31 Oct 2012

Protest held over Govt plan to revamp schools

6:31 pm on 31 October 2012

About 200 people gathered in Christchurch on Wednesday to protest about the lack of time schools have been given to consult on the Government's proposal to revamp education in the earthquake-hit city.

Protesters say the Government's consultation timeframe is too short.

Protesters say the Government's consultation timeframe is too short. Photo: RNZ

In September, the Government announced plans for a $1 billion education overhaul in Canterbury. The reorganisation over the next 10 years comes in the face of a quake repair bill of up to $750 million and the loss of 4500 students.

The Ministry of Education sent out letters to the 38 schools it is proposing to close or merge, outlining a six-month timeframe before the decisions are final.

On Wednesday, the crowd heard speeches from school leaders and Labour Party leader David Shearer.

Rally organiser Sandra Spekreijse says schools have not been given enough time to consult and gather information to fight the Government's plan.

Frances Guy from the teachers' union NZEI called for a halt to the Education Renewal programme, saying it needs to be started afresh with children's needs the focus - not money.

Protesters then marched to the Christchurch Art Gallery where they signed a pledge asking the Government to extend the consultation deadline beyond 7 December.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Richmond School, which is facing closure, says a strong case was made for it to stay open at a meeting with Education Minister Hekia Parata on Tuesday.

Ash Maindonald says more than 80 staff and parents emphasised the important role the small school plays in the community, but is not sure if their comments will be enough to save it.

Tuesday marked the beginning of two weeks of meetings between Ms Parata and schools most affected by the education overhaul in Canterbury.