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Parata tries to spin school PR


Education minister Hekia Parata was unable to provide any figures about the amounts of money involved in the Christchurch schools restructure.

She was accompanied at the midday media conference by education ministry apparatchik, Katrina Casey, who says the closures and mergers of schools will not result in savings.

Similarly, Ms Parata would not provide any reasons why she has back-tracked on the closure of some schools.

She referred to some “items of error”.

When NBR ONLINE asked what they were she said, “I’m not going to go into that”.

Previous media reports identified a raft of inaccuracies in ministry reports, including the extent of earthquake damage, numbers of pupils, staff, buildings and funding.

Even today’s information contains much obfuscation.

For example, when is a merger a closure?

It depends which of the merging schools remains the legal educational entity.

But if two schools are merging then one, if not both, must inevitably close depending on where they are relocated to.

Is a new school actually a closure?

Maybe, when it involves the “new” school at Pegasus Town that will see the closure of the existing nearby Woodend School.

Ouruhia School will be relocated to West Belfast several kilometres away from the community that has fought hard to retain the school.

When asked why Ms Parata could not leave the city’s schools alone for a year or two, she replied in general terms about doing the best for pupils and community.

Even the figure of 9300 vacant pupil “places available” throughout the city bears more scrutiny.

It includes 5000 spaces that were deemed “available places” before the earthquakes. The actual number of pupils who have not enrolled since the earthquakes was around 4300 students.

Ms Parata spoke at length about modern schooling, which involves “flexible” teaching spaces, and broadband. 

For the record, 19 schools will be closed or merged. Of these, seven will close and 12 “merge”.

The most severely affected schools in the east of Christchurch remain in limbo with an extended consultation period for Aranui, Avondale, Wainoni primary schools and Chisnalwood Intermediate, and Aranui High School.

The seven closures include Branston Intermediate, Glenmoor, Greenpark, Kendal, Linwood Intermediate, Manning Intermediate and Richmond, affecting 650 pupils.

Two other schools with low rolls have already closed – Hammersely Park and Le Bons Bay.

The six merging schools that involve 12 schools with 3100 pupils include Burwood and Windsor (on Windsor site), Central and South Brighton (on the South Brighton site), Freeville and North New Brighton (on the North Brighton site), Lyttelton Main and Lyttelton west (on the Main site), Phillipston and Woolston (on Woolston), Discovery One and Unlimited (on a new site).

The original proposal unveiled last year was to merge 18 schools.

Ms Parata has back-tracked on the closure of schools at Duvauchelle, Gilberthorpe, Linwood Ave, Okains Bay, Ouruhia, Shirley Intermediate, Yaldhurst, Burham, Burnside, Bromley, TKKM o Waitaha and TKKM o Te Whanau Tahi.



"Interim" is the pr buzzword throughout education minister Hekia Parata's Christchurch schools closure and merger announcement.

The words interim proposals appear in almost every second sentence of Ms Parata's spiel.

Initial impressions are that today's announcements are very similar to the original indications.

In a pr spin which is unlikely to fool anyone in Christchurch affected by the news, Ms Parata's view is that whether a school is closed or merged, depends on the language used.

She told the school communities the use of the language of "merger" is to take into account "legal issues" which may arise over use of the "closure" word.

Clearly, when schools are merged one usually closes.

Her rationale for closing or merging 19 schools - based now on 12 mergers and seven actual closures - is that there are 9300 empty pupil spaces as a result of people leaving Christchurch in the wake of the earthquakes.

Principals, teachers and parents universally condemned the moves today, arguing that Christchurch pupils have gone through enough upheaval without the threat to their community centres.

In the first announcement, Phillipstown will merge with Woolston primary school.

They are among the first schools to learn their fate today. 

Two charter-style schools, Discovery and Unlimited, will also merge.

Branston Primary School at Hornby will be closed.

Last year, Ms Parata announced plans to merge 18 schools and close 13.

The plan – which rapidly became a public relations disaster for the government – was greeted with anger and disbelief and has been modified.

