Red Alert

Posts Tagged ‘Christchurch Schools’

So much for Hekia Parata’s word…

Posted by on February 20th, 2013

Today in Parliament I questioned the Minister of Education Hekia Parata on her decision to close Branston Intermediate School in Christchurch. I singled out Branston because Parata had given them a specific commitment that they wouldn’t close before the end of 2014 and she has now reneged on that commitment. Here is an excerpt from the Hansard (video):

Chris Hipkins: Did she, or her officials, give Branston Intermediate School an assurance that any students enrolled for 2013 would be able to finish their 2 years at Branston Intermediate School before any closure?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: I did not.

Chris Hipkins: Did she write to Branston Intermediate School on 28 September stating that she had made “a proposal about the closure of Branston Intermediate School to be implemented for the end of 2014.”, and did she tell a public meeting at Branston Intermediate School that the school would definitely be open in 2014, as parents have written in to say she said; if so, why is she now changing that proposal so that students who have only just started school this year will have to change school next year?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: I did provide Branston Intermediate School with a proposal, and in the meeting with the Branston community I repeatedly said it was a proposal and that they were free to make submissions on it, as indeed they can on the proposal they now have.

Chris Hipkins: At the public meeting with Branston Intermediate School did she give them an assurance that Branston Intermediate School would still be open in 2014?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: I made it clear, repeatedly, that it was a proposal, that they had the opportunity to give a submission on that proposal, and I got their submission, and they now have a further opportunity.

At that point we then had a lengthy series of points of order about whether or not Parata’s answer actually addressed the question. Ultimately, the public will be the judge of that, but I can’t imagine she would’ve gotten away with that under Lockwood Smith.

Hekia Parata can try to hide behind the words “interim decisions” and “proposal” all she likes – but the fact is she has gone back on her word. Her word is worthless.

Is it any wonder that 71% of those polled in Canterbury want Hekia Parata sacked as Minister of Education? They don’t trust her, and don’t want her anywhere near the education of their children.

The Christchurch schools announcement

Posted by on February 18th, 2013

Today Hekia Parata announced her decisions concerning the proposed closure or merger of 31 schools in Christchurch. 12 schools will remain open as they are, while seven schools will close and 12 will merge (13 fewer schools overall).

Overall there is good and bad in today’s announcements. Nobody doubted that change was always going to be necessary, but this process has been a shambles. Instead of getting community buy-in and support, Hekia Parata has eroded all goodwill. This could’ve been really positive for Christchurch. Instead it’s yet another example of Nationals heavy-handed, we know best, approach to the Christchurch rebuild.

Today’s announcement will be welcomed by the 12 schools who will stay open. For the others, it’s worse than they might have expected because the timeframes for closure and merger originally proposed have been shortened and most will now take effect from the end of this year.

The decision to shorten the timeframe doesn’t make sense, particularly for the intermediates. Kids who started intermediate this year will face another change next year. The original proposal would’ve seen the intermediates stay open but not take in a new cohort, meaning the kids already there wouldn’t have been forced to switch schools twice in two years. There are also concerns that this new rushed timeframe won’t allow enough time for the necessarily building projects, or for schools to integrate their teaching programmes.

The data that Parata relied on when making her decisions was also clearly flawed. MOE projections showing falling rolls for some of the schools being closed or merged don’t match with reality. For example Philipstown School’s roll has actually grown this year not shrunk as the Ministry predicted.

The problem for Parata is she jumped the gun last year and put forward closure and merger proposals too soon. The government had started well, with a wide-ranging discussion about what the future of schooling in Christchurch, but then they lurched into a specific set of proposals without giving the community a chance to talk about what the actual shape of schooling might look like in the future. The population is still really fluid too, and it’s not yet clear where people will ultimately settle once things have all calmed down.

Parata could’ve started today with an apology. She didn’t. My thoughts are with the schools in Christchurch who are grappling with the decisions. They deserved to be treated with more respect than this.

Another Parata communication triumph

Posted by on February 8th, 2013

Within the next two weeks Hekia Parata will be charged with announcing the fate of several dozen Canterbury schools. Consultation on merger and closure proposals ended just before Christmas and Parata  supposedly spent her extended summer break reading them.

While all of those schools wait on tenterhooks to hear their fate, Parata decided today to announce the government’s plans to open six brand new schools in Christchurch. Talk about a slap in the face to all of the schools still waiting to hear what the future holds for them.

Nobody doubts that significant change is required. The population has moved around in Christchurch, and as a result some schools have shrunk to the point where they are no longer viable while others are bursting at the seams.

But there is a way to do this. It starts with respect for the school communities affected. Shepherding all the principals and BOTs into a hall and giving them colour-coded name badges to indicate whether they were closing, merging, or remaining wasn’t a great start. Announcing the opening of new schools before telling the existing schools of their fate rubs further salt into the wounds.

Hekia Parata has a difficult job to do, but she seems determined to make it even harder for herself. Her handling of the Christchurch schooling situation has demonstrated arrogance and a total lack of respect. The people of Christchurch deserve better.

Parata battening down the hatches

Posted by on November 11th, 2012

Hekia Parata now seems to be working on the premise that the less information she gives out, the less accountable she will have to be. After making such a hash of her proposals for school closures and mergers and Christchurch, Parata and her Ministry are now refusing to release the information and advice she received when making those decisions.

I understand officials presented the Minister with several alternative options, but requests for that advice to be released are being refused. That is wrong. In refusing to release that advice officials have argued it would compromise the consultation going on at the moment. How could releasing more, and extremely important, information undermine a supposedly ‘genuine’ consultation?

Similar requests directed to Ms Parata have not been actioned on the basis that she is too busy visiting schools in Christchurch to respond to them. That’s a bit rich coming from a Minister who has refused pleas from those very same schools to give them extra time to undertake consultation.

The Government should be approaching this process in an open, transparent and democratic way. Instead the Minister and her officials are promoting a culture of secrecy. In turn that cloak and dagger secrecy around the release of information is simply creating an atmosphere of distrust and suspicion.

That’s not a responsible way for the government to behave. I urge Hekia Parata to openly release all of the information and advice she has received regarding school reorganization in Christchurch. Any refusal to do so will leave people rightly asking what she is trying to hide.

Genuine consultation – yeah right!

Posted by on September 28th, 2012

Yesterday John Key tried to ease the concerns of Cantabrians by saying that final decisions hasn’t been made about school mergers and closures in Christchurch. Today Hekia Parata formally wrote to school boards of trustees to formally begin the closure/merger process. Cantabrians can be forgiven for thinking that the fate of their local schools has already been sealed.

Schools have been given until 7 December to provide feedback on proposals for closures and mergers, the first two weeks of that time will be school holidays and for senior students, exams will dominate the rest of the school year. In that time boards are expected to run a formal consultation process with parents, students, and others with an interest. It’s a sham.

We know from the Dotcom case that John Key and Bill English have a breakdown in communication. It’s clear now that the Prime Minister and his Minister of Education are also completely out of step. John Key is out there trying to tell Cantabrians that the consultation process is a genuine one, yet his Minister of forging ahead with the legal process to implement decisions that appear to have already been made.

This consultation charade would be funny if it wasn’t about something so incredibly important to the families of Canterbury. The Government needs to get this right but it’s a turning it into a bigger shambles than their plan to increase class sizes.