The Government may have a battle on its hands if angry Christchurch parents, teachers and principals have their way.
A legal expert says the Government has set itself up for a battle over the massive education overhaul in Christchurch announced last week.
And lawyer Mai Chen is telling critics: "Don't get angry, get involved."
A plan announced last week outlines grouping all 214 schools in
the region into 41 learning community "clusters", with 13 schools
marked for closure, 18 likely to merge, and seven to
Education Minister Hekia Parata said the overhaul was a consequence of the earthquakes, which saw 4500 students leave the district and schools damaged.
But the announcement has sparked a public outcry from principals and parents and Chen says officials need to make sure they are not showing signs of predetermination.
Consultation is not agreement, says Chen.
"The most important thing is that you are where the shoe pinches and if you're going to make sure that these decision makers really take account of the true facts, then you are the best people to deliver the message," she told TV ONE's Close Up.
The Ministry of Education has scheduled 24 consultation meetings with all affected schools, however many fear is the earthquake is being used as an excuse for a broader and more radical restructure.
Shirley Intermediate principal Geoff Siave told Close Up that sometimes affected schools don't see the logic of the plan.
"You'd think if we are going to close schools or merge schools, there should definitely be some sort of educational benefit apparent. But it's really hard to see what it is."
He says it's logical given the current financial climate that some of the decisions are money driven.
"Although the Ministry isn't saying that, they are talking about better education outcomes.
"With the changes that have been suggested, we are struggling to see what the educational benefits are."
Siave says affected schools are consistently being told the consultation is a genuine one with integrity, which they are hoping for.
"We really do rely on it being a genuine, open minded consultation and if it appears if it's not that, then there will be a lot of angry people."
"Real consultation" needed
The New Zealand Education Institute is stressing the need for a proper plan for education in Christchurch with genuine consultation and community involvement.
Some members of NZEI have said that they have not been consulted properly over the plans for their schools.
Lee Walker, principal at Linwood Intermediate in Christchurch, attended a meeting and said what had become clearer was that it would be a complex process and that there was a lot of confusion around timeframes.
Chen agrees, stressing the importance of the consolation for affected schools.
"They have a right to adequate notice that they are going to be consulted, they have a right to all of the information they need to be able to respond, they have a right to an adequate opportunity to have their say and they most importantly have a right for the Minister and officials to hear what they have to say, with an open mind.
"If at the end of the day they have heard what you've got to say, and as long as their decision is evidence based and it's reasonable, then they can still proceed."
On Wednesday, nearly 1000 people turned out to the rally to show their opposition to the Education Review Plan.
Meanwhile, another protest rally has been planned for midday on
Saturday at Hagley Park.