Threatened schools angered by ordeal

TINA LAW
Last updated 05:00 20/02/2013

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For 12 Christchurch schools the fight to stay has been won, but they are still angry at the impact the struggle has had on pupils, staff and parents.

Seven schools are still proposed for closure. Another 12 could be merged to create six.

The 12 schools given a reprieve are relieved and happy their future is secure, but are upset they were put through the ordeal and believe the proposals should never have been made in the first place.

Yaldhurst Model School deputy principal Ann-Marie Garden said the school had noticed a significant increase in anxiety-related issues with children since September's announcement.

Children were getting parents to stand outside the toilet or the shower and more children had bed-wetting problems.

Parents, already exhausted from almost two years dealing with earthquake-related pressures, had been forced to lift themselves to deal with the proposal, she said.

The school's board chairman had had to negotiate with his employer to get time off work to help fight the decision, Garden said.

"The focus should always be the education of our children, and anything that takes you away from that, you do feel resentful of."

She said it would take some time for staff, parents and children to recover from the process they had been through.

"We have been in fight or flight mode for the last five months. It takes more than a couple of minutes to recover from that."

Linwood Avenue School principal Gerard Direen, who started the job just weeks after the proposal to close the school was announced, said he was diverted from forming relationships with teachers and pupils to focus on saving the school.

"I'm feeling good about the result for us, but we should never have been put through it. The proposals should never have been put on the table."

He said Education Minister Hekia Parata and the Ministry of Education lack "any understanding of the human level of recovery in Christchurch".

Direen said the Government had been negligent by putting additional stress on schools.

"In this post-disaster environment who is giving them advice to throw another rock in the pond?"

Direen also said he was going to have six staff who were not going to get paid today because of Novopay.

Ouruhia Model School principal Mark Ashmore-Smith said the ministry should have listened to schools before putting out the original proposals.

"Coming to school this morning I did not realise how much of a shadow this whole thing had put on me. I felt like the road ahead was clear."

After the announcement was made on Monday, he received two phone calls from people wanting to enrol their children.

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UNCERTAINTY MORE STRESSFUL THAN CHANGE

Uncertainty can be more stressful than dealing with change, a Canterbury University psychology professor says.

The uncertainty faced by Christchurch schools in the past five months would have led to stress being felt by the people involved in those schools, Deak Helton said.

"The anticipation of change is more stressful than the actual change."

He said people constantly thought about the problems they could end up facing if the closures or mergers went ahead, including what school they would go to, if they would make new friends there and some could worry they might get bullied.

It took time for people to build up friendships and the possibility of losing those friendships through a school closure or merger was stressful, Helton said.

"Anticipated change is really hard. It makes everything unpredictable."

Dealing with change was also stressful, but once people had confirmation of change they were able to get on with things.

People tended to become more resilient after going through something like the closure and merger proposals.

- The Press

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