Salisbury gears up for next round of fight

ADAM ROBERTS
Last updated 14:09 26/01/2013

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Richmond's Salisbury School is facing another battle for its survival, with student numbers halved and a minister who cannot be expected to be impartial, its board chairwoman says.

A High Court judgment in December found that Education Minister Hekia Parata's decision to close the residential girls' school and place the students in Christchurch's Halswell Residential College was unlawful and did not take the girls' safety into account. Halswell is currently a boys' school.

The planned closure was part of a nationwide move to a smaller number of residential schools and a wrap-around service based in mainstream schools.

The Salisbury board had its first meeting of the year yesterday, and chairwoman Helen McDonnell said afterwards that "the fight is on still".

"We have still got to fight for this service to be available."

The school had been granted funding for 2013, but it was unclear what would happen next year, she said.

The ministry had notified the school that it would fund a notional roll of 40 students for the 2013 year - half the previous notional roll it had been funded for.

Parents who are interested in sending their daughters to Salisbury will now be referred directly to the ministry, and their applications will be assessed by a newly formed panel, managed by the ministry. The panel will no longer include Salisbury School and parental representation.

If students meet the required criteria, they will initially be placed in the new Intensive Wrap- Around Service. It is unclear how long they will be there before they might be offered enrolment at Salisbury.

Mrs McDonnell said the board was also disappointed that Ms Parata was the one who would be making the decision, and was looking at how to fight this.

After losing the High Court case last year, Ms Parata could not be expected to consider the decision fairly, she said.

"Part of our strategy is, what can you do about that? We're taking advice about that.

"The preference is to have a minister with an open mind."

She said a meeting between the board and Ms Parata or ministry officials was scheduled for this month, but there had been no confirmation and she did not expect it to go ahead.

But the board was positive, partly due to the support the school had received from Nelsonians and others throughout the country.

"We are incredibly appreciative of the support of the Nelson and the wider New Zealand community, and thank everyone for their continued support."

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- The Nelson Mail

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