Another hot afternoon and a stadium full of homemade banners. I saw the pride and hurt on the faces of schools facing closure for reasons they could not fathom. I stood for a few minutes with the man who runs the Community Centre at Phillipstown School. They have been marked for closure and with them the community centre, the breakfast programme the solidarity. He told me there was no space between this school and its community, they were one. I spoke to a Board member from New Brighton Central School. They are being forcibly merged within a year and they thought they had a lot more time, they are gutted.
I hung out with some families from schools who had survived, they were here to support everyone else, they were not convinced this “rejuvenation” would be limited to Christchurch, they issued a warning to the rest of the country. Angry school principals and staff spoke briefly at the stadium along with the NZEI, then we marched to the Ministry of Education to deliver a vote of no confidence. About 1500 people marched and chanted. One little red haired boy was chanting “John Key is a tool, he is trying to close my school”. We couldn’t really disagree with his passion.
The people at this rally are very clear. They have had enough of imposed change, they are angry at the speed of the closures and mergers announced yesterday. They cannot find a logic to many of the decisions that have been made. They believe they are entitled to respect and logic instead of cost cutting and supersizing. The intermediates feel picked on as an easy target. They think the speed of change relates to the election agenda of the Government. People here love their communities and schools for good reason. They are trying to be heard and will accept a reasoned argument, a careful negotiation for evidence based change. This is still not it!