Education Minister Hekia Parata has offered to visit all the
schools proposed for closure or merger in Christchurch.
Parata has written to 37 schools most affected by the proposals, offering to meet with parents and the schools' communities over the next three weeks.
"I am keen to visit schools, listen to parents and school communities to hear all that they wish to tell me. We want to get this right," Parata said in a statement.
Of the 215 schools across greater Christchurch, 13 are proposed for closure and 18 for merger.
It is also proposed that five Aranui schools will form a new Year 1-13 campus and two Banks Peninsula schools will become attached to the Akaroa Area School while remaining on their own sites.
Parata said the Government has committed $1 billion to rebuilding the education sector in greater Christchurch over the next 10 years.
"It's not simply about putting back what was there, but focusing
on what can be done to achieve better outcomes for children," she
There were already around 5,000 spaces available in greater Christchurch schools before the earthquakes, and a further 4,300 students had not re-enrolled as at July.
Five of the 13 schools proposed for closure have less than 50
pupils, two of which have volunteered to close, Parata
"I absolutely appreciate how difficult this is for the greater Christchurch region. I understand that schools are cornerstones of communities and they have provided a stable environment for children during this difficult time.
"But, given the extent of the damage and the population movement, the sector simply cannot be returned to how it was."
The Government wants to continue to work with the sector and communities to ensure schools are in the right locations and that children have access to good, quality education," the Minister said.
'Failing her own consultation guidelines'
Earlier today, Labour's Earthquake Recovery spokesperson, Lianne Dalziel, challenegd Parata "to respect her own guidelines" when consulting with communities over school closures and mergers.
Dalziel asked the Minister in Parliament today how she expected
schools to properly consult with their communities during Term 4,
when they have so much to attend to, including exams, school
reports and end of year prize-givings.
"I asked if she would allow an extension until the end of Term 1 of next year to those schools who seek an extension. She gave no such commitment, instead saying she would spend a lot of time in Christchurch in coming weeks," Dalziel said.
"Well, she will get a loud and clear message from the people of Christchurch - the Government needs to slow down, and listen to school communities."
Those same people are also dismissing the Minister's consultation process as a sham, Dalziel said.
"And a letter I tabled in Parliament from more than 80 people
who attended one of the weekend functions to celebrate Aranui
Primary's centenary noted how shocked they were at how little time
had been allowed to develop a response to such a major
Parata is ignoring her own Ministry guidelines which state there must be sufficient time for views to be expressed, and require the Ministry to develop options after discussing the issues with the school communities, Dalziel said.
"She has only announced one option for each school and they only have until December 7 to put up a response.
"The Government has botched this process from the word go. But the future of education in Christchurch is too important to get wrong."
Parata should "take a deep breath" and allow schools the time they need to respond, Dalziel said.