Hundreds rally in Christchurch

Hundreds of teachers have passed a motion of no confidence in Education Minister Hekia Parata at a rally in Christchurch this afternoon.

An estimated 1000 people raised their hands when the motion was put to a vote in the wake of Ms Parata's proposed education shake-up in the region.

The teachers are marching on the local Ministry of Education office to deliver the message. Trains have been halted as they march about 500m from the CBS Canterbury Arena.

They are protesting against proposals to close 12 schools and merge six. Seven schools will shut by next January, despite assurances from the Ministry of Education that children could stay until 2015.

The final decisions will be made in late May.

The arena was filled with teachers, members of the public and children, waving placards and shouting, "More break for our city" and "Hey Hekia, leave our kids alone".

They also chanted, "Hek no, she must go", and "Hekia Parata, hear our voice, we want options, we want choice".

A board of trustees member of Central New Brighton, which would close under a merger with North New Brighton, supported calls for Parata to go.

"We're very angry," he said.

"The real kick in the guts was firstly being told we could stay open till 2015 or 2016, and now it's the end of the year.

"Hekia Parata doesn't know the schools of Christchurch."

The motion was put forward by local members of teaching union NZEI.

They are demanding that Ms Parata commits "to moving forward in an engagement that is credible and respectful".

National president Judith Nowotarski said educators are very concerned about the pace that the Government wants to impose the changes on Christchurch children and educators.

She described the process the Ministry of Education had gone through as being "botched and disrespectful".

"The minister will have to go forward in a much more credible and respectful manner than she has shown in the past," Ms Nowotarski said.

The Government has been "deaf" to Christchurch schools, she added. The closures were driven by "political expenditure" rather than what was best for pupils, she said.

The feeling among the schools was a mixture of hope and anger, she said, adding: "Hope, the Government never, ever treats school communities like this again."

Southbridge School principal Peter Verstappen opened the rally by warning Ms Parata that "there's a long way to go on this journey yet", and that teachers would fight the closures.

Green Party education spokeswoman Catherine Delahunty attended the rally and said the party wanted to support teachers, parents, and children who were being "dictated to".

"We're looking in vain for a consistent logic. We can't understand why small schools and intermediates can't play a vital role to play in a rebuilding Christchurch."


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