Will Christchurch finally be listened to?

Today is D day for Aranui schools to present their case for survival to the Education Minister. I, like them, will anxiously wait to learn if they will finally be listened to.

On Monday I visited four schools in Christchurch.

The  Aranui schools were all looking at options that could work such as combining Aranui High with Aranui Primary and Wainoni Primary without forcing the closure of Chisnallwood Intermediate and Avondale Primary. They hope the Minister will really listen to local voices and support their parents’ concerns about supersizing.

In the course of the day it emerged that Lesley Longstone was getting a big pay out and also that Hekia Parata had been warned by her own Ministry that decisions on Christchurch schools were premature due to the absence of reliable demographic data.

Meanwhile back in Aranui, Phillipstown and at several intermediates Principals were sweating over submissions to the Minister that were trying to justify their existence.

The Aranui schools were looking at options that could work such as combining Aranui High with Aranui Primary and Wainoni Primary without forcing the closure of Chisnallwood Intermediate and Avondale Primary.

Today they’ll be hoping the Minister will finally listen to local voices and support their parents concerns about supersizing.

The impressions of each school were very different but there were common themes.

Schools and communities want to be part of good decision making based on robust data. They want evidence based decision making not generalised rhetoric about “modern learning environments”.

 Everyone seemed genuinely open to change but not if that meant their school would be closed based on loose and incomplete information and assumptions. For example, Philipstown School has a primary roll of 159 and is being treated as a small school, but 1100 students use their technology block from all over East Christchurch.

Phillipstown has assessment data showing Maori and Pasifika students are well above the expectations of National Standards in literacy and numeracy. The school is incredibly well networked in terms of social agency support, grandmothers volunteering, breakfast club and after school services and a Community Centre on site.

This takes years of work to develop and so, when the Principal was told they were likely to close, he shed some tears in front of the school. He was told off for this by the Ministry. But this man is not a robot. His school has great support because he cares very deeply about his community.

He has the total support of his Board of Trustees and they are not ready to be merged into a school some distance away. One parent has already told him they simply can’t afford the bus fares.

Behind the emotion is the call for logical explanations. If schools have great ERO reports, stable rolls, and are recovering from only minor damage, then of course they’re not eager to close.  They want a fair go. They also want to make sure that the whole process is driven by what is best for their pupils. Not what’s convenient for the Government.

As one principal put it: If the Minister was so convinced that moving these children was a good idea, she should have made sure these supposedly beautiful new facilities they’ll be getting were built first. No one wants kids on new sites in prefabs and relocatables at the end of this year.
Everyone I spoke with was willing to compromise but they want change based on local knowledge, not desktop social engineering and supersizing without evidence it will help students thrive.

19 thoughts on “Will Christchurch finally be listened to?

  1. To say “I’m right” you have to be completely sure about that.. even then .. when you are completely sure about something sometimes you may have some doubts.. this is my opinion. I avoid saying “I’m right”. Dreamwell

  2. Apparently, it’s a good idea to keep a school open because it has some computers. one parent claims not to be able to afford a bus fare, and social agency support, grandmothers volunteering, breakfast club and after school services, and a Community Centre presumably cannot possibly happen somewhere else?

    Like you, I continue to wait for the plan from Catherine that “makes the tough calls” and shows the reasoning behind them.

  3. Perhaps Philip has a solution that hasn’t been put forward yet? Always willing to give the chap the chance, and look forward to an on-topic contribution.

    I note Catherine has still not made a suggestion on how to address the issues.

  4. Both Arana and you are in almost constant attack/agin mode here

    Perhaps you’re just not used to hearing opposing views on issues?

    It seems odd that you’d leave due to “attacks” when your posts often “play the man”, not the ball.

  5. greenfly says “Both Arana and you are in almost constant attack/agin mode here.”

    And you are not? The difference is 9 out of 10 times you personally attack people, rather than issues.

  6. Philip is correct however, about the “I’m right, you’re wrong” nature of Frogblog right now and knowing that I’m an active part of that pointless process, I’m pulling out now (that I’ve got my last couple of shots away :-)
    Cheers Philip!

