PM defends Christchurch school closures
Controversial plans to shake up Canterbury's education system will change before they are finalised, Prime Minister John Key says.
In his first remarks since the planned school closures were announced, Key said changing demographics, costly repair bills and ministry research were behind sweeping proposals to close 13 schools and put 25 through some form of merger.
Speaking at the official opening of Press House today, Key said the Government "could obviously put everything back where it was".
"But just like the CBD isn't going to be put back in the way it was in the past, it won't always make sense for the schooling system to be completely replicated in what you had.''
Christchurch's demographic pattern were changing, with people are living in different parts of the city, he said.
"The demands will be different.''
Key said the upcoming consultation process with local communities would be ''genuine''.
He said he intended to look through each response personally.
''We are going to go through a genuine process, we are going to look at all of those issues,'' he said.
The Government would ''have a pretty good chance of listening'' to the responses.
Ouruhuia School in Belfast and Greenpark School in Lincoln have been earmarked to close.
Key said necessary earthquake repairs at the sites ''don't cost much to fix''.
The schools were mooted to close because of Education Ministry research.
''The issue is, just on a lot of modelling they have done, in relation to everything else, they think it is worth having a good look at these schools,'' he said.
Burnside Primary, which would cost about $9 million to rebuild, was ''full of borer''.
''We could pick up that cash, and frankly, quite a bit more, and wander down to potentially, say, Cobham and build a 21st-century school ... with the best technology block and the best equipment.''
Key said the vacant Burnside grounds could be turned into sports facilities.
''Ask do you want 1960s Burnside, or do you want a 21st century school, you might get a different answer.''
Linwood College, which is pegged to relocate, was built on a site that did not allow the school to have proper sports facilities, Key said.
He said the anger directed at the ministry over the highly criticised announcement of the changes this month was unfounded.
''What they really mean is the Government stuffed up the interim decision it made,'' Key said.
''It's not really about process. You can go through a process about how you tell people, but in the end it's shocking when you tell them anyway.
''If you're leading you have to make those decisions because it's the right thing to do, but you do have to explain what you're doing, and that's what we're going to go through in the next few months.''
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