Phillipstown School court fight begins
'Deprived community will be torn apart'JODY O'CALLAGHAN
Seventy per cent of Phillipstown School's pupils will "scatter" to other schools if it is merged next year, a court has heard.
Supporters packed the public gallery at the High Court, where Justice John Fogarty heard from lawyer Mai Chen, who is representing the decile one school during a judicial review of the Education Minister's decision to close it and merge it with Woolston School.
Chen said there was evidence that only 30 per cent of pupils would transfer to the new school.
"It's going to have a significant impact on the community."
The ''poor and deprived community'' was threatened to be torn apart by the merger.
The essence of the school's case was not just about process, but substance, Chen said.
She argued that Education Minister Hekia Parata was only allowed to lawfully merge schools if she was satisfied that the board had made reasonable efforts to consult parents, and the consultation that had taken place had been adequate in all circumstances. Also, thirdly, was the creation of a single school appropriate in the circumstances?
''The question is, was that done in this process?''
The consultation process had been ''confused'', and Parata had to be sure the parents had been consulted, since they were the ones most greatly effected by the decision.
Any submissions from parents and the community could not have been ''intelligent and useful'' since they were not presented with the right information to do so.
The board itself was not given the information, including on land, buildings, and why Woolston was to be the continuing school instead of Phillipstown.
But Parata's evidence was that she was satisfied with the board's consultation with the community on the proposal, Chen said.
Phillipstown School principal Tony Simpson earlier said he was sad it had to come to court, but it was all about the kids.
In May, Parata announced that Phillipstown would merge with Woolston School from January.
This month, Simpson said fundraising for the case was a "mammoth task" for a low-decile school of 163 pupils, and "it truly is a David versus Goliath struggle".
Phillipstown School had one damaged building, estimated to cost $3.5 million to fix over 10 years, and its surrounding land classified as technical category 2 and 3.
The minister's rationale for the merger was that the site had liquefaction, and both Phillipstown and Woolston schools had reasonably small rolls in an area with an over-supply of primary school places.
The hearing is predicted to last for two days.
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