Ms Parata's ministry officials spread out around Christchurch today in a team effort to maintain secrecy before a midday announcement.

Ms Parata avoided the mass meeting style of last year – and avoided direct questioning and anger from teachers and principals.

Unaccompanied by the chaotic pr sideshow rebuild minister Gerry Brownlee and his minions orchestrated last year, she held a media briefing in central Christchurch which was to be filmed and broadcast live.

More announcements soon.

More by Chris Hutching

Comments and questions

Finally, the govt and taxpayer can move on and, hopefully, the whingers and ungrateful Cantabrians will also move on.

The restructuring is a good thing for Christchurch and the govt/taxpayers. Well done, Hekia - they will still blame you but you have done us all a favour financially.

Wait now for the whinging teachers to have another go. They might now have to drive another 2km to their new school and be inconvenienced - they forget that the new or merged school might be better for their pupils. The teachers are extremely selfish.

Dr, how are the closures or mergers going to benefit the children, exactly? Were you strapped as a child? Nothing else explains your irrational antipathy towards the teaching profession.

Why are you whinging, Christchurch?

There were tears this morning from the principal of Philipstown School which is merging with Woolston School.
For goodness sake, Phillipstown, an inner city school with a roll of about 160 pupils, needs an estimated $3.5 million in repairs and earthquake strengthening work. And Woolston School, in Ferry Rd, has a roll of more than 200 pupils and needs about $1.7m in repairs and strengthening work.
So that's a combined school of 360 pupils - that collectively only makes a small school.

They should be grateful they weren't closed. How many schools in Auckland or Wellington have only 360 pupils?

Completely agree. Too many small suburban schools with minor rolls which neighbour other small schools throughout the country.

Dunedin has far too many small schools, especially in South Dunedin.

What about the kids? How do they feel? Or don't their needs or feelings count. Have a heart or is that asking the impossible?

Christchurch is not whinging -- at any time only a very small proportion are. Don't assume the whole city spends its time complaining; it doesn't...

Hey Doctor, don't let the media fool you into thinking all of Christchurch are whinging about this. The usual suspects moan, but they always will. A lot of people here in Christchruch understand the reality of the eq's and the changed demographics in Canterbury and are quite understanding of these decisions.
Don't listen to the sensationalising media and their talking heads from the shallow end of the IQ pool.

Actually, if you look at the ERO reports for Wellington and Auckland schools you would find a number that have the same as Phillipstown and less than Woolston. Christchurch is not complaining, just trying to make sure they don't lose something that will cost twice the price to replace!

Tears at his/her job going...

Is losing one's job not a cause for tears?

According to friends in Christchurch who have school kids, the biggest issue with closures and mergers is that some of the decile 10 schools will have to merge and blend in with decile 1 schools.... And the parents aren't happy one bit.

The champaign socialists then jump up and down screaming anything and everything to anyone else because they don't want lil johny having to play with lil Rangi.

Class warfare. Started and perpetuated by the champaign socialists. Suck it up Princess. Get over it and get on with progressing Christchurch.

Can your friends be explicit about which decile 1 and 10 are to merge? I don't think that's a great concern at all. Look at where the schools actually are. The real concern has been further politically imposed disruption of damaged communities without adequate consultation. Standard operating procedure for this and previous governments of all political persuasions.

Rubbish, I went to a mixed public school with little rangis from the lower class and the demoralising draconian English-based school system sure sorted them out! lol.

Not one Maori subject was offered (not even the Maori language) and they left school at 15 and 16 with Cs if they were lucky but mainly with Ds, Es and Fs. One committed suicide, three died of drug overdoses and at least five that I know of died from alcohol-related causes. The rest ended up on welfare or disappeared into the system (and that's just from one year).

I'm glad they now have around 30 Maori NCEA courses as well as smaller Maori schools specialising in their needs, instead of humiliating them by lumping them with decile 10 upper-class snobs and then setting the bar out of reach.

Looks like back to the 1980s for Christchurch!

