Mistakes admitted in Chch schools data

By Paul Harper

Ministry of Education chief executive Lesley Longstone. Image / Campbell Live
Ministry of Education chief executive Lesley Longstone. Image / Campbell Live

The Ministry of Education has acknowledged there are mistakes in the data behind the Government's shake-up of Canterbury schools.

The Government is proposing shutting 13 Canterbury schools, merging 18 into nine and relocating another seven.

Minister of Education Hekia Parata has used data collected by her ministry on how many buildings at each school suffered damage in the series of earthquakes which have rocked the region over the past two years, the state of the land beneath the schools, and the schools' rolls to determine which schools should close or merge.

However according to a report by TV3's Campbell Live, 22 affected schools believe the information used by the Ministry of Education is factually incorrect.

The segment can be watched here.

Burnside Primary is listed as having 50 earthquake-damaged buildings - despite the school having only five buildings. The school's principal Matt Bateman told Campbell Live he believed the school can be repaired for half the $9 million figure the ministry has quoted.

Central New Brighton Primary, Ouruhia Model School and Greenpark School say they have also been assessed as having more quake-damaged buildings than they actually have, meaning figures quoted to repair the schools are inflated. Intermediates and high schools in the city claim the same errors have been made.

In another case a sand long-jump pit at Burwood School was mistaken for liquefaction, while some schools say buildings not owned by the ministry are being included in their assessments.

Several schools also complained that enrolment figures from March were being used, despite student numbers increasing since then in some cases. The roll at Windsor School, for example, is up 75 students since March.

Ms Parata declined to appear, but Ministry of Education chief executive Lesley Longstone told Campbell Live there were three cases where the number of buildings was in correct. One of these were due to a transcription error and the others were due to "interpretation", she said.

While admitting there were mistakes in the data, Ms Longstone rejected the suggestion the process had been rushed and the result was "ham-fisted".

"We have been working on these proposals for a very long time, throughout the process we have been consulting about the education provision across Christchurch as a whole. We do need to move and we need to move quickly, but the reason for that is we need to make provision for children for the places that they are now living where there are no places and we do need to work through the situation that we have," she said.

"What we can't do is avoid the simple truth that since the earthquakes, 4,500 children have moved out of Christchurch and the broader area."

The Government has stressed the plans are only proposals, and a decision on the future of the affected schools will be made in December.

"That's why we provided the data, so we can all look at it together and if there are issues we will work them through with individual schools and this is absolutely genuine consultation."

Ms Longstone acknowledged it has been "really difficult for the schools, principals and teachers in Christchurch".

"They have been through an awful lot and they have been absolute stalwarts in their communities over the past 18 months to two years."

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