Principals yet to see data used for changes

CHARLEY MANN
Last updated 05:00 12/10/2012

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Christchurch schools still do now know why they are being targeted to close or merge two weeks into the consultation process.

Principals have until December 7 to report back to the Education Ministry on proposals to close 13 schools, merge 18 into nine, relocate seven and close another five and make them part of a single campus in Aranui.

Secretary for Education Lesley Longstone has admitted there were errors in ministry data used to make the controversial changes, but affected principals have yet to see the information used to justify the overhaul.

Principals are asking whether the ministry's estimates to fix earthquake damage to school buildings is the amount needed to bring schools up to the quake code.

Ouruhia Model School principal Mark Ashmore-Smith still does not know why his school is slated to close almost a month since Education Minister Hekia Parata announced a major shakeup of Christchurch schools. He said he had been given only rough ministry "estimates" of what the school would cost to repair.

The figure was made up of four categories - quake damage, weathertightness, structure and "condition assessment".

He was concerned ministry staff in Wellington would take "misleading" figures as gospel".

"A lot of the estimates have been done from afar, based on a general hunch of buildings of that age and design," he said.

It leaves the school in a difficult position because Ashmore-Smith does not know what "to target in our submission".

"It is a bit hard to consult on something when we don't know what the charges are," he said.

Branston Intermediate School principal Jennifer O'Leary said the ministry had estimated earthquake repairs to the school could cost $7 million. However, only $1.5m was needed to repair minimal damage to the school, which is slated to close.

The rest looked to be "getting the school up to [the revised building] code".

"They keep going on about earthquake damage. The costs seems to be to get [schools] up to earthquake code across the board," she said.

Freeville School acting principal Paul Wilkinson said the school did not have enough information about the proposed merger with North New Brighton School to make an informed submission.

After the education announcement last month, schools were given an information pack detailing the March 2012 roll, the number of buildings on site and quake damage to them.

Many principals raised concerns that the proposals were based on incorrect data.

Longstone has said the ministry would address any errors in that data.

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"If there are issues, we will work them through with individual schools, and this is absolutely genuine consultation," she said.

- The Press

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