School merger could prompt exodus

CHARLEY MANN
Last updated 05:00 11/03/2013

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Parents in Christchurch's eastern suburbs are considering moving to other parts of the city if the proposed Aranui "super school" goes ahead.

Market research, contracted by Chisnallwood Intermediate, shows more than 90 per cent of the community does not support the proposed super school, which would be formed by closing and merging five existing schools.

In September last year the Ministry of Education announced proposals to close Avondale Primary, Aranui Primary, Aranui High, Chisnallwood and Wainoni Schools and cluster them into a years 1 through 13 school.

Research First found that 95 per cent of respondents did not support the super school and 93 per cent said that it would not meet their needs any better than the current schools were.

"Some parents indicated a willingness to move to another area of Christchurch so their children could attend different schools," it found.

Just two per cent said that Chisnallwood should merge with other schools in the Aranui cluster.

"Over half (55 per cent) of the respondents mentioned that the changes were a bad idea".

Chisnallwood principal Richard Paton said the research had been "colossal" but necessary.

"The proposal has got such huge ramifications for the community," he said.

The research took into account Chisnallwood families and the wider eastern suburbs.

The community was also concerned about "younger children being exposed to the behaviour of older children", it found.

"It was also thought that younger children would be scared around large numbers of teenagers and that older children might bully those who were younger."

Families in the eastern suburbs are keen to set up a learning hub in place of the proposed super school.

At a community meeting at Chisnallwood Intermediate this year an eastern suburbs learning network was mooted.

This would see the five schools proposed to merge into the super school retain their locations and identity, staff, management and board of trustees.

However, they would network so that all pupils would benefit from all schools.

Schools would work co-operatively sharing resources including as swimming pools, libraries, music studios and learning opportunities.

Research First found 74 per cent of the community were keen for the Ministry of Education to explore the idea.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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