Closures may create 'clientele' for Parata's relative
Closing Maori education in Christchurch will create "clientele" for a proposed school run by a relative of Education Minister Hekia Parata, a principal says.
The Press revealed yesterday that the Education Ministry endorsed a new school, Te Pa O Rakaihautu, just weeks before work began on the overhaul of the city's education in October last year.
Te Pa is chaired by Parata's second cousin, Rangimarie Parata Takurua, and The Press understands that the final application is awaiting approval.
Branston Intermediate School principal Jennifer O'Leary, whose school is marked to close, said it was ironic that the Government was closing and merging so many of the city's bilingual schools while endorsing a new one.
The ministry proposes to close or merge seven out of 10 schools that offer Maori education.
"By closing the bilingual classes . . . it looks like they are trying to create a clientele," O'Leary said.
She said the changes to the city's schools had been long expected.
"We were told right at the beginning [of the education renewal] there would be big changes in Christchurch.
"There are some areas of the city where there is no bilingual option."
Freeville School, which is set to merge with North New Brighton School, has boosted its bilingual unit because there was a big demand for bilingual education in the area.
"We have grown the bilingual programme mostly, although not entirely, from within our existing school community," acting principal Paul Wilkinson said.
He said some families could enroll at Te Pa, if it was approved, rather than go to the merged school. "I guess that some of our families would consider a move to full immersion education if it were more accessible.
"For many of our families, their choice about staying at Freeville School is not just about a bilingual education but also about our school culture."
Labour associate education spokesman Chris Hipkins said he was concerned about the wider impact the proposals could have on the city.
"This could drive kids away from public education into more privatised forms," he said.
"Recovery from the earthquakes must not be used as an excuse to privatise Christchurch education."
The proposed mergers and closures appear to conflict with the Government's Maori education strategy, designed to affirm Maori identity, language, culture and raise academic achievement.
The ministry said in August that Christchurch had a "limited range of immersion and bilingual options".
Parata told The Press last week: "We need to ensure . . . Maori kids . . . have the same choices available as everybody else and can be expected to be as successful as everyone else."
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