Kurt Bayer

Kurt Bayer is an APNZ reporter based in Christchurch.

Rally, vote of no confidence expected

Education Minister Hekia Parata. Photo / Martin Hunter
Education Minister Hekia Parata. Photo / Martin Hunter

Christchurch teachers are likely to deliver a vote of no confidence in Hekia Parata's record as Education Minister after her proposed education shake-up in the rebuilding city.

Hundreds of disgruntled teachers, parents and pupils are expected to turn out after class today to rally against proposals to close 12 schools and merge six, including two schools merged at another site.

Seven schools will shut by next January, despite assurances from the Ministry of Education that children could stay until 2015.

Final decisions would be made in late May.

Ms Parata said at the announcement yesterday that it was too soon to know how many teachers would lose their jobs - if any, given that the number of pupils will remain the same.

But teachers will lead a public rally against the closures at 4pm today at CBS Arena.

Local members of the teacher's union the NZEI will put forward a motion of no confidence in the minister's record to date.

They are demanding that Ms Parata commits "to moving forward in an engagement that is credible and respectful".

After the rally, teachers will march on the Ministry of Education's nearby Princess St office and, if passed, will hand-deliver the motion.

Emotions ran high yesterday over the closures.

Ms Parata says she's listened to everyone's concerns during the consultation period, and would continue to do so, including messages that arise from today's protest rally.

Prime Minister John Key has backed the decisions, made for "the long term good" of the city.

Labour Party acting education spokesman Chris Hipkins said the interim decisions were premature in the fast changing post-disaster landscape.

A planned strike for today was called off by teachers who wanted to remain in their classrooms today to support children after yesterday's news.

NZEI national president Judith Nowotarski says educators are very concerned about the pace that the Government wants to impose these changes on Christchurch children and educators.

She described the process the Ministry of Education had gone through as being "botched and disrespectful".

"The minister will have to go forward in a much more credible and respectful manner than she has shown in the past," Ms Nowotarski said.

Some schools were now considering whether to seek a judicial review into the decisions, which Greens co-leader and education spokeswoman Metiria Turei believed was possible.

But as Keith Turner, principal of doomed Kendal School, said: "Dollar signs suddenly start to appear which should go on children's education."

While accepting it was devastating news for some schools, Ms Parata refused to apologise, saying, "Look, change is hard".

Phillipstown principal Tony Simpson said it was a "cruel blow to the heart of our community".

Teachers, parents and children were in deep shock, he said.

- APNZ

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