Parata 'not in control', say critics

CHARLEY MANN
Last updated 05:00 12/11/2012

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Education Minister Hekia Parata's backdown on merging four single sex secondary schools exposes serious cracks in her leadership, unions and opposition say.

The ministry announced proposals in September to merge Avonside Girls' High at Christchurch Girls' High and to merge Shirley Boys' High at Christchurch Boys' High.

Parata said last week that the idea was "a completely unacceptable option".

Later the same day a release from her office "clarified" that she has never received proposals for the secondary school mergers and had instead ruled them out as "options".

However, the merger proposals for the secondary schools were listed on two sets of documents given to principals at the September announcement on Canterbury's education overhaul.

Post Primary Teachers' Association president Robin Duff said it was clear from the situation that communication was lacking inside the ministry and raised "considerable concern" about Parata's leadership.

"This suggests she is not really in control of her department."

Labour associate education spokesman Chris Hipkins said the situation "totally undermined confidence" in the Government's handling of the schools shake-up.

"It's been terribly managed and Hekia Parata needs to accept responsibility for that."

Hipkins is calling for the ministry to release all information and advice used to decide on the mergers and closures.

The ministry has given schools affected by proposals until December 7 to consult with their communities, and report back with a submission.

The four secondary schools were not included in this process.

Three of the schools, Shirley Boys' High School, Christchurch Girls' High School and Avonside Girls' High School, are awaiting geotechnical information about earthquake damage on their sites.

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