26 Jun 2012

Minister accused of using dispute to close school

6:18 pm on 26 June 2012

Parents of children at Rotary Park School in Dunedin are calling for a review of the process used to close it.

Education minister Hekia Parata has decided to close the school at the end of the year because an unresolved dispute between teachers and the principal about alleged staff bullying has driven two-thirds of the pupils away.

The local Labour MP, Clare Curran, is accusing Ms Parata and the ministry of using the dispute to have the school closed, but both deny that.

One parent, Kirstin Quin, says the school's education of her daughter has been exceptionally good, and the closure leaves her feeling bitter no one dealt with the staff dispute.

Another parent, Louisa Baillie, says the dispute process has taken too long and has put the whole school under huge stress.

The school has dropped from 66 to 21 this year as an employment dispute between the principal and at least one teacher about alleged staff bullying dragged on unresolved for more than six months.

South Dunedin Labour MP Clare Curran says Ms Parata and her ministry have done little to stop the dispute because it suits their purposes for the school to close.

But the Timaru-based commissioner who replaced the school's Board of Trustees, Cleave Hay, says the school would have closed at some point due to falling numbers and the demographics of the area.

"That dispute may have accelerated that because some parents certainly left on that basis."

Mr Hay says 10 of the school's 21 remaining students will move to intermediate schools next year and the remaining 11 will have to find other schools in the area.