Let students and parents decide

Amanda Fisher at Stuff reports:

After huge community pressure, including a hikoi to Parliament, the education minister has partly backtracked on proposed mergers of .

In May, Anne Tolley announced her decision to merge three Kawerau primary schools into one, close Kawerau Intermediate and turn Kawerau South School into a year 1 to year 8 primary school.

That was despite four of six schools opting for a different outcome, and a petition signed by 70 per cent of the town’s adults. About 250 people joined a May hikoi from Kawerau to Wellington.

However, Mrs Tolley announced yesterday that a Maori immersion kura, going up to year 8, would be established on the current Kawerau North School site. She has delayed deciding the fate of the intermediate, which could be merged with Kawerau College, saying any changes would not take effect before 2013.

However, the three intermediates – Kawerau North, Kawerau Central and Putauaki primary schools – would still merge.

I think it is regrettable that our funding model means that the Minister is the person who has to decide which schools are viable, and which ones are not.

Ideally schools should be fully delegated their funding – property, salaries, IT, operations etc. And parents and students should be able to choose which school they wish to attend, with funding following them.

That way, then the Minister would not have to decide on school mergers. If a school can attract enough students to remain viable, then good on them. If their roll shrinks to the point they can not cover their costs, then they close.

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