11 Apr 2014

School set to close claims short reprieve

6:07 am on 11 April 2014

Phillipstown School in Christchurch says claims it's won a short reprieve over moves to close it. But the Minister of Education's office is saying otherwise.

Phillipstown School.

Phillipstown School. Photo: RNZ / Jemma Brackebush

After months of legal wrangling the Government confirmed on Wednesday it would merge it with nearby Woolston School by 2015.

Phillipstown School says the minister has agreed to delay Gazetting, or giving official notice, of the school's closure.

Principal Tony Simpson says school lawyers have also managed to defer the appointment of two new managers, a Change Manager and a Residual Manager, until the end of July.

He says it represents a backdown from the minister.

"We instructed our lawyers to seek a halt to proceedings and that was achieved with consent and backing of the minister, so a tremendous amount of work has gone into this and it's the right decision. We see that as a really forward step to perhaps exercising our right to seek a lawful judgement on this matter."

Mr Simpson says there's still a widespread feeling that the minister's decision is wrong.

"We can't digest this decision, it's not in the best interests of our children and we're completely confused about why we're in this position right now. There is not a good reason for this merger, it's not wanted, it's not in the best interests of the children and clearly with all the information on the table we're looking for someone to make the right decision and take it off the table."

A spokesperson from the minister's office has confirmed the managers aren't being put into the school at this point but says this isn't a game-changer. She says it's not a backdown and the merger is going ahead as planned with no real change in the process.

Hekia Parata's announcement this week came 18 months after the minister first indicated her intention to close the 120-pupil primary school and merge it with Woolston as part of the Government's $1 billion post-quake overhaul of the region's education system announced in September 2012.

Under the plan, six schools were merged and seven closed.

The original announcement was the subject of numerous appeals and a judicial review that ordered Ms Parata to begin the consultation again.