Seven Christchurch schools to close

Education Minister Hekia Parata. Photo Getty
Education Minister Hekia Parata. Photo Getty
Pupils, teachers and parents were reduced to tears today after Education Minister Hekia Parata announced that 19 schools will merge or close as part of the Government's education shake-up in Christchurch.

The seven schools to close, affecting around 670 children, are: Branston Intermediate, Glenmoor, Greenpark, Kendal, Linwood Intermediate, Manning Intermediate and Richmond.

They will close by the start of the next school year, despite teachers saying they had assurances from the Ministry of Education that children could stay until 2015.

Of the 18 schools originally proposed for merger, Ms Parata is proposing to proceed with 12 schools merging into six, with the net result that six of them will close.

Burwood will merge with Windsor, Central New Brighton with South New Brighton, Lyttelton Main with Lyttelton West, North New Brighton with Freeville, Phillipstown with Woolston, and Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti with Discovery One.

"I think this is a sensible and fair plan," Ms Parata said.

While accepting that the news for some schools would be hard to take, Ms Parata stopped shortly of apologising to affected schools, saying, "Look, change is hard".

Phillipstown principal Tony Simpson said the decision was a "cruel blow to the heart of our community".

Teachers, parents and children were in deep shock, he said.

The proposals went "far deeper" than the original plan, which gave them four years to plan a move.

"The children are terribly upset, they're crying," he said.

"The children were told in a safe, secure, nurturing place, with their parents, of the news, and ... it's a cruel blow."

His views were in stark contrast with Woolston School principal Jeaneane Reid who welcomed the interim plans that suggest five classrooms would be built to accommodate up to 160 students from Phillipstown.

"It's an awkward situation because we're really pleased we're in the situation we are, but of course if it was the opposite situation we would have been feeling the same (as) the principal of Phillipstown," said Ms Reid.

"We're feeling really bad for Phillipstown at the moment."

The five Aranui schools - Aranui, Wainoni, Chisnallwood Intermediate, and Aranui High School - have been granted an extension consultation period until March 7.

The 12 schools proposed for closure or merger that now remain open are: Bromley, Burnham, Burnside, Duvauchelle, Gilberthorpe, Linwood Avenue, Okains Bay, Ourihia Model, Shirley Intermediate, and Yaldhurst schools, and the two kura - TKKM o Waitaha and TKKM o Te Whanau Tahi.

Labour Party acting education spokesman Chris Hipkins said the interim decisions were premature and would leave some in a worse place than when original announcements were made last September.

"It's good news for some schools and worse news for others because in some cases the proposals have got worse. There are some issues around timing - the intermediates were promised that their decisions wouldn't take effect until the end of next year and that's been brought forward to the end of this year.

Greens co-leader and education spokeswoman Metiria Turei agreed.

She said the plans would create further stress for children trying to get on with their lives.

"I feel deeply sad for the schools announced for merger and closure today. They are being singled out for no other reason than they had the bad luck to be hardest hit by the quakes."

University of Canterbury Acting Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) Professor Niki Davis said the plans were "basically an aftershock of the earthquake".

Schools have until Friday, March 28 to provide "any further information".

Final decisions will be made by late May.


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