Jobs in Nelson may be elusive

ADAM ROBERTS
Last updated 13:00 30/08/2012

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Specialised staff at Richmond's Salisbury School may struggle to find work in the Nelson region if a plan to close the school goes ahead, the Public Service Association (PSA) says.

On Monday Education Minister Hekia Parata announced that Richmond's Salisbury School and Christchurch's McKenzie Residential School would be closed as part of a proposed revamp of special education.

Salisbury School has 62 staff and 65 students, including an outreach service for 22 students.

Christchurch's Halswell Residential College would provide co-educational services for learners with intellectual impairment, and Auckland's Westbridge Residential School would provide co-educational services for learners with complex behavioural needs.

A new "wraparound" tailored service would also be expanded. Responding to a series of questions about the move in Parliament, Ms Parata said the new co-educational residential schools would feature separate villas and electronic monitoring for the students.

PSA delegate Richard Chalklen said he was deeply saddened by the decision to close Salisbury, and he worried for the future of the staff as well as the students.

"Like most of the residential schools, over time they attracted a group of very dedicated staff to the school."

He had spoken to a few staff members earlier in the week, and they had been shocked by the decision, he said.

"It came as a bit of a surprise, they were hopeful that consideration of their submission would have influenced the ministry's mind on this but it wasn't to be."

Staff were specialised in working with girls who had come to a crisis in their lives, but there were limited, if any, job opportunities available in the Nelson area, he said.

"They are very specialised staff, particularly in the residential area."

Many of the staff had partners who had been badly hit by the financial downturn, so to have their job security threatened now was just more stress.

While some may consider moving if they wanted to pursue a career in the new residential schools or in the wraparound service, others may not wish to move or travel frequently, he said.

"It caused me a little bit of sleeplessness last night thinking of them."

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- Nelson

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