Christchurch principals urge review of ministry

CHARLEY MANN
Last updated 05:00 20/12/2012

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Christchurch principals and education experts are calling for a review of the Ministry of Education after the secretary for education resigned.

The ministry confirmed last night Lesley Longstone's resignation would not affect the ongoing overhaul of Christchurch schools.

But local educators told The Press it was time for the ministry to take a look in the mirror after a year of unpopular policies, from plans to increase class sizes to closing residential special schools.

Proposals to close 13 schools and put 26 through some form of merger, and the Novopay problems have compounded frustration.

Canterbury University political science lecturer Bronwyn Hayward said the ministry had run roughshod over Christchurch with "reckless, ill-judged and ill-managed" policies. "I think the Government has to be in the firing line for this."

Linwood Avenue School principal Gerard Direen called for a thorough examination of the ministry.

"There has to be a reflection on Government policy on Christchurch's closures and mergers and whether they are taking the right steps," he said. After a year of blunders, Longstone's resignation added "fuel to the need to pause" the education overhaul.

Phillipstown School principal Tony Simpson said the ministry should "certainly entertain" a review.

"Cleary there has been a succession of failures," he said. "The resignation is not going to be the end, but let it be the beginning of a process where we can all sit round the table and work together in true collaboration to establish a trusting partnership."

Branston Intermediate principal Jennifer O'Leary said Education Minister Hekia Parata had received bad advice from ministry insiders, including Longstone. "Clearly someone coming from the other side of the world, with no direct knowledge of the New Zealand education system, was going to struggle."

Ouruhia Model School principal Mark Ashmore-Smith said a cheer went up from parents when he announced the resignation at assembly yesterday.

"It was an expression of the sense of injustice they have felt over the last three months," he said. "We don't know how much has been the fault of Lesley Longstone or what has been driven from elsewhere."

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