Christchurch schools to merge despite opposition

Hekia Parata
Hekia Parata
A Christchurch school which vehemently objected to Government plans to shut its gates has been told for a second time it will merge with another local school.

Education Minister Hekia Parata announced today she had decided to merge Phillipstown and Woolston schools, with the new merged school set to operate out of Woolston School from term one next year.

Ms Parata's announcement comes after initial plans for the merger were delayed last year, when Phillipstown successfully challenged her decision in the High Court to close the school.

The decision to close the school and merge it with nearby Woolston to create a 465-child super-school came as part of the Government's $1 billion shake-up of post-earthquake Christchurch schools.

In October, Justice John Fogarty ruled the decision to close Phillpstown and merge it with Woolston was unlawful, after Phillipstown launched a judicial review into the consultation process for the merger.

He said in his decision Ms Parata had inadvertently not consulted to the standard required by the law on the merger.

This morning, Ms Parata said in a statement "fresh consideration" of the merger proposal had resulted in a new decision to merge the two schools.

A surplus of places for primary school students in the "local school network" as well as small roll numbers at Phillipstown and significant earthquake and other property related problems at both schools supported the merger, Ms Parata said.

"Investing in one merged school gives us the opportunity to provide kids from Woolston and Phillipstown with the very latest and best in modern technology and resources."

The Woolston School site will be significantly redeveloped to provide new modern learning environments at an estimated cost of $11.8 million, she said.

After Justice Fogarty ruled in favour of Phillipstown last year, Ms Parata met with the school's board of trustees and principal to discuss the consultation process.

Today she said she met with the board of trustees throughout the consultation period, as well as after she received its submission.

"I reviewed the material concerning Phillipstown and Woolston with fresh eyes. I have been open to the possibilities promoted by the Board of Phillipstown School on behalf of its parents and students.

"I took into account the submission of Woolston School on behalf of its community. I weighed up the fresh information together with analysis and advice from the Ministry," Ms Parata said.



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