Ministry 'bad boy' now on payroll

LONG STINT: Brent Ingram is leaving Hagley Community College after 21 years.
LONG STINT: Brent Ingram is leaving Hagley Community College after 21 years.

The man who fought the Government to protect Hagley Community College from earthquakes is now working for the ministry he took to the High Court.

Brent Ingram, 62, has left the school after 21 years as its principal to work for the Education Ministry developing its flagship Youth Guarantee scheme.

The initiative aims to get more pupils achieving at least National Certificate of Educational Achievement level 2.

In the early 1990s, Ingram fought a long public battle with the ministry to convince it to quake-strengthen the school's main building.

Reports dating back to the 1960s showed the double-brick building, built in the 1920s, was a quake risk.

The ministry refused because it believed the building did not pose a safety risk.

Ingram took the case to the Ombudsman and filed papers in the High Court before the ministry backed down.

About $4.2 million was spent on the strengthening work.

Ingram is adamant the work saved lives when the magnitude-6.3 quake struck on February 22 last year.

"I have no doubt there would have been a significant number of deaths. This building would have come down, without a doubt."

He said he was grateful the work was done, but he believed the ministry thought the school was exaggerating the potential risk.

The building is now one of only a few of its kind still standing and fully functional in Christchurch.

"[It] didn't lose a brick," Ingram said.

The battle harmed the school's relationship with the ministry and it was regarded as the "bad boy" and a difficult school to work with.

Ingram said that relationship had healed and the ministry now brought visitors from overseas to the school to see some of its innovative programmes.

During his time at Hagley, Ingram has been responsible for building the school's reputation for innovation.

The roll has grown from 900 with 2300 pupils and adult students studying at the school.

The Press