2013 a turbulent year in education

Last updated 05:00 03/01/2014
Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Fleming
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON

WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY: Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Fleming, second right, talks up the new $212 million Regional Science and Innovation Centre to be built at the University of Canterbury.

Prue Taylor
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/Fairfax NZ
RESIGNED: Christchurch Girls' High School principal Prue Taylor

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Canterbury was inundated with education announcements throughout 2013, both good and bad. Education reporter JODY O'CALLAGHAN takes a look back.

Tertiary funding

Christchurch's three tertiary institutions - University of Canterbury , Lincoln University and Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT) - all announced big plans for their campuses in 2013.

In October, a state cash injection of $260 million was announced to help earthquake-damaged University of Canterbury push ahead with its recovery.

About $212m of the Government investment was for a new Canterbury Regional Science and Innovation Centre scheduled for completion in 2017 and the rest for upgrading engineering facilities.

The university itself announced a $1.1 billion, 10-year campus upgrade that would include the Government cash, insurance proceeds and its own money.

Four weeks earlier, CPIT welcomed $18.9m from the Government to invest into its Trades Innovation Institute campus at Sullivan Ave, in response to a growing demand for skilled workers in the Canterbury rebuild. It formed part of the institute's $120m campus master plan.

The Government also revealed in April that a "world-class" agricultural research and education facility - Lincoln Hub - would be constructed at Lincoln University this year.

In total, 900 educators and staff from research organisations and businesses will work at the hub, and idea that was put to the Government by AgResearch, DairyNZ, Landcare Research, Lincoln University and Plant and Food Research.

Lincoln also released its 25-year masterplan and revamped its courses into land-focused qualifications including two new bachelor degrees, that will be on offer this year.

School closures and mergers

Christchurch schools were once again rattled by further Ministry of Education announcements in 2013, with most 2012 proposals finalised.

In February, Education Minister Hekia Parata made an interim announcement that 12 schools initially proposed for closure or merger would remain.

Bromley, Burnham, Burnside Primary, Duvauchelle, Gilberthorpe, Okains Bay, Linwood Ave, Ouruhia Model, Shirley Intermediate, Yaldhurst, Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Whanau Tahi and Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Waitaha were given a reprieve.

Glenmoor School, Linwood Intermediate, Manning Intermediate, Greenpark School, Richmond School, Kendal School, and Branston Intermediate were told they were to be closed, and had done so by the end of the 2013 school year.

Burwood and Windsor schools will merge on the Windsor site this year, while Lyttelton West School will merge with Lyttelton Main School in May and Central New Brighton, Freeville, and North New Brighton will join forces next year.

Unlimited and Discovery 1 will merge from the start of this year, but Phillipstown School's merger with Woolston School on the Woolston site was delayed after a judicial review called for Parata to continue consultation. Her final decision is due in March.

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Hornby High, Hillmorton High and Linwood College will have year 7-8 provision in place of the closed intermediates.

In October, Parata also announced that Avonside Girls' High and Shirley Boys' High will share a new site in a yet-to-be-confirmed location in Christchurch's east. Education officials were still working to identify that site.

Phillipstown School takes Parata to court

Education Minister Hekia Parata lost her second judicial review in less than a year, after Justice John Fogarty found that her consultation process over the merger of Phillipstown School with Woolston School failed to meet the requirements of the Education Act.

The importance of the cost of Phillipstown continuing on its current site was mistakenly played down, and the financial information Parata relied on was not reasonably broken down and explained in a manner that would have enabled a critique. Her decision was "declared unlawful and is not valid".

Information received by The Press through the Official Information Act in December showed $96,729.68 had so far been spent on Crown Law fees and other court costs.

The minister was then ordered to pay the school's $99,315.25 court costs in December, after the two were unable to reach an agreement over the figure for its representation by renowned lawyer Mai Chen.

Her decision to close Nelson's Salisbury School, subject to a judicial review in December 2012, was also deemed unlawful.

Novopay

School staff continued to deal with payroll problems more than a year after Novopay was introduced in August 2012.

Prime Minister John Key started 2013 by putting the company behind it, Talent 2, "on notice" and installing the Government's Mr Fix-it Steven Joyce to sort out the teacher-pay debacle instead of Craig Foss.

Key said he could not have Novopay "lingering on forever, dogging the Cabinet and the Government". Improvements were made, but Novopay woes continued to make it into the media throughout the year as the kinks continued to be ironed out.

The largest pay of the year, on December 11, yielded complaints and notifications from 0.19 per cent of staff at 111 schools across the country. Ten staff were not paid, 56 were overpaid and 106 underpaid.

Joyce was positive about the results of "one of the most complex pay periods" in the school calendar which caused significant problems in 2012.

Works to improve the pay system continue.

Statutory intervention

Government-appointed statutory managers made the news often last year.

Tamariki School, a small special-character school in Woolston, received a letter in June stating the Education Ministry was recommending to Parata that a limited statutory manager be appointed.

The school made a Education Review Office (ERO) list of 25 anti-national standards schools after it launched a fundraising campaign in April to fight the ministry against the policy it saw as compromising its special character.

While its stance was never given as a direct reason for intervention, it was one of many areas it was working with the ministry on.

In September, statutory manager Dave Turnbull was appointed to employ staff for the Windsor and Burwood schools merger after the new merger board requested additional support.

In February, Christchurch Girls' High School defended spending almost $30,000 on employment law advice from Peter Macdonald - who is regularly a ministry appointed statutory manager - during the sacking and reinstatement of principal Prue Taylor.

Suspended Our Lady of Victories School principal Barbara Perry was reinstated in November after the Employment Relations Authority ruled there was an arguable case that her suspension by the school's commissioner was unjustified.

The principal of the special-character Catholic school in Sockburn was suspended by Murray Strong for "serious misconduct", which she denied.

She resigned a week later.

- The Press

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