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Parata accused of offering 'worthless promises'

Published: 6:31PM Wednesday February 20, 2013 Source: ONE News

The Education Minister has been accused of offering "worthless" promises to a Christchurch intermediate school.

Christchurch Branston Intermediate in Hornby says it was assured it would not close until the end of next year, but Hekia Parata says that was always just a proposal.

Earlier this week, Parata announced an interim decision to close seven schools and merge 12 to create six in Christchurch.

Another 12 schools proposed for closure or merger were given a reprieve.

Some schools have been told they will not close until the end of next year, a decision Parata said was made to give parents more certainty on their child's future education.

However, Christchurch Branston Intermediate is not one of those schools.

Principal Jennifer O'Leary said she was shocked to learn the school would close at the end of the year after reassurances the school would stay open for at least another two years.

She said because of that assurance children have already been enrolled for this year.

"Well it was a shock to me and the board it was a shock to the staff and then a shock to the students, and then the parents," said O'Leary.

Labour says the Government should not have given the the school false hope.

"Last year Hekia Parata wrote to Branston Intermediate School telling it she was proposing to close it at the end of 2014," said Labour's Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins.

"And she told a public meeting at the school that it would definitely be open in 2014.

"But now she is planning to shut the school's doors at the end of the year. And today in Parliament she did everything she could to avoid admitting that she gave any such assurance to Branston Intermediate."

Hipkins said Parata had "gone back on her word" and that her word was "worthless".

However, Parata maintains she provided the school with a proposal only.

"I did provide Branston with a proposal and in the meeting with the community I repeatedly said it was a proposal," she said.

Schools have until March 28 to respond to the latest proposal, before Parata will announce her final decisions on the 31 schools at the end of May.

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