Parata does U-turn on two proposed mergers

CHARLEY MANN
Last updated 18:21 07/11/2012
Hekia Parata
KEVIN STENT/Fairfax NZ
MORE TIME: Education Minister Hekia Parata

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Education Minister Hekia Parata has ruled out a ''completely unacceptable option'' to merge four Christchurch single-sex secondary schools into two.

The ministry announced proposals in September to merge Avonside Girls' High at Christchurch Girls' High and to merge Shirley Boys' High at Christchurch Boys' High.

Speaking with Mike Yardley on Newstalk ZB today, Parata said she was ''prepared to categorically rule that out".

''I am prepared to say that that was a completely unacceptable option and I'm not proposing to merge Christchurch Boys' with Shirley Boys' or Avonside Girls' with Christchurch Girls','' she said.

The merger proposal was met with such an outcry that the ministry was forced to take it off the table.

The four schools are not involved in the consultation process that other schools affected by the shake-up are undergoing.

Shirley Boys' High School principal John Laurenson told The Press he applauded the minister for listening to the people of Christchurch.

"It clearly indicates the minister is very genuine saying she's got an open mind and is willing to listen. It's a step in the right direction," he said.

In protest against the proposal, Shirley Boys' High pupils made a video that they posted on video-sharing website YouTube yesterday.

The video has since been removed, but has popped up on Christchurch's own video-sharing website OurTube.

The pupils' video is heavily influenced by the popular Gangnam Style song recently made famous by a South Korean pop singer.

The video asks Parata not to merge Shirley Boys' High with Boys' High and pokes fun at the rival school.

Laurenson said he understood the video made by the students was temporarily pulled off YouTube to disable comments.

He said the school had no problem with the video.

"Frankly it makes a change from some of the hijinks the boys can get up to - grundy runs and those kinds of things. It's quite humorous.

"Christchurch has been through an awful lot ... with all the grim things it's a sign of enormous maturity if you can laugh at yourself and get people to have a decent laugh at things."

Laurenson said the video was made by departing year 13 students.

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