John Weekes

John Weekes is an NZME. News Service reporter based in Wellington.

Thousands vent fury at school closures

Protesters call the school plans "abusive". Photo / SNPA
Protesters call the school plans "abusive". Photo / SNPA

Christchurch promises more protest action

Upset children, parents and principals rallied against "abusive" school closures in quake-ravaged Christchurch yesterday.

Thousands gathered at Hagley Park to vent their fury at Government proposals to shut 13 Canterbury schools; merge 18 into nine; and relocate another seven.

Rally organisers said the idea of centralising city schools and eliminating middle schools was "ludicrous". They vowed to stage more protests.

Reverend Mike Coleman, who has two children enrolled in a Christchurch school earmarked for closure, said the closures would devastate long-suffering Canterbury kids.

"Taking your school away (after) having been through 10,000 quakes is one of the most abusive things you can do to a child."

Coleman said the decision was made without any consultation.

He also said the Government would target small schools throughout the country after dealing with Christchurch.

"We're asking the Government to come down and listen to the affected communities and affected schools."

Another rally organiser, Wayne Hawker, said he was delighted with the turnout. He said more protests were planned, including a "major street march".

Hawker said concerned parents, principals and students joined politicians at the rally. "This is about our kids."

He said so many people drove in to join the rally, a traffic backlog caused a 15-minute delay to the protest start.

Kendal School was one of 13 set to shut because of the overhaul. "Our neighbourhood schools are too valuable to lose," Kendal School supporter Mary Tingey wrote online. "Children need small, friendly places in which to grow and learn. They are the focus of our communities."

Avonside Girls' and Christchurch Girls' were targeted for a proposed merger, as were Shirley Boys' and Christchurch Boys'.

Yaldhurst, Richmond and Greenpark schools were also in the firing line, to the dismay of protesters, including tearful schoolchildren.

- Herald on Sunday

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