Kurt Bayer

Kurt Bayer is an NZME. News Service reporter based in Christchurch.

Tears and rage after school closure news

Headmaster vows to continue fight to stay open after Education Minister details changes.

Andrew Smith with his daughter Serenity in front of a mural of her at the school yesterday. Photo / Martin Hunter
Andrew Smith with his daughter Serenity in front of a mural of her at the school yesterday. Photo / Martin Hunter

Andrew Smith hoisted daughter Serenity into the air after the school bell yesterday, a mural of her young, smiling face painted on a playground wall behind her.

It's the same Phillipstown School playground in Christchurch that Mr Smith once enjoyed in the 1970s - with most of his extended whanau.

Three of his children have kept the family tradition alive, including Down syndrome daughter Terina, who is doted on as a "celebrity" by her peers.

"I suppose the mural will be knocked down along with everything else," said Mr Smith, 50, just moments after learning the Ministry of Education was closing his primary school as part of the $1 billion city schools shake-up.

The decile one school with a roll of 165 will merge with nearby Woolston Primary, across the busy Ferry Rd, to create a 465-pupil super-school as early as next January.

A total of seven schools will close and six will merge from next year, Education Minister Hekia Parata confirmed yesterday.

Branston Intermediate, Glenmoor, Greenpark, Kendal, Linwood Intermediate, Manning Intermediate and Richmond will all close, affecting around 670 children. The six to merge into three new schools are Burwood into Windsor School, Phillipstown with Woolston School, and Lyttelton West into a new school on the Lyttelton Main site.

"The face and make-up of greater Christchurch has, and will continue to change dramatically due to the earthquakes, and the education sector must respond to those changes," Education Minister Hekia Parata said.

Phillipstown principal Tony Simpson held back the tears as he told gathered tearful parents the ministry's much-awaited final decision.

"It's a sad day for Phillipstown ... [with] the potential to destroy the community," he said.

Ms Parata has been "heartless", Mr Smith said. "She doesn't care about the people. Only the pennies."

Mr Simpson said the school would continue to fight the closure, and he couldn't rule out the possibility of a judicial review.

- APNZ

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