Parata to hear schools' survival pleas

TINA LAW
Last updated 05:00 30/10/2012

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Christchurch schools will start pleading their case for survival to Education Minister Hekia Parata today.

Parata is embarking on a three-week consultation programme where she has offered to meet representatives from 37 schools and their communities to discuss the future of the schools.

She said yesterday that 30 had accepted her offer, five were to confirm times and two had declined.

"I am pretty stoked that 30 have confirmed and we're in the process of working out with another five," she said.

"In the overall scheme of things, schools have decided to talk and I am very pleased to."

Thirty-nine schools have been slated to close or merge, and two of those have opted to close voluntarily, so Parata did not include them in the invitation.

Parata said she was keen to hear what parents and boards had to say.

North New Brighton and Glenmoor schools have declined her invitation.

North New Brighton principal Brian Walkinshaw said the board had decided it did not feel the need to meet Parata at this stage.

Some principals have complained the meetings should have happened earlier, not halfway through a 10-week consultation period.

"On the one hand, I'm being asked to be flexible, responsive and to listen, and that is what I'm trying to do," Parata said. "On the other hand, I'm being criticised for being flexible, responsive and trying to listen."

There had been some criticism about having only an hour, but Parata said she could have "provided a day and that might not have been long enough".

Asked what type of reaction she expected from schools, she said she was expecting "a lot of thoughtful engagement".

"It's an intensive period," she said. "I'm embracing the opportunity to meet with them."

Representatives of at least three city schools proposed to close will meet Parata today, including Richmond School, whose principal, Jacqualene Maindonald, said she hoped the visit would be a genuine attempt by Parata to listen to the community.

"It's either genuine or a PR stunt. We want to make it a PR stunt for our school rather than for her," she said.

Shirley Intermediate School principal Geoff Siave said the meeting was the school's chance to put its best case. "I would like to think she is open-minded."

He was concerned the meeting would have limited value because many working parents would find it difficult to attend.

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- The Press

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