Ministry to look into Albany school delays

By Martha McKenzie-minifie

The Education Ministry has launched an internal review to examine an expected year-long delay to the opening of the country's showcase senior high school.

Northern regional manager Bruce Adin told the Herald yesterday he was unhappy with the Albany Senior High School situation and said the ministry had made mistakes in the school's development.

He was pleased it was part of an internal review into the way planning for areas with population growth was done.

"We are doing a review of our processes on this sort of thing to ensure we don't get ourselves into this position again."

The senior high was due to open in 2009 as a partner to Albany Junior High School and showcase a new model of public schooling for New Zealand. But "significant opposition" to the application to redesignate land at the latest site meant the completion of the senior school was likely to be delayed for at least a year.

It was the first time linked junior and senior schools were being developed in the public system, which added to the frustrations for families.

"If this was just a standard primary school or a regular secondary school, you could say 'we could be a bit flexible here'," said Mr Adin.

"This doesn't give us the room to move."

The hurdle to redesignate the land was the latest in a series of problems for the project.

Mr Adin cited protracted, failed talks about building the school on Massey University's Albany site about five years ago as the biggest mistake.

"It's fine for those discussions to occur. The mistake we made was the ministry should have said, 'In the event that they don't [work out], we need to nail another site,' andthat wasn't done."

Mr Adin said an announcement on how to run the school before its permanent buildings were finished was expected next week.

Meanwhile, the fallout would hit the junior high school with a third of its most senior students set to leave next year.

Rangitoto College principal David Hodge confirmed a sharp rise in the number of out-of-zone applications after the neighbouring school's announcement.

It was thought about 100 of the junior high's Year 9 students had applied to go to other schools.

Parents of junior high students told the Herald they were frustrated and left wondering how the ministry got it so wrong.

"There are kids in tears because they don't know their future," said parent Andrew Hooker.

Albany Junior High School principal Mike Jackson said the junior school was being put at serious risk.

"We've always said to the ministry that if the senior school wasn't going to open on time, it would put our school in jeopardy as well."

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