Ministry dealt out a 'body blow' to schools
Christchurch City councillors have voiced dismay at the Education Ministry's handling of the schools shake-up announcement.
They are questioning whether consultation with residents will alter the outcome.
Schools across the city were thrown into turmoil last week when Education Minister Hekia Parata announced proposals to close 13 schools, merge 18 into nine, relocate seven schools and close another five and make them part of a single campus in Aranui for year 1 to 13 pupils.
Coralanne Child, programme manager for the ministry's Greater Christchurch earthquake recovery team, yesterday assured councillors the changes were proposals only and that formal consultation with the community would occur before any decisions were made.
Several councillors criticised the ministry's handling of the process, asking why it had chosen not to work with the schools more closely in forming options for their future.
Cr Sally Buck said she had doubts about the consultation process that lay ahead.
When the ministry had proposed closing Aorangi School it had consulted with the community.
Not one person had supported the closure during the consultation period but the ministry had gone ahead with it anyway.
Buck said many pupils who had attended Aorangi had shifted to Burnside and Kendal schools, both of which were now earmarked for closure.
Cr Peter Beck said the shake-up announcement was one of the "most insensitive things" he had witnessed and had been a "deep, deep body blow" for communities already suffering.
He wondered how communities would convince the ministry that their schools should stay.
Other councillors questioned why some schools with stable rolls and largely undamaged buildings on the western side of Christchurch were being targeted for closure and whether the ministry was using the earthquakes as an excuse for overhauling the city's education system.
Child said some "capacity problems" existed in Christchurch before the quakes, which the ministry had been concerned about, but the quakes had "exacerbated the challenges".
Cr Jamie Gough said he was appalled at the lack of discussion and collaboration on the future of the city's schools.
"I'm incredibly supportive of greater efficiencies but, despite the spin, with all our city has been through, this ‘billion-dollar investment' feels a lot more like a giant kick in the guts for Christchurch," he said.
Cr Yani Johanson asked Child how much of the $1 billion investment the Government was touting for education in Christchurch was either money from insurance or part of normal operating expenditure.
Child could not provide any figures but said the Government was making a significant additional investment in education in Christchurch.
- © Fairfax NZ News