Kurt Bayer

Kurt Bayer is an APNZ reporter based in Christchurch.

Christchurch schools confront confusion

Christchurch schools such as Avonside Girls' High School are now concerned about their future after a confused Government announcement yesterday. File photo / APN
Christchurch schools such as Avonside Girls' High School are now concerned about their future after a confused Government announcement yesterday. File photo / APN

Emergency meetings have been held today by schools and professional groups trying to get to the bottom of yesterday's confused Government announcement of a shake-up of Christchurch's post-earthquake schools system.

The New Zealand Parent Teacher Association has been stunned by the proposal to close 13 schools and merge a further 18.

President Lisa McDonald said her members were angered by the news and wanted more consultation before any further steps were taken.

"From what I am hearing, I have not heard one positive response,'' she said.

"Hasn't Canterbury and Christchurch suffered enough? It is time to move forward and listen a little more to what parents and parent groups are saying before making the decisions that will affect our communities in such a dramatic way.''

The National Association of Secondary Deputy and Assistant Principals met in Wellington, while Christchurch secondary school principals held crunch talks with Secretary for Education Lesley Longstone to discuss the reshuffle.

The Government says that with declining and shifting post-quake population, shaky ground beneath some schools, and the distance many kids have to travel to school, it's had to look at a major reorganisation.

While some parents and staff are still coming to grips with the shock announcements, others have taken a more pragmatic approach.

Christchurch Boys High School principal Trevor McIntyre said the earthquakes had given the Government an opportunity to upgrade a creaking schools system that was vastly undersubscribed even before the earthquakes.

Many of the schools earmarked for closure are in the eastern suburbs, and small Banks Peninsula settlements, which were hit hardest in the thousands of shakes since September 2010.

There were around 4000 empty desks before the quakes hit but with a further 4500 children leaving the area since the disaster, critical ``education dollars'' were being wasted on maintaining the empty spaces, he said.

``There wouldn't have been a principal or a board member a month ago who wouldn't have agreed there needed to be changes in Christchurch,'' Mr McIntyre said.

``A vast amount of money was being wasted on maintaining empty classrooms and I think everybody agrees we were well over capacity anyway.''

While he accepted that the Government's media management of the announcement ``could've been better'', he said he was happy for bureaucrats to make the tough decisions on who should close.

If it was left up to the schools, they would also say, ``Not us'', he said.

The ministry has made it clear that these were only proposals, he said, and there would be plenty of consultation to come, especially once final geotechnical reports were completed.

The shake-up has been described as being ``unprecedented'' that will attract attention from educators globally.

Professor Gail Gillon, pro-vice chancellor of the University of Canterbury's College of Education, says change within a city the size of Christchurch, on the scale announced by the Government, is unlikely to have happened anywhere else in the world.

``If there is anywhere where this level of amalgamation can work it is Christchurch, where our schools have shown it can be done with many positive outcomes.''

- APNZ

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n3 at 01 Oct 2014 08:56:32 Processing Time: 688ms