Salisbury signed off in 2011, says Turei

Last updated 05:00 15/02/2013

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The Government kept secret plans to close a residential school for the disabled for over a year, the Green Party says.

It comes as Education Minister Hekia Parata prepares to announce the future of earthquake-struck Christchurch schools next week.

Documents released by the Greens yesterday reveal that in May 2011, then education minister Anne Tolley signed off on a proposal for pupils from Salisbury School for girls in Nelson to be sent to another school in Canterbury.

But more than a year later current minister Parata announced she would begin a three-month consultation period about the Nelson school's future.

Late last year the High Court ruled Parata's decision to shut the facility for girls with severe intellectual and physical disabilities was unlawful.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said the consultation was "a sham" because the Government had made up its mind.

The school wants her barred from making any more decisions about its future.

"All along Hekia Parata has pretended to have an open mind about the schools, but these documents, filed in the High Court, show that Salisbury never stood a chance," Turei said.

Parata has rejected the claims, saying the consultation was genuine, inclusive and responsive.

"It was not a sham. We went into this process to raise the quality of provision, to expand the service to include more young people, and to provide personalised plans that recognised that these young people live their lives in their homes and their community.

"We did not make any decisions until August 2012. I became minister of education in December 2011 and received no reports specifically on residential schools prior to February 2012.

"My response to the February 2012 report was to agree to the ministry consulting with the education sector on options."

The May 2011 papers also show Ministry of Education officials sought $1.9 million for redundancies for affected staff.

On Monday, Parata will be in Christchurch to announce decisions about the future of 31 Canterbury schools.

NZEI yesterday said they have called off a planned strike and will hold a rally on Tuesday to show support for affected schools.

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