20 Sep 2012

Parata says community will get say over school plan

3:22 pm on 20 September 2012

Education Minister Hekia Parata is reassuring people living in Christchurch they will be able to have their say over the possible merger and closure of schools.

Last week, the Government announced plans for a $1 billion overhaul in earthquake-hit Canterbury that could include the closure of 13 schools and the merging of 18.

Up to 30 secondary school principals and board of trustee members met with Education Ministry representatives in Christchurch on Wednesday night to try to establish an outline for the shake-up of the education system.

Some principals said they were daunted by the enormity of the proposals.

About 500 people also attended a protest at the city's Bridge of Remembrance in opposition to the possible school closures, as well as the postponement of elections for the Canterbury Regional Council until 2016 and the zoning of some Christchurch properties.

Hekia Parata told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme on Thursday she is not surprised that some people are upset, but is encouraging them to get involved in the community engagement process that is being carried out.

"We've made it really clear in all the documentation that's been given what the community engagement process is - the weeks and months ahead when different stages will occur, the encouragement for each of the clusters to develop their own plan about how they see themselves operating."

Ms Parata says the meeting was a chance for individual schools to get an idea of the bigger picture for Christchurch.

"There are 215 schools in the network, 173 are not affected by closure or merger and we are beginning repairs on those schools. Of the 42, there are specific proposals for 13 schools around closure, specific proposals for 18 around merger."

Mairehau High School has been earmarked to either be relocated or re-established outside its quake-damaged suburb. After the meeting, principal Harry Romana said he still has not been given any clear ideas and much more discussion needs to happen before anything can be decided.

The head of Christchurch Boys High School, Trevor McIntyre, said it is still very early days, but the meeting did provide some answers to the many questions that arose after last week's bombshell announcement.