Principals and teachers of schools affected by a Government overhaul of the Christchurch education sector say they are shocked by the news announced today.
Thirteen schools are set to close and a further 18 are to be merged as part of a 10-year restoration plan for the wider Christchurch area, Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee and Education Minister Hekia Parata revealed this afternoon.
The schools planned for closure are Branston Intermediate, Burnside Primary, Glenmoor Primary, Hammersley Park Primary, Kendal School, Linwood Intermediate, Manning Intermediate, Richmond School, Greenpark School and Burnham School.
Duvauchelle School, Le Bons Bay School and Okains Bay School on the Banks Peninsula are also set to close.
Christchurch Girls High will merge with Avonside Girls High and Christchurch Boys is planned to join with Shirley Boys, although this is dependent on geotech reports about the sites.
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Tony Simpson, the principal of Phillipstown Primary which is set to merge with Linwood College, said the announcement had devastated and shocked the community.
"We've had two years of hard grind. We're so proud we re-established this school after the earthquake, so to be told that we're leaving is somewhat bemusing," Simpson said.
The principal said the school did not know the full implications of today's decision.
Hammersley Park Primary principal Brent Egerton said it was an upsetting time for his "close-knit" school, which has a role of 47.
"There's a lot of sadness for my colleagues as well as for the school."
Parata said the decision was made after the community signalled support for new approaches, including greater sharing of resources and capital.
"This will enable decisions about the schooling network to consider housing developments and surrounding infrastructure," she said.
The Government also announced it would rebuild Halswell School and invest $1 billion into the area.
Green Party education spokesperson Catherine Delahunty said it was a concern the Government was taking advantage of the disaster to supersize schools and "undermine" the public education system.
"We can see how the closure of these schools will allow the Government to accomplish their unpopular agenda," she said.
The Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University of Canterbury's College of Education, Professor Gail Gillon, said an education shake-up of this size was unlikely to have happened anywhere in the world before.
"This is very significant not only in terms of Christchurch's earthquake recovery, but also for the city's education sector and the education sector throughout the country."
Gillon said the changes would be unsettling for the city's school communities.
Education spending low
The announcement comes a day after an international report found New Zealand spends less than the OECD average on educating school and university students.
The Education at a Glance 2012 report shows most European countries, as well as Japan, are ahead of New Zealand. Countries that spend less than New Zealand include Chile and Mexico.
"What's interesting is that despite our moderate spending, New Zealand remains near the top of the OECD in student achievement in literacy, numeracy and science," says New Zealand Educational Institute's National President Ian Leckie.
However, the report also shows compared with other aspects of public expenditure within New Zealand, our percentage of public spending on education is one of the highest in the world.
Leckie said the key contributor to that figure is the billions of dollars of outstanding student loans.