by Catherine Delahunty
Recently I visited a school in East Christchurch who are facing a proposal to be merged into the Aranui super school. Avondale School are fighting hard for their survival because they are in the last weeks before the final decision on their future is to be made.
They have been told by the Minister and the Ministry of Education that they will be merged into the Aranui cluster at the Aranui High School site, a super school including Aranui Primary, Wainoni School and Aranui High School. This cluster was also to include Chisnallwood Intermediate but they have been saved.
Avondale are fighting back because they have 100 percent of their parents calling for Avondale School to survive.
This school has only minor earthquake damage, some new buildings, good academic results for their Maori and Pasifika students, and a steady roll of 300 students. They are literally next door to the Chisnallwood intermediate school and they suggested to the Minister they form a merger with Chisnallwood rather than Aranui.
It seems possible that Avondale is the sacrificial lamb so that the numbers at the new super school will be big enough. School mergers can certainly be justified in parts of Christchurch, 5000 students have left the city. But Avondale want an explanation as to why their thriving school is on the block especially after all they have been through.
Phillipstown School is also facing an unwanted merger and have taken legal action to try and save their school while Avondale are hoping they won’t have to. These two schools are feeling isolated as others have either been lucky enough to survive the “renewal” or have accepted change as necessary for them.
Schools have little choice when rolls have dropped and buildings or land have been assessed as high risk. But Phillipstown and Avondale are waiting for a genuine argument as to why their schools must face merger.
They are hardworking, successful low decile schools with strong community support. Avondale’s roll is over 300. There are 28 other Christchurch schools which have significantly smaller rolls which the Ministry of Education have decided will remain open.
Avondale and other schools are also concerned that there is a possibility that the new Aranui super school could be a Public Private Partnership. This was floated by the Minister in the middle of the formal process without any proper discussion with these communities. I attempted to get the background from the Government via an Official Information Act request but they have said they will not provide it, and it is not in the public interest.
I salute Phillipstown and Avondale for standing up for themselves amidst the unclear agenda which is driving the threat of forced merger.