Tenacious Chisnallwood escapes merger

CHARLEY MANN
Last updated 05:00 23/05/2013
Daniel Tobin

There were scenes of jubilation at Chisnallwood Intermediate as their principal announced the school will remain open.

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Five east Christchurch schools were originally slated to merge into an Aranui super school. Why has one escaped?

Chisnallwood Intermediate has fought for its existence since it learned it was part of the planned merger, hiring a market research company to canvas its community and rousing education sector heavyweights for endorsements.

In the end, it escaped the hangman's noose thanks to its huge out-of-zone enrolments and specialist intermediate focus.

Education Minister Hekia Parata said two thirds of Chisnallwood's 700 pupils came from outside the Aranui area.

The school provided a strong intermediate option in the community, she said, and the "exciting, brand-new education concept for Aranui children" could go ahead without it.

Chisnallwood principal Richard Paton triggered a thunderous ovation when he told pupils and parents the 700-strong school would survive. Moments before the school hall announcement, whoops and cheers could be heard from the teachers' lounge.

The community had been expecting the worst, and Paton said the news came as a "colossal relief". "I knew that we had a really strong case."

Ministry of Education staff told him they had "taken on board seriously the information that was in our submission," he said.

"The evidence (in the submission) was statistically-based and I hope that helped the ministry to come to the decision."

The ministry gave all schools affected by the network overhaul $2500 to help with submissions if they wanted to argue for or against the plans.

Chisnallwood made the most of the offer.

It brought in market research company Research First to survey the school community, which it did in February.

Results showed 95 per cent of respondents were completely against the closure.

The submission also contained numerous letters of support from influential educators, including Roger Buckton, Associate professor at the University of Canterbury's (UC) School of Music and Tim Bell, head of UC department of computer science and software engineering.

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