15 Feb 2013

Parata rejects claim consulation was a sham

3:19 pm on 15 February 2013

Education Minister Hekia Parata is rejecting claims the Government's consultation with a Nelson special needs school has been a sham.

A paper from the Education Ministry shows the closure of Salisbury School was being mooted at least a year before the school knew anything about it.

The paper obtained by the Green Party shows former Education Minister Anne Tolley agreed on 6 May 2011 to begin consultation with the school's board on plans that could result in closure. Consultations did not begin until more than a year later.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei says that shows the consultation process with the school was a complete sham.

But Mrs Parata says she did not receive any reports specifically about residential schools until February last year and no decisions were made until August. She says the consultation was genuine and inclusive.

In December 2012, the High Court ruled that the Government's decision to close Salisbury School and move the girls to a boys' school showed a disregard for the greater risk of abuse the girls might face.

School board chair Helen McDonnell said in a letter to the minister the board is pleased that the Government won't be challenging that decision.

But she said Mrs Parata seems firmly committed to closing the school, and the board would like another minister to take over deliberations.