PPP super-school could impact community

CHARLEY MANN
Last updated 12:00 11/06/2013

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The private sector has not yet shown any interest in the Aranui super-school.

Last week The Press reported that Education Minister Hekia Parata floated the public private partnership (PPP) option in a Cabinet paper when she decided to close Aranui High, Aranui, Wainoni and Avondale primary schools and merge them into a years 1-13 super school on Aranui High's grounds.

The schools were going to be merged in January 2016 but Parata pushed the date back one year.

She wrote on the Cabinet paper: ''Open January 2017 to incorporate consideration of public/private partnership procurement.''

The Ministry of Education today said it was not aware of any specific interest from the private sector to build the super school.

It was still developing a business case for the project, which is estimated to cost $41 million.

Selling the sites of Aranui, Wainoni and Avondale primary schools would aise around $10 million, based on latest rateable valuations of the land and buildings.

Building the school under the traditional framework of Crown ownership would protect the community from costly fees to use the campus facilities.

PPP schools can charge for additional use of school facilities, such as gyms, libraries and sports fields.

Labour education spokesman Chris Hipkins said establishing a new school under a PPP saves a ''negligible sum'' and there was no ''educational justification'' for the option.

He questioned why the PPP was not raised during the consultation period, which began last year.

''The huge risk is that the community loses control of school facilities and have to pay extra to use them,'' he said.

''Say you want to use the gym for a school sports team, there is an extra charge for that.

''This community could be a lot worse off.''

Christchurch City Councillor Glenn Livingstone, who represents the Burwood/Pegsus ward, said a PPP school would be an ''ill fit'' for Aranui, where the median annual income is $18,000.

''I can't imagine the Aranui community saying 'let's go with a PPP school where we will have to pay for sports facilities and grounds','' he said.

Livingstone was concerned it would limit access to sports and herald a ''realm of exclusivity''.

Aranui School principal Mike Allen said schools charged a small fee for using inside facilties such as halls and classrooms after school hours ''just to cover the cost of light, heat and power''.

However, they do not usually charge for the use of sports fields, which the community can use after school, on weekends and in the holidays.

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Ministry of Education deputy secretary for regional operations, Katrina Casey, said a PPP ''does not mean that the local community has less opportunity to use school facilities".

A PPP contract would allow the school facilities to be used during and after school hours, as determined the board of trustees.

''Where there is significant community use, there may be a charge to cover additional cleaning services, security or other building facility management services that are required,'' Casey said.

What is a public private partnership school?

  • The private sector design, build, finance and maintain the school property over a 25-year contract.
  • The provision of education remains the responsibility of the principal and the board of trustees.
  • The Government retains ownership of the land and buildings throughout the operational contract.
  • There are not likely to be significant changes for teachers, staff and learners in terms of how education is provided in the school.
  • The ministry work with the board of trustees to determine specifications and minimum requirements for design, build and maintenance of the school property.

Information provided by the Ministry of Education.

- The Press

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