Response to threat of closure sparks rivalry

TINA LAW
Last updated 05:00 30/01/2013
Tony Simpson
DON SCOTT/Fairfax NZ
Phillipstown School principal Tony Simpson.

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A Christchurch school fighting for survival has been forced to turn against its neighbouring schools and push for their closure in a bid to stay open.

After last year's proposals to close 13 schools and put 26 through some form of merger, schools had to put together submissions to the Ministry of Education to fight for their future.

In its submission, Woolston School said it "respectfully requests the Minister of Education considers closing Bamford and Phillipstown Schools, resulting in Woolston School growing to 500 to 600 students".

The Government is proposing to merge Woolston and Phillipstown schools at a new primary school to be built on the existing Linwood College site. Linwood College would move to its lower fields in Ferry Rd.

Both primary schools are against the proposal.

Woolston School's submission has upset Phillipstown and Bamford schools, whose principals say they were shocked to hear that Woolston was advocating for their closure.

"You don't blow another person's candle out to make yours shine brighter," Phillipstown School principal Tony Simpson said.

Woolston School principal Janeane Reid said the school would have preferred not to end up in this situation, but was trying to ensure that the community received the best education possible.

"In the end, the board decided we needed to look after the needs of the school community."

She said the submission was a result of a strong community feeling that the school should remain where it was.

Simpson, however, said schools advocating for the closure of other schools was "regrettable".

"Phillipstown School board of trustees stays well above such motives and such behaviour," he said.

He was proud that Phillipstown School's submission focused on the children and "did not delve into the very specific situations in other communities".

Bamford School principal Colin Hammond said he was shocked to hear the school was being dragged into the schools' shake-up when it was not implicated by the Government in the first place.

"It's a side-effect of what has happened and some [schools] are turning on others."

However, both Simpson and Hammond said they would continue to work with Woolston School.

Canterbury Primary Principals' Association president John Bangma said schools were in a stressful situation of having to fight for their viability, but he hoped people would remain professional.

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"Schools will need to put up a fence at the end of this process and move on from it."

Not all schools have experienced friction with their neighbours and some say their relationships with neighbouring schools has improved.

Last night Education Minister Hekia Parata said it was "only natural" for schools to be concerned about their future.

But she hoped schools would continue to work together.

"Over the last two years schools have showed a tremendous amount of willingness to work with one another and I'd expect that to continue once decisions have been made."

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education has refused to disclose to The Press, under the Official Information Act, the full submissions made by schools involved in the closure and merger proposals because the information requested "will soon be made publicly available by the ministry".

- The Press

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