Shock at schools shake-up

TINA LAW
Last updated 05:00 14/09/2012
Daniel Tobin

A group of Shirley Boys' pupils talk about the proposed merger with Christchurch Boys' High

School proposal timeline
Dimitri Howard Zoom
The timeline for consultation over proposed changes to Canterbury schools.

Merger wont happen - principal

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Shock and disbelief has ripped through Christchurch as the city comes to grips with its biggest education shake-up yet.

Thirteen schools are marked to close, 18 may merge into nine, seven will be relocated to another site and five may close and become part of a single campus in Aranui for year 1-13 pupils.

Read the proposal summary document here.

The Government plans to invest $1 billion over the next 10 years to restore the Christchurch area's education sector and will rebuild Halswell School, which was badly damaged in the September 4, 2010, earthquake and increase the "education provision" in Rolleston and Pegasus. It will also start immediate repairs to 23 school swimming pools.

Some 171 schools will continue to operate with no change.

Education Minister Hekia Parata said the closure and merger proposals were subject to community consultation, which would begin this year. Some schools had already indicated they would look at voluntary closure and it was possible they could close at the end of this year, she said.

The announcement, made at Lincoln yesterday, was marred by confusion after incorrect information about some schools was released.

A document released to the media showed the Government planned to merge Shirley Boys' High School at Christchurch Boys' High School and to merge Avonside Girls' High School and Christchurch Girls' High School.

Closing both Shirley Boys' and Avonside Girls' was also on the list as a proposal.

However, the Ministry of Education rapidly backtracked yesterday, saying there were no firm proposals to merge or close Christchurch high schools.

Ministry earthquake recovery programme manager Coralanne Child said the ministry was waiting on geotechnical reports for Christchurch Girls' High School, Shirley Boys' High School and Avonside Girls' High School before considering their futures.

Avonside Girls' High School principal Sue Hume said it was unfortunate there had been that confusion because the school community had already been through enough and she just wanted some clarity.

"What's come out of this today is no clarity for Avonside Girls' High School.

"We still need information." She said it was critical single-sex schools were retained in the eastern suburbs.

Shirley Boys' High School principal John Laurenson said the ministry had "totally and completely cocked up" and he was appalled at how the information had been released.

Paparoa Street School principal Philip Harding said yesterday was a day for grief, anger, surprise and unhappiness for principals and boards across the city.

"We got more than we bargained for today."

Parata said she knew the announcements would be difficult for some communities.

Children were at the centre of her considerations when making the proposals and it was all about delivering education that would meet the changing community needs.

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"Our Government is doing what it takes to rebuild Christchurch."

Parata said she took into consideration a range of aspects when deciding to close a school, including the status of the land and the nature of the buildings.

Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said it was "a long-term solution to a problem none of us ever wanted to have".

He said some people would have been disappointed with the news but he hoped others would meet it with "great optimism".

MERGER PLANS UPSET

Parents and pupils were upset to learn of the Government proposal to merge Shirley Boys' High School with Christchurch Boys' High School.

The ministry announced yesterday one option available in post-quake Christchurch was the merger of the two boys' high schools. However, it later backtracked and said it was waiting on geotechnical reports.

Bridget Adcock-McIntyre said she was "gutted" to hear Shirley Boys' High could be merged, as the family had only stayed in Christchurch because her son loved his school. Earlier this year they were offered the chance to move on, but turned it down because her son was doing well at school and wanted to stay, she said.

Another mother, Robin Roxburgh, whose son Bailey Thornton, 14, attends Shirley was also "in shock".

"There's already so many kids there. I already had concerns about sending him to Shirley because of the size."

Roxburgh thought there would be trouble at the school with fights if the merger went ahead. "There are heaps of fights already, so I hate to think what this will cause. You get that many boys together and it's going to happen," she said.

Some Shirley students were also concerned a merger with the fellow single-sex school - a long-established rival - could spark fights.

Year-12 student Henry Bates said Shirley had arivalry with Boys' High. "I think there will be a bit of trouble . . . a couple of scraps. Stuff could go down. The fights have kind of died down but this will bring it up again."

He and his friends agreed Christchurch Boys' would be their last choice for a school to merge with.

Fellow student Adam Green was worried there wouldn't be space for the extra students.

"We hardly have enough room for ourselves," he said.

However, deputy head boy Stephen Lefebvre, 18, supported the proposed merger.

". . . I think it will be good to create friendships and teaching."

DISGUST AND SADNESS AT SCHOOL SHIFT

Banks Avenue School has been "the only constant" for children since the Canterbury earthquakes and now its future is uncertain, parents say.

The earthquake-damaged primary school faces relocation but the Ministry of Education did not say where it would be moved to.

Ministry papers given to media yesterday said the school would either be closed or relocated but a ministry official confirmed it would move.

Yesterday's announcement came shortly after the Shirley school was forced to close its administration block due to earthquake damage.

The block has eight classrooms attached to it, so pupils from those rooms have to be moved.

Dallington mother Tracey Dearden described the news as "bloody disgusting".

"I just don't understand what's going on . . . my boy's got three years left and I didn't want him to move," she said.

"We live nearby and yes, it's damaged but this is our community so you can't just pick us up and move us."

Her eldest son was at Shirley Intermediate, which faces closure, and she had hoped both her sons would attend Shirley Boys' High.

The ministry yesterday said a geo-technical report on Shirley Boys' High was needed before a final decision was made but one proposal was a merger with Christchurch Boys' High School.

Haley Thompson said her sons, aged 6 and 7, "love this school and this area".

"Our house is TC3 and everything around this school is red-zoned pretty much, but Banks Ave has been the one and only constant in their lives since the earthquakes," she said.

Children had "gone through enough without having their school taken off them".

- The Press

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