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Schools are out, 'clusters' are in – Parata

A massive shake-up of Christchurch’s education system was announced yesterday at an events centre in Lincoln.

Already, teachers and headmasters are labelling some proposals as unworkable, particularly a plan to merge Shirley Boys' High with Christchurch Boys' High; they are on opposite sides of the city.

Hundreds of principals and education representatives gathered at Lincoln in two staged sessions.

The first, smaller meeting was with the principals, staff and representatives of 13 schools destined for closure. Many appeared tearful at the conclusion of the session.

The second was for the larger gathering.

For reasons which remain obscure, a representative of the Principals Association asked media to leave after a Maori welcome and a video showing resilient schools and happy children.

Numerous ministerial minders and public relations managers were on hand to ensure media obedience.

But anyone listening at the door would have been disappointed by Education Minister Hekia Parata’s speech after she was welcomed to the stage by Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee.

It contained little beyond generalisations. She heaped praise on the assembled throng for their fortitude and she thanked them for their leadership several times.

There was no time allocated for questioning from the audience at the end of her speech.

At a subsequent media conference Ms Parata and secretary for education Lesley Longstone would not provide any definitive answers to questions about how many teaching staff would lose their jobs.

The new vocabulary of education invented by the ministry made it difficult to understand some plans.

“Schools” no longer feature. They are replaced with “education clusters” which may include schools, Ms Parata says.

Schools throughout the city were classified on a chart according to colour – green meaning “restore”, yellow meaning “consolidate” and red meaning “rejuvenate”.

The schools classified as “rejuvenate” are destined for closure or merger.

Ms Parata downplayed the massive restructuring, saying all schools were looking at next year’s rolls, and population change was occurring nationwide all the time.

She says it is estimated the city had lost about 4500 students from Christchurch schools, mostly in eastern areas.

Given that the eastern suburbs contained most of the lowest decile schools, the reaction from closures in the area is likely to be fierce and may contribute to its hollowing out.

Instead, Ms Parata emphasised the government plan to invest $1 billion in Christchurch schools over the next 10 years.

Of the 215 schools in the area, 13 are destined for closure and 18 will be merged.

Ministry representatives will now engage on the statutory period of consultation in workshops to take place in November.

More by Chris Hutching

Comments and questions

"She says it is estimated the city had lost about 4500 students from Christchurch schools, mostly in eastern areas."

Sounds like Eastern Chch is dying and the govt. wants to keep it on the low-down ... makes sense, still sad though.

Eastern Christchurch isn't dying. It's busier than ever, and houses are at a premium. It has been seriously depleted in places, but a lot of the new development sites are underway not far from red-zone areas. If the government is going to permit those developments then they need to provide infrastructure. There'll always be an east Christchurch, these policies just make life even harder. Shirley Boys has had some of its highest enrolment applications ever.

I think closing the two eastern single-sex secondary schools can only be a short-term solution short of evacuating all the eastern suburbs. The distances are too great.

I agree. Children need education close to where they live. Schools are key community assets. Eastern Christchurch isn't being cleared out, much of it is being rebuilt.

Parata's not up to the job. The token Maori minister given such an important portfolio is as daft as her.

Not that I agree with Parata'a announcements today - but what's the fact that she's Maori got to do with it?

Our eastern school still has role of around 300 children and will merge with another school of 300 children on their grounds. Who decided that 600 children in one playground was a good idea?

Already occurs in many, many schools with no negative impact.

If yo are a product of the New Zealand " education" system, and can seriously expect us to to understand such drivel as "no negative impact", then I suggest that we close all schools.

What's up with these peole.... Our area in Hornby really needs the Intermediate to stay. We have 5 primary schools and a High school in this area to cater for our children. The next closest Intermediate school will require children to get 1-2 buses every morning and night to and from school. People can ill afford that expense on top of everything else that is rising these days. Will the GOVT be paying for those children to catch the bus every day........ They have got to be out of their mind !!!!!

"Buggerising around on Facebook" ... or you could buggerise around with Chch all day.

parata and the ministry needs to pull their heads out of thier backsides and get real. We are alive in the eastern suburbs and dont need xtra transport costs or xtra uniform costs. We are also not stupid nor are we low decile, how do they work that out? Just money saving for them while we still have to pay and put up with what we got

Well folks this is the final nail in the coffin...........and john banks has the audacity to stand up/by john banks. Time to break away from NZ and declare independence. Who's with us South Island; anyone got a contact number for Tuhoe?

Any planning applications gone in for any of the school sites?

Parata continues to show her incompetence as a minister - first class sizes & now this

*not that I disagree with either, just her handling of the situation is woeful

Funny how all this was done 6 years again Invercargill by Mallard in the Labour Govt. Usual many protests but now seen as the best thing in Southland education in a long time. But no-one seems to get their eyes up out of the "let's bleat" manual and see that this proposal actually has a lot of merit educationally, socially and as part of EQ recovery.

All-too-familiar bungling by Parata. Seriously, this minister is so far out of her depth, she needs to resurface slowly, lest she gets an attack of the bends.

I heard parata saying this morning on tv3 that schools are
also going to be looked at throught the country,is this right?

Great idea and should be used thru the country. Makes efficent use of capitial and resources allowing schools access to better facilities - mini campus - how can this not be a good idea?

If we always do what we always done the results will be the same.

For some families, the school community has been the one stable and familiar place children have been relying on since Sept/Feb. Yes the EQ recovery has to move forward but it has to be done with as little disruption for the children - particularly on an emotional level. Parents need to know what the plan is - where their children are going to school, how they are getting there and who they are going there with. Teachers and principals have been an incredible support network for children and families over the last two years and this shouldn't be disregarded. School communities in the west and north west are in complete shock, ones near red areas have not been talked through how mergers etc can happen and how families can be catered for. The govt needs to stop taking advantage of the people of Chch. Their lives do not need to be made harder because this is an opportune time for a larger govt plan.

Rather than starting this cluster idea in Christchurch they could trial it in Wellington - merge Wellington Girls College and Queen Margarets College, as a starter. I understand that they are within 500 metres of each other - wouldn't it make sense to put all of those girls schools together?