A number of schools such as Central New Brighton and Branston Intermediate had been clearly told they would have until the end of 2014 to prepare for merger or closure. The announcement on Monday ripped away this promise, reducing the window of time to just one year from now.
It is not rocket science to calculate the influence of the election date on this decision. However it is disturbing when the Minister of Education claims she made no promises, just “proposals”. She speaks as if she had gone to the schools with no more than an idea that two years, not one, might be the timeframe.
As Minister, her word has power. These schools heard her say they would have two years to prepare, if on the list for merger or closure. They didn’t hear some vague suggestion and they hang on her every word because their life does depend on it.
The Government has to stop kicking these people when they are already down. They are recovering and every time I go to Christchurch I see the progress in rebuilding and restoring communities. Unlike the school closures it is quite slow but steady.
On the closures; the Ministry keeps placing schools in invidious positions, which hurt and confuse families around enrollment and stability. One example of this is the proposal to ask the two kura in Christchurch which one will move to north Christchurch. How are these kura and whānau supposed to decide this, when both have spent many years building up their kura on these sites and connecting to the whenua?
Some things are not easily transportable, such as a deep history and local relationships.
What are the parents of the closing intermediate school students supposed to do now?
There are no such worries for the students and their families at Wanganui Collegiate; the newly integrated elite school. They have a commitment of $5 million per year from the Government, not just a proposal!