30 May 2013

260 jobs affected as as schools learn their fate

1:09 pm on 30 May 2013

Education Minister Hekia Parata says 260 staff will lose their jobs or have to apply for new positions as a result of education reforms announced in Christchurch.

The closures have caused anger in school communities and the Ombudsman is investigating the process followed by the Ministry of Education in reaching its decisions.

Hekia Parata announces which schools will close or merge.

Hekia Parata announces which schools will close or merge. Photo: RNZ

Seven primary and intermediate schools will close outright, while another three primary schools will close as part of mergers with other schools.

All the schools have been subject to interim decisions since February this year, which proposed that seven of the 17 schools should close and 10 merge into five bigger schools as part of a major reorganisation of education in the earthquake-hit city.

Of the closures confirmed on Wednesday afternoon, most will take effect from January 2014.

Ms Parata acknowledged that the closure of the schools would disappoint communities "but parents will be well supported in making decisions about their children's future education."

The minister says there will be job losses: "My understanding is that for the closing schools that it amounts to approximately 80 fulltime equivalents, for those schools that are merging it amounts to approximately 180 fulltime equivalents."

Ms Parata said on Thursday that 80 positions would be lost in schools that are to close but in the case of the 180 positions at schools involved in mergers, teachers will be able to reapply for jobs.

The principal of one intermediate school describes the move as a social experiment, saying this does not give the local high school enough time to prepare itself to teach her students. Another principal says the minstry has ignored the voice of his community.

In a surprise move, South New Brighton school will not be merged with Central New Brighton.

Instead, another proposal has been put to Central New Brighton that it merge with Freeville and North New Brighton Schools, on the North New Brighton site.

Central New Brighton principal Toni Burnside says this is what the school asked the ministry for, but parents had no idea and will be shocked. A final decision will be made at the end of August.

Two total immersion Maori schools will stay open on their present sites.

Phillipstown argument 'ignored'

Phillipstown School has fought to stay open and has held protests, the latest just last week. Principal Tony Simpson says the school put up a strong argument to the Education Ministry that it not merge with Woolston School.

Mr Simpson believes the reasoning behind the merger is largely money based. He says a ministry report shows it will save $285,000 a year, but the rising roll from 130 students in February 2011 to 160 students today proves the community needs his school.

"We tried so hard, we'd done our homework, we'd presented the facts. We'd celebrated the achievement data, we'd celebrated the record roll and we'd passed all of this on - and it just seems to have been rejected."

A parent, Kelly Hunter, says the ministry should think about the children in Christchurch - not about saving money - and is furious that the school's pleas to stay open were ignored.

Changes announced

Closing: Branston Intermediate, Glenmoor School, Greenpark School, Kendal School, Linwood Intermediate, Manning Intermediate and Richmond School.

Merging: Six schools will merge to create three schools:

  • Burwood School with Windsor School, on the Windsor site
  • Phillipstown School with Woolston School, on the Woolston site
  • Lyttelton West School with Lyttelton Main, into a newly built school on the Lyttelton Main site

Staying open: South New Brighton School and Maori immersion schools Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Waitaha and Te Kura Kaupapa Maori.

New Brighton schools proposal: Central New Brighton School has been asked to consider closing outright, or merge with North New Brighton School and Freeville School on the North New Brighton site.