Parata tries to spin school PR
"Too many small suburban schools with minor rolls which neighbour other small schools throughout the country."Featured comment
Education minister Hekia Parata was unable to provide any figures about the amounts of money involved in the Christchurch schools restructure.
She was accompanied at the midday media conference by education ministry apparatchik, Katrina Casey, who says the closures and mergers of schools will not result in savings.
Similarly, Ms Parata would not provide any reasons why she has back-tracked on the closure of some schools.
She referred to some “items of error”.
When NBR ONLINE asked what they were she said, “I’m not going to go into that”.
Previous media reports identified a raft of inaccuracies in ministry reports, including the extent of earthquake damage, numbers of pupils, staff, buildings and funding.
Even today’s information contains much obfuscation.
For example, when is a merger a closure?
It depends which of the merging schools remains the legal educational entity.
But if two schools are merging then one, if not both, must inevitably close depending on where they are relocated to.
Is a new school actually a closure?
Maybe, when it involves the “new” school at Pegasus Town that will see the closure of the existing nearby Woodend School.
Ouruhia School will be relocated to West Belfast several kilometres away from the community that has fought hard to retain the school.
When asked why Ms Parata could not leave the city’s schools alone for a year or two, she replied in general terms about doing the best for pupils and community.
Even the figure of 9300 vacant pupil “places available” throughout the city bears more scrutiny.
It includes 5000 spaces that were deemed “available places” before the earthquakes. The actual number of pupils who have not enrolled since the earthquakes was around 4300 students.
Ms Parata spoke at length about modern schooling, which involves “flexible” teaching spaces, and broadband.
For the record, 19 schools will be closed or merged. Of these, seven will close and 12 “merge”.
The most severely affected schools in the east of Christchurch remain in limbo with an extended consultation period for Aranui, Avondale, Wainoni primary schools and Chisnalwood Intermediate, and Aranui High School.
The seven closures include Branston Intermediate, Glenmoor, Greenpark, Kendal, Linwood Intermediate, Manning Intermediate and Richmond, affecting 650 pupils.
Two other schools with low rolls have already closed – Hammersely Park and Le Bons Bay.
The six merging schools that involve 12 schools with 3100 pupils include Burwood and Windsor (on Windsor site), Central and South Brighton (on the South Brighton site), Freeville and North New Brighton (on the North Brighton site), Lyttelton Main and Lyttelton west (on the Main site), Phillipston and Woolston (on Woolston), Discovery One and Unlimited (on a new site).
The original proposal unveiled last year was to merge 18 schools.
Ms Parata has back-tracked on the closure of schools at Duvauchelle, Gilberthorpe, Linwood Ave, Okains Bay, Ouruhia, Shirley Intermediate, Yaldhurst, Burham, Burnside, Bromley, TKKM o Waitaha and TKKM o Te Whanau Tahi.
"Interim" is the pr buzzword throughout education minister Hekia Parata's Christchurch schools closure and merger announcement.
The words interim proposals appear in almost every second sentence of Ms Parata's spiel.
Initial impressions are that today's announcements are very similar to the original indications.
In a pr spin which is unlikely to fool anyone in Christchurch affected by the news, Ms Parata's view is that whether a school is closed or merged, depends on the language used.
She told the school communities the use of the language of "merger" is to take into account "legal issues" which may arise over use of the "closure" word.
Clearly, when schools are merged one usually closes.
Her rationale for closing or merging 19 schools - based now on 12 mergers and seven actual closures - is that there are 9300 empty pupil spaces as a result of people leaving Christchurch in the wake of the earthquakes.
Principals, teachers and parents universally condemned the moves today, arguing that Christchurch pupils have gone through enough upheaval without the threat to their community centres.
In the first announcement, Phillipstown will merge with Woolston primary school.
They are among the first schools to learn their fate today.
Two charter-style schools, Discovery and Unlimited, will also merge.
Branston Primary School at Hornby will be closed.
Last year, Ms Parata announced plans to merge 18 schools and close 13.
The plan – which rapidly became a public relations disaster for the government – was greeted with anger and disbelief and has been modified.
Ms Parata's ministry officials spread out around Christchurch today in a team effort to maintain secrecy before a midday announcement.
Ms Parata avoided the mass meeting style of last year – and avoided direct questioning and anger from teachers and principals.
Unaccompanied by the chaotic pr sideshow rebuild minister Gerry Brownlee and his minions orchestrated last year, she held a media briefing in central Christchurch which was to be filmed and broadcast live.
More announcements soon.