Her full media statement can be accessed here. What follows is a brief synopsis:
Education Minister Hekia Parata today announced she has listened to parents and school communities and decided about a third of the proposals for greater Christchurch schools should now not proceed.
Ms Parata today announced interim decisions for 31 of the 38 schools affected by the Government’s Education Renewal Plans.“The Government is absolutely committed to rebuilding Christchurch – that’s why we are investing $1 billion into restoring and renewing the education sector in Canterbury over the next 10 years,” Ms Parata says.“Greater Christchurch will have one of the most modern schooling networks in the country that will serve communities for many years to come, and help each and every child get a great education.”In summary, the interim decisions Ms Parata has announced today for the 31 schools are:
- 12 schools proposed for closure or merger should remain open.
- 19 schools should either close, or merge.
- Of these 19 schools, seven should close and 12 should merge (to create six schools)In addition to those interim decisions:· Two schools have already closed voluntarily. Those schools are Hammersley Park and Le Bons Bay.· Five schools in Aranui (Aranui, Avondale, Wainoni, Chisnallwood Intermediate, and Aranui High School) have an extended consultation period to 7 March. It is proposed those schools form a new Year 1-13 campus.
The 12 schools proposed for closure or merger that should now remain open are: Bromley, Burnham, Burnside, Duvauchelle, Gilberthorpe, Linwood Avenue, Okains Bay, Ouruhia Model, Shirley Intermediate, and Yaldhurst schools, and the two kura - TKKM o Waitaha and TKKM o Te Whānau Tahi.“I have decided that Ouruhia Model School should remain open but should be relocated to West Belfast when the population is sufficient enough to support a school in that area.“I have also decided that one of the kura should be relocated so that Māori medium schooling is available in the north of Christchurch.’’In addition to Hammersley Park and Le Bons Bay schools, who have already closed voluntarily, the interim decision is to close seven schools.These schools are: Branston Intermediate, Glenmoor, Greenpark, Kendal, Linwood Intermediate, Manning Intermediate and Richmond.Glenmoor, Greenpark, and Richmond all had rolls of fewer than 50 children as of July last year.Kendal had a roll of 90 children, Branston Intermediate a roll of 180 children, Manning a roll of 154 and Linwood a roll of 123.The interim decisions for these seven schools affect around 670 children, or less than 1 per cent of the entire greater Christchurch student population of nearly 72,000“I acknowledge that the interim decision to close seven schools will be disappointing news for those communities but parents will be supported in making decisions about their child’s future education and there are plenty of options available to them, depending on the final decisions,” Ms Parata says.
The shake-up of schools in the Christchurch area was bound to cause controversy, whatever decisions the Government made. We read at the weekend that there are something in the region of 9000 spaces at schools in greater Christchurch.
Hekia Parata has pulled back significantly on proposals announced late last year, and twelve schools have been spared the axe. That will doubtless come as a relief to staff, students and the school communities.
We have a number of family members involved in the education sector in Christchurch, including one who is a senior staff member at one of the schools recommended for merger. They have told us that their colleagues are generally treating the proposal as a new challenge and an opportunity.
Ms Parata has also confirmed that the Government will be investing more that $1b over the next ten years building or rebuilding 15 schools that is welcome news. It is noticeable too that significant investment will be made in areas such as Pegasus (north of Christchurch) and Lincoln and Rolleston (west of Christchurch) where there is a huge amount of new residential construction going on at the moment. Friends recently moved to Pegasus after their house in the east of Christchurch was deemed beyond repair, and they have told us that houses are growing like mushrooms out there.
Unsurprisingly, Labour's Education spokesman-in-waiting Chris Hipkins has called today's announcement a back-down by Hekia Parata. Can we take that as confirmation from Hipkins that Labour actually supported the more draconian cuts, or is Mr Hipkins simply indulging in a bit of political grand-standing?
Lastly, the Government and Ms Parata in particular have made a much better fist of communicating these decision today. It would seem that Hekia Parata is keen to seek some redemption after an annus horribilis in the Education portfolio last year.