Three schools in three years for some students

CHARLEY MANN
Last updated 05:00 21/02/2013
 Riley Williams
STACY SQUIRES/Fairfax NZ

MOVED AROUND: Riley Williams, centre, with Manning Intermediate classmates Mitchell Cross, left, and Jake Day, could be off to his third school in as many years.

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Some Christchurch children will have to attend three different schools in three years after a closure of three Christchurch intermediates.

The Government's plans could see Branston, Linwood and Manning intermediate schools shut at the end of the year.

Branston principal Jennifer O'Leary said the Hornby area had got a "raw deal" and urged the Government to change the "unrealistic" closure timeline.

Branston pupils will be absorbed into Hornby High, meaning some will attend three different schools in three years.

The Ministry of Education had repeatedly told Branston that it would remain open until at least 2014, O'Leary said.

Now the closure will affect 75 pupils who are enrolled in year 7.

"We assured parents that we would be staying open for two years," O'Leary said.

Education Minister Hekia Parata told Parliament yesterday she had never made a promise to the schools that they would remain open until 2014, but provided only "proposals".

"I made it clear, repeatedly, that it was a proposal, that they had the opportunity to give a submission on that proposal, and I got their submission, and they now have a further opportunity."

Hornby High principal Richard Edmundson said the school would work fast to develop an effective years 7 and 8 curriculum before the start of the 2014 academic year.

It will ensure that years 7 and 8 have their own area in the playground away from the older years and accommodate "rites of passage" that are so important to pre-teens.

Hornby High was due to have a complete property overhaul taking three to five years, Edmundson said.

O'Leary said Sockburn Primary was considering adding years 7 and 8 classes so parents had a local primary school option.

Manning Intermediate has been given two options by the ministry.

The first is to add years 7 and 8 classes to several local primary schools and close Manning at the end of 2014.

The second is to explore adding years 7 and 8 classes to Hillmorton High School and to close Manning at the end of this year.

Principal Richard Chambers said the various options showed the ministry did not understand the educational needs of pre-teen children.

"I don't think the educational reasons for closure stand up and I don't think the financial reasons stand up."

Manning has a new office and hall, opened in November 2011, valued at about $2.6 million.

The school, Chambers says, suffered little earthquake damage and has still not been given a detailed engineering evaluation, a quantity surveyor's report or geotechnical results, despite being promised all three by the ministry.

However, in its consideration of closure report, the ministry said the school "has earthquake damage and a number of the school buildings require earthquake strengthening and remediation at an overall estimated cost of $5.1m".

Chambers said the school wanted to form a years 7 and 8 class at Hillmorton and would explore that option in the coming weeks.

Linwood Intermediate principal Lee Walker said the educational needs of children had not been considered in the closures.

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"In our decision there is no conclusive evidence of how either of these options will enhance student achievement."

Linwood has also been given two options.

The first is to is to add years 7 and 8 classes at several primary schools and to close Linwood at the end of 2014.

The second is to explore adding years 7 and 8 classes to Linwood High and to close Linwood at the end of this year.

The board of trustees has less than 28 days to respond to the ministry to say which option it will explore further.

The fate of high-performing Chisnallwood Intermediate is also uncertain, as it has been put into the melting pot of five Aranui schools mooted to close and form a years 1 to 13 campus. It has until March 7 to complete a submission for the ministry.

PARATA'S COMMENTS GIVE ARANUI SCHOOL CLUSTER A REASON TO HOPE

Two schools fighting for their survival are hoping this week's education announcements will bode well for their own future.

Avondale School and Chisnallwood Intermediate are part of the Aranui cluster which was not included in Monday's school closure and merger announcements.

The five schools in the cluster were given an extended consultation period, which ends on March 7.

Principals at both schools watched the announcements closely and said yesterday they were heartened by some of the information to come from Education Minister Hekia Parata.

Chisnallwood Intermediate principal Richard Paton said he was feeling encouraged because he believed Parata had listened to some schools in some communities.

There was an indication that she might be prepared to look at other scenarios that best met community needs, he said.

His school and community are fighting against a proposal announced in September last year to close all five schools in the Aranui cluster to form a year 1 to 13 super school.

Parata said on Monday she was not deliberately targeting intermediate schools.

"Taking that into account why then would you consider closing the largest intermediate in the South Island and a high performing one at that."

The school, with 700 pupils, was now concentrating on presenting the strongest possible case to the minister, Paton said.

Avondale School principal Mark Scown said the school could take heart from the news that 12 schools would remain open.

"We remain hopeful that Avondale will be one of them."

However, Aranui High School principal John Rohs said nothing in the announcements involving the other schools gave him any indication which way Parata would go when it came to deciding on the future of the Aranui cluster.

"I don't think there was anything that could be interpreted one way or the other," he said.

"Some schools got good news and others hoping for a reprieve did not get that. It's just a waiting game."

Aranui High School is in favour of the year 1 to 13 school and has already put in its submission to the Ministry of Education.

'FIRST THE EARTHQUAKE AND NOW THIS' - RILEY, 11

Manning Intermediate pupil Riley Williams, 11, is set for another new school.

The year 7 student is set to move as Manning is scheduled to shut under the Government's plans for Christchurch.

"First the earthquake and now this," he said. "They've been given a choice between either closing and making Hillmorton [High School] a years 7 to 13 or making Hoon Hay, Spreydon and West Spreydon years 1 to 8.

"If it is the primary schools, they don't have the resources for year 7 and 8 with their technology, so they must make it Hillmorton."

His mother, Selena Williams, was not keen on Riley going to high school at such a young age.

"He started this year hoping to finish his two years and now that [Education Minister Hekia Parata] changed her mind and said she will close it at the end of this year, well, we're really in a bit of a jam.

"I wasn't too sure if I was going to send him to Hillmorton in the first place," she said. "But I don't want to be swapping him every year to a new school. That's really disruptive and it's not good for the community."

There were no other intermediate school options for the family.

- The Press

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