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Parata insists school closures not a cost cutting measure

Published: 12:19PM Thursday February 21, 2013 Source: ONE News

Education Minister Hekia Parata came under fire from the public over the closures and mergers of schools in Christchurch this morning when she took calls in the Newstalk ZB studio.

She was asked a number of times, by radio host Chris Lynch and by callers, if the closures and mergers were cost cutting measures.

Parata insisted that they were not, reiterating that the Government is investing $10 million in building, repairing and improving Christchurch schools over the next 10 years, and will be building 15 new schools.

"It's not a cost cutting measure but it does have to be cost effective," she said, adding that the ministry wants to make sure the money goes as far as possible.

"We do have to make sure every education dollar we spend, we spend effectively."

The main objective was to raise achievement of every child, she added.

Windsor School principal Neil O'Reilly said while he appreciated the minister saying this, it was not reflected anywhere in the report outlining why Burwood School would be merged with his.

"That's not in the documentation we've received about the merger going ahead."

The primary reason given in the report was "high costs for required repairs", he said.

Parata was also asked why the closure and merger dates were brought forward, which Lynch called an "unexpected bombshell".

The minister responded saying she had consistently received feedback from parents who said they wanted "certainty" and to know what the outcomes for their schools would be.

Concerned parent Dianne asked the minister why North New Brighton School was to be closed, when it has modern facilities and little earthquake damage.

She also said the school where North New Brighton's students would be moving to didn't have enough space for all the students, and didn't have the same modern facilities.

"Everyone's ignoring what we have to say as parents," she said.

Parata said the intention was for the new school to also have the same modern facilities, in time.

About potential job losses, the minister said although roles needed to be advertised, principals and teachers were able to reapply for their jobs when the changes came into effect.

She said across the 19 schools that will undergo changes, around 50 positions would be affected, but how many teachers was decided by the number of pupils.

"We're talking about the same number of students so it should be roughly the same number of teachers," she said.

Parata repeated a number of times during her time on air that schools have six weeks to make submissions on the changes. Her final decision will come in late May.