30 May 2011

Tug-of-war begins over school merger sites

5:38 pm on 30 May 2011

A tug-of-war has begun between two Wellington primary schools slated for merger about which will become the new site.

Education Minister Anne Tolley has begun the process to merge Miramar South and Strathmore Community schools which she says are too small.

The schools' combined rolls have fallen by 30% in the past decade and at least one requires a major building upgrade.

Strathmore school's roll fell to 33 in 2008, but has since doubled. Miramar South's roll has fallen by 70 to just over 100 pupils.

Mrs Tolley has given the schools three options - combine on either of the existing school sites or find a new one.

Miramar South principal Jeanette De La Mare says the merger should happen at her school's site, because many of her students already pass by Strathmore school.

However, Strathmore Community School principal Pele Tui says her school's buildings were opened in 1944 and have important historical value to the community.

Ms Tui says some of Strathmore's buildings are being leased by another school, and to start a new site would be an irresponsible waste of resources.

The Miramar South and Strathmore Community schools appear likely to be combined by next year, due to falling rolls and parents avoiding its ethnic make-up.

Mrs Tolley has written to the schools proposing that they merge on one of their existing sites or in a new location.

Both schools are low decile and culturally diverse, with only a few New Zealand European students.

Ms De La Mare says the school is suffering because some parents avoid its ethnic mix and a merger would be fantastic if it means new buildings and resources on one site - but is not sure if the minister will go that far.

Mrs Tolley says 'white flight' is not an issue in the merger. She says the schools should be able to deliver high quality education - no matter what their cultural make-up.