Hundreds protest Christchurch school closures

CAROLINE KING
Last updated 18:11 19/02/2013
Daniel Tobin

Hundreds of people marched to the Education Ministry office to protest the proposed Christchurch school closures and mergers.

RALLY7
David Hallett Zoom
RALLY: Christchurch communities and supporters march to the Ministry of Education building in Princess St

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More than a thousand people have gathered in the CBS Canterbury Arena in Christchurch to support schools affected by the proposed closures and mergers announced by the Government.

Education Minister Hekia Parata said yesterday an interim decision had been made to close seven schools and merge 12 to create six. Another 12 schools proposed for closure or merger were given a reprieve.

Southbridge School principal Peter Verstappen, who led the rally this afternoon, said: "Hekia Parata may have woken up this morning and thought 'job done' but the job isn't done. It's not done by any means."

Verstappen lead the crowd in a chant "heck, no she must go".

That was followed by the chant "two, four, six, eight, save our schools, it's not too late".

NZEI president Judith Nowotarski told the crowd she wished she could "wind the clock back 28 hours".

"Whatever the outcome for your school, your community, it's so clear to me what has happened in Christchurch schools over the last five months is not OK," Nowotarski said.

The protesters marched to the Education Ministry office on Princess St to deliver their message.

Rally speaker Carl Everett said he felt "sorry" for Parata.

"I'm sure she's a nice lady at heart but the fact is she's the figurehead and what she's doing to our education system is wrong.

"That's the message we're going to send to the Government today."

A voice from the crowd outside the building on Princess St shouted:"nothing about us, without us", to which protesters joined in chanting.

Another person yelled "and their timing stinks".

All 31 schools would be given until March 28 to make further comment, provide feedback and add to their submissions about the interim decisions. It was expected that final decisions would be announced by the end of May.

SCHOOLS AFFECTED

Seven are to close: Branston Intermediate, Glenmoor, Greenpark, Kendal, Linwood Intermediate, Manning Intermediate and Richmond.

Six mergers (12 schools) should proceed: Burwood and Windsor, Central New Brighton and South New Brighton, Discovery One and Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti, Lyttelton Main and Lyttelton West, North New Brighton and Freeville, and Phillipstown and Woolston (on the Woolston site).

Three mergers (six schools) should not proceed and remain separate: Bromley and Linwood Ave, Gilberthorpe and Yaldhurst, and TKKM o Waitaha and TKKM o Te Whanau Tahi (in the latter case, one should relocate to another part of the city to ensure better access).

Six schools to remain open: Burnham, Burnside, Duvauchelle, Okains Bay, Shirley Intermediate and Ouruhia (which should relocate to West Belfast when the population grew sufficiently).

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- The Press

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