10 Oct 2013

Decision to merge Christchurch schools declared illegal

9:31 pm on 10 October 2013

The Government's decision to merge Phillipstown school in Christchurch has been declared illegal.

Phillipstown School won a legal battle to stop it merging with Woolston School, after it took the Ministry of Education to court.

Staff and pupils at Phillipstown School celebrate.

Staff and pupils at Phillipstown School celebrate. Photo: RNZ

The school has always said the process used by the Ministry in its decision making was flawed, and the High Court in Christchurch on Thursday agreed.

But while Justice Fogarty has found there were errors of process, he says they were unintended and education Minister Hekia Parata could still make another decision.

Principal of Phillipstown School, Tony Simpson, says it has been a David versus Goliath battle and it's not over yet.

Mr Simpson says he and the Board will celebrate on Thursday but get back down to business on Friday when the school board will meet to discuss its next move.

He says no irrevocable decisions have been made and he is still prepared to work with the Government.

A board member of Phillipstown School Wayne Hawker, says he had 100% confidence from the outset that the Ministry had made a mistake.

He says the information he saw in the documents showed the decision was based on flawed information.

Meanwhile, the principal of Branston Intermediate, which has been told to close, says she'll talk with the chair of her board of trustees on Thursday evening to discuss whether it's worth appealing their decision.

Jennifer O'Leary says it may still be too expensive but, while happy for Phillipstown's staff and students, she is unsettled by the news.

Education Minister to consider school decision

Education Minister Hekia Parata says she will urgently examine the High Court decision to overturn the closure of Philipstown School in Christchurch.

Ms Parata says she will also consider the Government's options, including continuing consultation on the school's proposed merger with nearby Woolston School.

She says it is still clear that Christchurch schools need to be reorganised and early Census results indicate that as many as 10,000 people have left the east Christchurch area.

The education union the Educational Institute has urged the Minister to accept the decision and not attempt to merge or close the school again.

Meanwhile, one of the lawyers who helped Phillipstown School in its legal challenge to the merger says he hopes Ms Parata will reconsider the whole issue with an open mind.

Dean of Law at Canterbury University Chris Gallivan is calling for the Minster to abandon the merger plan and avoid the damage to the Phillipstown community that he believes the merger would cause.