Parata denies promises to Christchurch intermediate schools

By Kate Shuttleworth

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

Three Christchurch intermediate schools, parents and Opposition MPs say Education Minister Hekia Parata broke promises to keep intermediate schools, earmarked for closure, open until the end of next year.

Ms Parata has denied she broke promises to three Christchurch intermediate schools that they could remain open so newly-enrolled students could complete their intermediate education.

Principals at Branston, Linwood and Manning intermediates say the minister assured them they could remain open until the end of 2014.

Mr Parata told Parliament today she made no such promise, and said any dates given to schools were proposals - not promises.

"I made it clear, repeatedly, that it was a proposal, that they had the opportunity to give a submission on that proposal, and I got their submission, and they now have a further opportunity."

Ms Parata would not give a definitive 'no' to questions from Labour's acting education spokesman Chris Hipkins on whether she told Branston Intermediate it could stay open until the end of 2014.

Yesterday she denied she gave an assurance that Manning Intermediate could remain open for two years from this year.

Norma Merrick, a mother of a Manning Intermediate student, said she enrolled her 11-year-old daughter at the school after an assurance from Ms Parata that the school would remain open.

She said she was told by the minister at a public meeting in October that her daughter would be able to see out her two years of schooling.

"She was at Spreydon Primary last year, Manning this year, could be at Hillmorton High School next year, and then if she doesn't stay at Hillmorton she may go to Cashmere high. That's four schools in four years which is a lot of disruption."

The proposal put to Manning Intermediate last year was to close at the end of 2014.

In a letter on Monday the minister told Manning Intermediate it now had two proposals to make a submission on - one closing at the end of this year, another closing at the end of next year.

The first involves the year 7-8 provision being at a local secondary school, the second at a local primary school.

Principal of Manning Intermediate Richard Chambers said the minister was asked three times by a parent if they enrolled their child at Manning would she guarantee the child could complete year 8.

"The simple fact is the minister promised us that we would have two years no matter what. It was a guarantee she made to our community repeatedly. It was unequivocal.

"We took the minister at her word and put that out to our community, so, in effect, I think the minister has created a lie."

Branston Intermediate principal Jennifer O'Leary said she was angry.

"We were told last year that any child who enrolled here for this year would be able to finish their intermediate schooling and we've given that assurance to parents, and now my integrity has been compromised."

Labour MP for Wigram in Christchurch Megan Woods said schools in her electorate had not been damaged by the earthquake. Wigram was one of the least affected areas in Christchurch, she said.

"I've been told by parents, I've been told by teachers, I've been told by multiple people at that meeting that she did give them that assurance, and everybody I've spoken to since that meeting has worked on the basis of that assurance - it was going to be open for two years.

"How can the minister now deny this?

"There are two choices; either the minister stood up at the meeting at Branston and lied to the people of Hornby and Christchurch, or she's now lying about them, and neither is good enough".

"What you have is a really deep-seated view from parents, teachers and students that they had their two years; that came from somewhere."

Labour MP Trevor Mallard suggested in Parliament the matter should be referred to the privileges committee.

- APNZ

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