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Christchurch schools fear exodus of students

Published: 7:03AM Wednesday January 23, 2013 Source: Fairfax

Principals at Christchurch schools that face closure because of the Government's education overhaul plans fear an exodus of pupils, and in some cases it is happening.

Aranui High School had 10 pupils who were enrolled for this year pull out at the end of last year, and its year 9 roll is 78, down on the 100 it had last year.

Principal John Rohs said the downturn was because of the uncertainty over the school's future.

Last September Education Minister Hekia Parata announced a proposal to close Aranui High, along with Avondale Primary, Aranui Primary, Chisnallwood Intermediate and Wainoni School, to create a year 1 to 13 school.

The idea attracted much opposition from primary and intermediate schools and parents who are concerned about young children going to school with 17-year-olds. Rohs said the proposal could only be a good thing for Aranui High, but the challenge was convincing the community.

He was frustrated that the proposal had had such an impact on the school, but he could understand parents' concerns.

"The reality is that when parents enrol their children at school in year 9 they have this expectation their son or daughter is going to be able to complete their secondary education at that school. People do not like change. They don't want any sense of uncertainty for their children."

He said parents did not feel positive about their children starting at Aranui High and maybe in three years' time having to move somewhere else.

Other schools have expressed concerns over their rolls falling as parents choose to send their children to schools that are not among the 37 set to close or merge.

Kendal School principal Keith Turner said normally the school would expect to pick up between five and 10 children transferring from other schools, but the school had not received one inquiry this year. "I think it's pretty clear the message is out there - we're on the list of schools to close," he said.

Phillipstown School principal Tony Simpson said he was worried about the impact of the proposal to merge the school.

"We are quite apprehensive about the impact of these proposals; very worried in fact. We're taking each day as it comes."

Linwood Avenue School principal Gerard Direen said the school's roll had not been affected, but if the merger with Bromley School went ahead he believed parents would send their 5-year-olds to Bromley, where the school would end up under the existing proposal.

"It might not be an avalanche this year but it will happen," he said.

Most schools will find out their fate on February 18, but the five Aranui cluster schools will find out after their extended consultation deadline ends on March 7.

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