  7. photonz1 – Phillip has charged you with being ‘agin’ anything and not being for much at all. You avoided addressing the intent of his comment and instead said ‘it’s them, not me, who’s agin!’.
    Both Arana and you are in almost constant attack/agin mode here. Are you unaware of that?

  8. “MPs are paid by us. It is our civil duty to hold them to account. That is the price of democracy. People who seek power over us must always be questioned and challenged.”

    Very good. Tell us, Arana, do you spend time on blogs that are pro-National, holding the MP’s to account? After all, it is they who are exerting their influence and power over us at the moment. I’m willing to bet that you are not, in which case your claim is bullsh*t.
    Tell me I’m wrong, go on.

  9. Problem:

    “For example, Philipstown School has a primary roll of 159 and is being treated as a small school, but 1100 students use their technology block from all over East Christchurch”

    Questions:

    What is a “technology block”? Computers connected to a network? If so, can the equipment be relocated?
    Could a super school, that includes a technology block, save kids busing from all over East Christchurch? It sounds like there is an opportunity to optimise here.

  10. So, in terms of Christchurch, the issues appear to be:

    The demographics have changed
    Some schools will have to close, others will have to amalgamate
    It is not possible to keep them all open, as it costs too much money that is better used elsewhere.
    No matter which schools are closed, there will be people upset by it. There will be many reasons why it will be disruptive, and they’ll be similar for any of the schools.
    Given we can’t keep them all open and repair all of them, which do we close?

    There are many ways of making decisions, and consensus is but one. It’s probably a poor framework for this problem because all participants have such a strong vested interest in not agreeing to closure that personally affects them.

  11. Politics is a war of ideas, according Victor Hugo.

    MPs are paid by us. It is our civil duty to hold them to account. That is the price of democracy. People who seek power over us must always be questioned and challenged.

    It would be nice is everyone could just agree and hug, but the world is not like that.

  12. philip says ” But then I remembered that there are some people who are basically ‘agin’ anything, and not ‘for’ much at all. ”

    You mean like –

    Free trade agreements.
    New jobs in mining
    New jobs in the oil industry.
    Companies making profits.
    Better standards for schools.
    New types of schools better suited for children who don’t fit the main stream.
    A convention centre.
    Having a movie industry in NZ.
    Dairy farming.
    New roading infrasructure.
    Taranakis gas industry.
    Coal mining jobs.
    Getting people off welfare into work.
    Keeping the government out of debt
    and stopping wastaging $1m a week paying for 9300 empty seats in Chch schools

  13. After a long while not bothering to read these blogs and their responses I’ve been back reading some of them again over the past week or so – and have been reminded why I went away in the first place. The dialogue here is still dominated by the same “I’m right! You’re wrong!” approach, which has characterised human debate (especially male) for millenia. Clearly those participating must see a point to it. I’ve never seen it work in my life. Basically it seems so negative – especially when there are some here whose preoccupation seems to be to criticise, oppose, and generally pull down anything said by any Green politician and their supporters. It occurred to me that judging by the amount of time they spend here and how much they have to say that they might be paid by other political parties to do a job here. But then I remembered that there are some people who are basically ‘agin’ anything, and not ‘for’ much at all. They often have a pretty negative and jaundiced view of life in general. Certainly that’s the tone of some people here. But, as they say, it takes all sorts.
    Well, I’ll leave you to it. I’ve got too many other more positive things to do. One of those is to advance the kind of ‘heart politics’ I find in the Green Party.

  14. Perhaps it would be sensible to at least wait for the census. Even more so to wait until Christchurch settles down enough to see where schools are needed.

    I am sure the local communities are capable of working out the tough decisions, given reasonable time, without top down management by those who have no knowledge of Christchurch schools.

  15. Perhaps having trouble jumping from a protester role to a “making tough decisions” role?

    I look forward to hearing Catherine’s solution.

  16. Despite post after post, I haven’t heard a single solution from Catherine about what to do about 9300 empty classroom seats that cost $6000 each every year.(a million dollars a week wasted).

    Although at least she’s finally jumped on board and obviously sees National Standard data as valuable information to use in her arguement.

  17. Still waiting to hear your plan, Catherine, the challenge has been on the table for several weeks now…

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