Thursday, 13 September 2012

Christchurch schools closing?

While I understand that there has been a drain of @ 4000 students from the Christchurch area, I do think the government's announcement today of 13 schools closing or merging with others is in reality an attempt to save money. Pure and simple.

I believe they are attempting to use the earthquake situation as a back door in to effectively do to Chch what the Labour govt did to Invercargill through the school review process and screw over the communities to save a buck (see lower down...)

The Shirley principal has a point however emotional you consider his response - to suddenly add 1300 students to Chch Boys is preposterous. 

But what about the other, smaller schools that have done nothing wrong except be caught in an earthquake. I know of one school that has had millions put into rebuilding and is now to simply be shut.

It concerns me that these smaller schools, without the pull of the big secondaries, will get crushed in the process (e.g. Manning Intermediate, for one - successive govts don't like intermediates).
Note to boards: Squeaky wheels get the grease!

Consider the effect on the students also, particularly the ones who have recently started school, just getting into a situation where they have come to love a new teacher, made new friends... 
How about the staff (support staff, admin, grounds, teaching...) who will be put through even more stress while Ms Parata and her cronies sit back in their comfortable seats congratulating each other on saving a few million...

Because - Fact: Big schools cost less to run than smaller schools, regardless of how much they mean to their respective communities.

But is the cost to a local community worth the penny pinching?
Look at the loss of small rural schools and the break-down of the surrounding rural communities as a result. (I accept that in many cases, this is a reality of smaller intakes - not enough students to feed the school. This is fair.)

However, I suspect Ms Parata is seizing an unexpected opportunity to win back some of the savings she embarrassingly (for her) had to give away by backtracking on the ridiculous bigger class sizes proposal... 

I'm sure she will come up with a brilliant strategy to disguise the truth, though. She and the other pollies will probably find a twist to prove it is an 'educationally sound' move and may even parade a tame educational specialist to back her theory.

But, Ms Parata, Mr Brownlee and our illustrious PM and all other politicians who are behind this proposal -  it is a bad move .

Last note: It has been hurriedly pointed out that this is a discussion document (yeah, right!) and no final decisions have been made.
If this is really the case, then I plead with the politicians to go into this with an open mind. I beg of you. Listen to the communities. They will be realistic. They can understand education (after all, they effectively run their schools) and they understand financial constraints. They will be honest about their schools.
Listen to them.

However I'm betting the politicians will  not easily change their minds.
In the Invercargill review Principals were told that the MoE would learn from earlier mistakes, would work WITH the community to see the best outcomes for the students were developed... 
The reality was that as long as the principals and schools agreed the MoE had the best way of doing it, it would be an easy process (and no, the money  saved would not be available to the remaining Invercargill schools / communities).

I must regretfully place my bet that the 'discussions' will have a similar note in Christchurch, too.
Any takers?

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