25 Sep 2013

New schools review critical of ministry

8:28 pm on 25 September 2013

An independent review says the Ministry of Education has been botching the design and building of new schools for years.

The review, which was conducted for the ministry by consultancy firm Beca, says the new schools programme is performing poorly from start to finish.

It says the ministry spends $40 million a year on new schools but has been repeating basic mistakes because it fails to pass on the lessons learned on each project.

It cites problems including doors too heavy for small children to open, fittings too expensive for schools to replace and landscape materials that look good, but are no good for playing on.

Principals and school trustees told the review they should be involved in the design process earlier.

The report says it is not convinced the ministry solved the problems by setting up a new schools team two years ago and calls for a review of the new schools process.

Ministry 'changed approach'

Head of education infrastructure services Kim Shannon says the ministry significantly changed its approach for building new schools two years ago, with tougher requirements for durable materials, weather tightness and design of learning environments.

She says each school building project now has an independent construction observer who reports back to the ministry on progress, and new buildings are monitored for 12 months after they are built

"The problem identified by Beca's report of a school with heavy doors was fixed soon after in follow up work.

"We want to make sure that with the schools we are building , we get it right for the students and the staff. If there are problems, we would like to hear about it so we can sort it out."