Court.

Halswell Residential College and Auckland's Westbridge Residential School will remain open.

The Press obtained details under the Official Information Act showing that the process of deciding to close the two facilities cost $24,938.

Special Education Strategy group manager Brian Coffey said the sum was made up of meetings, conferences, travel for ministry and school staff and accommodation.

Adapting the all-boys Halswell College to accept girls from Salisbury will cost about $2.6m.

"In addition, there are property upgrade requirements that were needed to be made regardless of any decision about the school becoming co-educational," Coffey said.

This will come from the existing ministry funding allocation.

Funding that would have gone to the soon-to-be-closed schools will be ploughed into the wrap-around system.

Coffey said about 220 pupils would be included in the system by the end of next year, in addition to about 100 pupils at the two remaining residential schools.

This will see 14 new roles created in the system, on top of the 13 staff employed at present.

However, the ministry was not able to say how much the system would cost to run because it is dependent on Salisbury's judicial review.

The review also means it is not yet known how many staff will be made redundant as a result of the closures.

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