Parents urge Govt to hear their concerns

FRANCESCA LEE
Last updated 05:00 24/09/2012
Schoolchildren
STACY SQUIRES/Fairfax NZ
MESSAGE TO MPS: Schoolchildren sign a 15-metre banner to be presented to Parliament along with the Vote Canterbury Kids online petition during a protest against planned school closures and mergers in Christchurch.

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Frustrated Christchurch parents and schoolchildren say they are ready to rally again if the Government does not start listening to them.

Thousands rallied in Hagley Park on Saturday to protest against the closure of 13 Christchurch schools and merging of 25 others, announced by the Education Ministry.

"These proposals are like taking a knife to the heart of our city and the heart of our province," organiser Wayne Hawker said.

If Education Minister Hekia Parata was not willing to have "a meaningful dialogue" with the community - not just school principals and boards - she could expect thousands to march through Christchurch in early October "and then we'll take the message around New Zealand", he said.

"Hekia Parata has stated this is a blueprint for education. If the Government can do this here, who's next?"

Those protesting on Saturday included children in school uniforms, teachers, parents, and grandparents, waving signs and chanting "Save our schools!" and "Nothing about us without us!"

A banner with children's handprints and messages will be presented to Parliament along with the Vote Canterbury Kids online petition.

Rolleston School teacher Kerri Bullen brandished a placard saying, "Democracy locked up?"

Time to change the Key". She said her school was not affected but she was concerned for the other schools and the lack of consultation.

Julia Rose, whose grandchild attends Chisnallwood Intermediate, said she was furious about the proposal to merge the school with others to form an education cluster.

"My grandson was in Burwood when the earthquake struck, and his parents couldn't get to him.

"The teachers looked after him until late at night before going back to their own families.

"The teachers at Chisnallwood are the heroes and they are going to lose their jobs.

"I'm very angry about how this was being communicated to people. When I voted, I didn't vote for this."

Parent Rebecca Richmond, who had two children at Manning Intermediate, said she had been emailing Parata and Wigram MP Megan Woods, telling them how Manning should not be closed because it was a good school.

"Our area is getting built up," she said. "There's a lot more people. We need more schools.

"I'm perfectly happy where I am and I want to stay where I am but I can't because of what this lady is doing," said Jelena, a year 6 pupil at Greenpark School, which is earmarked for closure.

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