School heads unappeased at meeting

Further confusion has resulted from a meeting between primary school leaders and Education Ministry officials.

Schools across the city were thrown into turmoil last week when Education Minister Hekia Parata announced plans to close 13 schools, merge 18 into nine, relocate seven schools and close five more to make them part of a single campus in Aranui for year 1 to 13 pupils.

A behind-closed-doors meeting with Christchurch primary and intermediate school leaders last night appeared to add to the confusion.

Matt Bateman, principal of Burnside primary, which is threatened with closure, said the timetable for his school was changed again last night.

Speaking to Radio New Zealand today, he said the meeting added "another layer of confusion".

"The timeline for the majority of schools now seems to be completely different. They will have informed their communites on a timeline that has now altered," he said.

Aranui High principal John Rohs said the human cost of the propsals was significant.

"The minister has acknowledged that some communities will be upset by the proposals,'' he said.

"I don't think the minister or ministry really understand the level of distress the plans have caused, particularly the way the ministry released the information. That was an incredibly disappointing process."

Rohs said Aranui was being positive as there was "tremendous potential in the plan" for the school. "It is a different story for those facing clsoure."

Speaking to The Press last night, Aranui primary board of trustees chairman Tim Baker said the meeting's tone was one of "anger and confusion".

"The answer [from the ministry] is everything is proposed. There's nothing definite."

The ministry's communication in the past week had been "pathetic", Baker said.

''[Last night] we learnt things that aren't correct from information we got last week. The ministry should do a lot better than that. It's absolutely terrible."

Phillipstown School principal Tony Simpson said the meeting provided "more confusion and more questions".

"A tremendous amount of information is required before boards and communities are in any position to inform people," he said.

Manning Intermediate principal Richard Chambers said last night that there was "not a lot of clarity".

Speaking to Radio New Zealand today, ministry earthquake manager Coralanne Child said she knew the meeting had been "hard".

"We acknowledge the anxiety of people about the closures."

She said the consultation process was just beginning.

"Can I just be clear no decisions have been made," Child said.

She said each school had been provided with a summary of the proposal and the reasons for the proposal.

Next term, Parata would meet the schools and their board of trustees and make a "formal request to them to consult with their community", she said.

The Press