Little hope of Parata backdown

JOELLE DALLY AND SAM SACHDEVA
Last updated 05:00 15/09/2012

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Canterbury schools facing potential closure were yesterday offered little hope of survival by Education Minister Hekia Parata, regardless of whether they put up a fight.

Thirteen Canterbury schools have been earmarked for closure in the contentious schooling blueprint announced on Thursday, which sparked a massive public outcry.

Formal consultation on the plan begins in November, but principals fear any opposition put forward will fall on deaf ears.

Lyttelton West School principal Diana Feary, whose school is set to merge with Lyttelton Main School, did not believe consultation was likely to result in any significant change.

"I think there was a very clear message from the minister . . . she has been known to change her mind, but we're not holding our breath."

Linwood Intermediate principal Lee Walker said the school had "a whole lot of questions" that needed to be answered before they could decide whether they supported the closure.

"On the one hand, we've got a bit of paper that has ‘closure' written on it, but what does that actually mean for the students here?

"There's a huge lack of information at the moment."

Manning Intermediate principal Richard Chambers said the move "seemed to be all about money".

"I can understand some of the reasoning for decisions in other parts of town, but this decision seems illogical," he said.

Parata yesterday made no guarantees the plan would change if schools earmarked for closure, and their communities, opposed it.

Nor would she be drawn on whether they could hold onto hope. "We're going to go through a process," she said.

"The point of consultation is to explain why their schools are on the proposal . . . hear what people have to say, for them to hear the detail, and then to reach a decision."

Parata said the overhaul was "definitely, emphatically, unequivocally not a cost-cutting measure".

The Government was investing $1 billion into the plan.

"The 1345 kids are not going anywhere. We are going to continue to need principals and teachers and boards. The focus is what we need for learners, what will raise their achievement." Parata said the proposal responded to what the education community had told the Government it wanted during two rounds of consultation in the past 18 months.

"This hasn't come out of the blue," she said.

The 13 schools earmarked to close are: Burnside Intermediate, Burnside Primary, Glenmoor, Greenpark, Hammersley Park, Kendal, Linwood Intermediate, Manning Intermediate, Richmond, Ouruhia Model, Shirley Intermediate, Burnham and Le Bons Bay.

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