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Christchurch's Aorangi School to close

Published: 6:06PM Tuesday November 24, 2009 Source: NZPA

Education Minister Anne Tolley has announced that Prime Minister John Key's former primary school, Aorangi School in Christchurch, will close in January.

The decile-three school, with a roll of about 90, was facing the axe because of a falling roll and costly building replacement needed.

"This has not been an easy decision to make, but after considering final submissions from the school and from the Ministry of Education, I believe it is the right one," Tolley says.

Aorangi was a small school that needed major investment in its buildings, the community was served by other nearby schools and it had a falling roll over the last few years, she says.

 "I can't justify spending over $2 million on Aorangi's planned replacement building programme, especially in the current economic climate. An independent review by Ernst and Young of the savings associated with the closure has confirmed the costings upon which I've based my decision."

Prime Minister John Key's former primary school, Aorangi School in Christchurch, says it will fight the Government's decision to shut it down.

Aorangi School board of trustees chairman Greg Thompson say he is "gutted" by the decision.

The school would immediately launch legal proceedings to overturn the decision, he says.

"The decision wasn't unexpected. Once the minister gets on a course of action they will follow it through."

Thompson was informed on Tuesday afternoon and the school had not had time to inform the parents before the decision was released to the media.

With the end of the school year less than four weeks away there was not enough time for the students to adequately make the transition to new schools.

The ministry says they willl help Aorangi's current students enrol at new schools and support them through the transition period and into the first term next year.

A change manager will be appointed to support the school, families and students through all aspects of the closure process.

The school will close on January 27.

The proposal to close the school was opposed by the Canterbury Primary Principals' Association and the New Zealand Principals' Federation, which said the process was so flawed, losing Aorangi "would be in breach of the principles of natural justice".

Federation president Ernie Buutveld said the ministry's original costing data had actually changed several times and an independent review stated that the "errors cast grave doubts on the underlying assumptions and calculations".

The federation also believed the minister's use of achievement data was another factor in making her decision a serious error of judgment.