Parata 'keen' to listen to school concerns
Education Minister Hekia Parata has offered to visit all the schools proposed for closure or merger in Christchurch.
Parata has written to the 38 schools most affected by the proposals, offering to meet parents and the schools' communities over the next three weeks.
"I am keen to visit schools, listen to parents and school communities to hear all that they wish to tell me. We want to get this right," Parata said.
"Our government has committed $1 billion to rebuilding the education sector in greater Christchurch over the next 10 years.
"It's not simply about putting back what was there, but focusing on what can be done to achieve better outcomes for children."
Of the 215 schools across greater Christchurch, 13 are proposed for closure and 18 for merger.
It is also proposed that five Aranui schools will form a new Year 1-13 campus and two Banks Peninsula schools will become attached to the Akaroa Area School while remaining on their own sites.
The announcement comes after the principals of Avondale Primary, Aranui Primary, Aranui High, Chisnallwood Intermediate and Wainoni School wrote to Parata to ask for extra time to respond to her plan.
They suggested an April 2013 deadline, months after the ministry's December 7 consultation deadline, saying the situation was complex and required more time to work through.
Labour MP Lianne Dalziel asked Parata to reconsider.
"Hekia Parata is ignoring her own ministry guidelines which state there must be sufficient time for views to be expressed, and require the ministry to develop options after discussing the issues with the school communities," Dalziel said. "Hekia Parata should . . . allow schools the time they need to respond."
Parata said she understood how difficult the changes were for Christchurch but "given the extent of the damage and the population movement, the sector simply cannot be returned to how it was".