Principals: We were duped

By Kate Shuttleworth

Three schools say Education Minister has broken a promise over staying open.

The Daines family - dad Damon, mum Claire and (front, from left) Logan, Reuben and Ethan - face the closure of their neighbourhood school. Photo / Kurt Bayer
The Daines family - dad Damon, mum Claire and (front, from left) Logan, Reuben and Ethan - face the closure of their neighbourhood school. Photo / Kurt Bayer

Principals of the three intermediate schools tagged for closure said yesterday they were not told the truth by Education Minister Hekia Parata.

Principals at Branston, Linwood and Manning intermediates said they were assured by Ms Parata at a public meeting in October that they would stay open for two years, allowing new Year 7 students to complete two years' education.

Branston Intermediate principal Jennifer O'Leary said: "I'm angry on a number of levels about this decision. We were told by the ministry 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.

"Sorry that's not good enough for me, that's got to be changed immediately."

Linwood Intermediate principal Lee Walker said the school was originally told it would close in 2015.

"We went ahead and enrolled students with the firm provision to parents they would be at the school guaranteed for two years - the consequences of the decision today is students who are here now enrolled as year 7 students will be looking for another school at the end of this year."

Manning Intermediate head Richard Chambers said the goal posts had been shifted.

"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."

Prime Minister John Key said the date had been moved forward to give certainty.

"It's really around the capacity of whether it's logical to keep a school open and the concern was that if we had a far date of closure that there would be a significant reduction in the roll."

He said intermediate schools who had been told they could see out a two-year period could make a submission. "I am sure in the fullness of time the minister will consider the merits of that argument."

In a paper presented to the Cabinet on February 4, Ms Parata sought approval to move forward the dates for the majority of closures and mergers to January 2014.

Closure set to shake Logan's world

When the rest of his world was shaking and crumbling around him, young Logan Daines found the stability he craved at school.

His mum, Claire Daines, gets emotional when she tells how her autistic son, now 9, flourished once he returned to Phillipstown School after the Canterbury earthquakes.

But now, Logan's world seems destined to be tipped upside down again after yesterday's Government announcement that his school will close by next January.

"He doesn't like change - it'll affect him hugely," said Mrs Daines, who has another son, 6-year-old Ethan, also at the school.

Her youngest, Reuben, 3, attends the nearby kindergarten.

The 32-year old is "frustrated and confused" by news the school will merge with nearby Woolston.

"Of all the schools that may have closed, this wasn't one of them. It just doesn't make any sense," she said.

"There's a great community here. All the effort we put in telling people up top [Government] has gone completely unheard."

At the moment her boys walk safely the two blocks from their home to the school.

But the new school, 2km away, is flanked by two major commuter roads.

"Everything about this move is wrong," she said.

"One wonders what is behind it, and what will happen to this pretty prime piece of land once the school is gone."

Schools' fate

Seven to close:
Branston Intermediate, Linwood Intermediate, Manning Intermediate, Kendal, Richmond, Glenmoor and Greenpark.

Six mergers, resulting in five closures:
Burwood with Windsor, on the Windsor site (Burwood to close), Central New Brighton with South New Brighton, on the South New Brighton site (Central New Brighton to close), Freeville with North New Brighton, on the North New Brighton site (Freeville to close), Lyttelton Main with Lyttelton West, on the Lyttelton Main site (Lyttelton West to close), Phillipstown with Woolston, on the Woolston site (Phillipstown to close) and Discovery One with Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti on a new site.

- Interim Ministry of Education proposals

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