18 Mar 2017

Education Ministry accused of blocking enrolments to Nelson's Salisbury School before closure confirmed

9:36 pm on 18 March 2017

The Ministry of Education refutes claims it told staff to discourage parents from enrolling their children at a Nelson school for girls with intellectual disabilities in ongoing efforts to close it.

Salisbury School in Richmond, Tasman.

Salisbury School in Richmond, Tasman. Photo: Google Maps

Education Minister Hekia Parata last June revealed a second proposal to close the school, slated for sometime early this year.

The government first tried to close the school in 2012, but the school's board of trustees challenged the move. The High Court ruled the decision to close the school was unlawful.

Salisbury School board of trustees chairman John Kane said the Ministry had stopped parents from enrolling their children.

One example was when parent Nick Tobin asked it about enrolling his 14-year-old daughter, Grace, at the beginning of last year.

A ministry employee told him she could not attend, as the school would close.

When Mr Tobin asked the school, that turned out not to be the case. Grace was now a student, despite her enrolment being delayed by a year.

"(I) just hope they don't close.

"Hopefully there's more people out there in our situation and they just keep pushing on," Mr Tobin said.

Hekia Parata

Education Minister Hekia Parata proposed to close Salisbury School. A decision is expected soon. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Mr Kane said the ministry employee's advice had to come from somewhere.

If it came from the minister's office, or senior ministry staff, that showed it unlawfully predetermined the outcome - before the "supposedly open" consultation, he said.

"That's a very serious matter."

Ministry of Education sector enablement and support head Katrina Casey said it was incorrect to suggest it directed staff to discourage parents from enrolling their children at Salisbury School.

She said the Intensive Wraparound Service had referred students to the school and the school was still accepting enrolments.

Last year, the school had 10 students with intellectual disabilities such as autism, foetal alcohol syndrome and developmental and behavioural problems.

A decision on the proposed closure is expected in April.

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