A tiny Christchurch school
that today won a David vs Goliath legal battle against a
government-forced closure is hosting a victory party
Education Minister Hekia Parata's decision to close
Phillipstown School as part of her $1 billion post-quake city
schools shake-up was unlawful, a High Court judge has ruled.
Justice John Fogarty said the decision to close the decile 1
Phillipstown school and merge with nearby Woolston to create
a 465-child super-school next January was unlawful.
"I conclude that the Minister has, inadvertently, not
consulted to the standard required by the law,'' he said.
The decision was greeted with "tears of joy'' today, and now
the school is planning an impromptu party for tonight, which
will include a bagpipe performance.
"David won today. Words can't express how we feel,'' says
principal Tony Simpson.
"We're thrilled by the judges decision. We feel totally
"It's the culmination of months and months of hard work by a
number of people.''
The school received the decision around midday, before
sharing it with the board, then staff, and then the parents
"There were tears of joy,'' said Mr Simpson.
The ministry said the school suffered quake damage, and it
made sense to merge its small roll of 163 with another small
But the school was angry over a perceived lack of
consultation, and Justice Fogarty agreed.
While the judge was certain the ministry conducted
consultation "in good faith", it had failed to meet the
requirements of the Education Act.
Labour's associate education spokeswoman Megan Woods said the
process was "botched from beginning to end''.
"[Parata's] faux consultation narrative and her inherent
inability to listen to the community were always going to end
Ms Parata says she will review carefully the outcome of the
"We will urgently examine Justice Fogarty's decision, and our
options, including continuing consultation on the issue that
was of concern to the court,'' she said.
Whether the ministry will still pursue the school's closure
But Mr Simpson said his door was open to talks with the
minister, as well as enrolments for next year.
"We don't want to be nasty about this,'' he said.
"We've received the outcome from the court - we have legal
"So let's get on with our core business which is caring for
really good children and working hard for their interests.'