Decile 10 schools tend to cater for the children of the genuine rich if they haven't been taken off to private schools. "Champaign" socialists keep their children with "little rangi" because they see that having their children mingle with other children from all backgrounds results in healthy, well adjusted adults not greedy, heartless huas like you lot.

Parata is rewriting the cabinet manual on how the Peter Principle works. Everything she touches turns to slime. And her speeches consist of nothing by weasel-words and bureaucratic fudgery delivered behind a smile more bogus than a three-dollar bill.

Reminds me of the Ohope residents forever moaning about our truckies using 'their' road as a short cut. I say suck it up and get on with life. Hekia, don't be put off by a few. Stay hard and do the job. Proud of you, whanaunga.

Uncle Rhemus just stick to truck driving.

I'm looking forward to the whingeing that comes from Aucklanders when she starts to do the same things up there. Oops. Too many National voters in Auckland. They have already lost Christchurch through the rebuild debacle so can't afford to lose even more. Remember, the mad duck Mallard lost the safe Labour seat of Timaru after his stuff-up of the closures and mergers in South Canterbury.

I think you mean Jim Sutton and it probably did not affect party vote for Labour at all.

Poor Jim Sutton was just the thicko who got it in the jugular. Mallard was the one driving it.

The fact that my two beautiful young daughters, Precious and Conceited, can't have a school at the end of the street. Well, I've never heard of anything that is so outrageously unfair to my two very special children. I'll never vote National again! And the fact that I never have is completely immaterial!

Pity you spoilt an otherwise balanced report with an uncalled-for description of senior public servant Katrina Casey as an "apparatchik". Clearly intended as a pejorative label. Why do that?

Because its the truth

Where did Hutchings get the idea that Parata was trying 'to spin' the school closure/amalgamation announcement?
Parata was making a statement of fact relating to the progress in reforming education in earthquake-struck Christchurch, and revealing the government's thinking at this stage on a likely outcome.
At least this government has shown that it does listen to the input from the public; vastly different to the attitude of the previous Comrade's government.

I find it hard to understand the attitude of school teachers I've seen and heard on this matter. Even if they disagree there is little need to wind the students up the way they have. Why create negative views in young minds?

Maybe they are simply articulating the negative feelings of the children themselves. Oh, sorry, maybe you think that children are incapable of their own thoughts and then don't share them with their teachers.

When very young children are faced with uncertainty, most sensible adults comfort and reassure them. Not whinge and moan to them as though the end of the world has arrived.. Changing schools, is not frightening, or wouldn't be if adults handled it the right way.

Completely agree. It is the parents/schools traumatising the kids, not the government.

Now that they have got the process right (their first attempt was abysmal), it really is about facing reality and moving on.

Absolutely agree! It is a disgrace to have stood in front of those young children in such a negative light. What is that teaching these young people? Very poor principalship!

Fire Hekia Parata's press secretaries, they obviously have no clue

I'm part Maori and went to school with lots of kids who were more Maori than me and lots of white kids and Indians and Chinese, etc. No one was called Rangi.

Reading this it just makes sense about what everyone says about Cantabrians. Just a bunch of redneck white trash. Schools haven't made a difference.
Might as well shut the lot and just throw you some cartons of Benson and Hedges.

Is it usual for NBR readers to be so uncaring?


There is no doubt re two matters:
1 Chch schools need restructuring given the massive changes in population, and

2 The timing of the announcement was unfortunate coming so soon after the earthquake; it should have been delayed until a later date

However, surely it is now time to stop the verbals and concentrate on what is best for the affected children.

Hmmm My girl's school was destroyed in September. I have a daughter who is 8 and already been to 6 different schools as the new location they moved to after September was then wrecked in February. They have been in a temporary location for 2 years and we have all made the most of life with many families losing their homes. Our teachers and children are amazing. We do not have a home and may be merged but in the meantime we are concentrating on the kids, which is the focus. The kids should be our focus and rebuilding what the earthquake has undone. Open minds are needed for our children's sake!

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