New era in schools source of upheaval

HOLIDAY WEAR: Lewis Wawatai, 10, is a proud Kendal School boy, who wears his uniform as casual wear in the holidays.
HOLIDAY WEAR: Lewis Wawatai, 10, is a proud Kendal School boy, who wears his uniform as casual wear in the holidays.

Lewis Wawatai is so proud of his old school uniform he has worn it in the holidays.

The 10-year-old is one of more than 1000 Canterbury pupils set to begin the 2014 school year in new surroundings, after nine schools were either closed or merged at the end of last year as part of the Ministry of Education's post-quake changes.

His mother, Sandra Kamo, wished Lewis could wear his much-loved, near new, Kendal School uniform for his one year at Burnside Primary to save on costs. Next year he would attend Cobham Intermediate.

"It's just such a waste."

He often chose to wear his uniform in the school holidays.

"He is so proud of it. He is a Kendal School boy and I think that's still in [his] heart."

After uniform costs, there was stationery and school camps.

"It's like, oh my gosh, where do you pull that out from?"

She also worried about the longer commute to Burnside and how it would affect her ability to work.

She did not drive, and would have to walk her son for 15 minutes twice a day, instead of the 2-minute walk to Kendal. There were no buses, and it was too far for him to walk alone.

Kendal School principal Keith Turner wanted to ensure pupils and concerned parents "didn't suffer" after the school's closure, so gave a $150 subsidy to parents of 50 of its 57 pupils, using Red Cross funding and residual school funds.

"While we're really sad about the decision and how things have happened, we wanted to make sure we provided."

Ministry funding of about $9000 followed each of the pupils to their new school.

Even with help, many families would bear "hidden costs", like transporting children to schools no longer in their neighbourhood.

Ministry spokeswoman Katrina Casey said $5.17 million over six years would go to schools where pupils from the merged and closed schools enrolled - for teacher aides, educational resources, technology, and staff professional development.

The Red Cross 2011 Earthquake Commission allocated $9.3m to Christchurch school children, including $2m for individual hardship and $1.38m for encouraging coping and resilience.

Neill O'Reilly, principal of Windsor and Burwood merger Waitakiri School, said the school received $2000 from Red Cross for uniforms, $6000 to cover camp fees for seniors, and another $4000 to spend on community relationship-building events.

More than $500,000 from the ministry would be used for educational programmes to help in the transition, including keeping class sizes small, and funding new scooters for pupils to travel between the split campuses.

He chose the cheapest temporary uniform - a navy polo shirt to go with shorts or skirts from their previous school - to minimise costs for parents.

"Our families should be up for less costs than they normally would be. There's enough of a challenge putting them through a merger without hitting them with extra costs."

The Press