Christchurch Schools

September 14th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Press reports:

Principals were reduced to tears as their jobs, and communities were put on the chopping block.

In an announcement marred by confusion, the Education Ministry said 13 schools would close and 18 could merge. Five Aranui schools will also combine into an education “cluster”.

Teachers and pupils have huge emotional attachments to their schools, and I can well understand how upset people will be at these decisions. It is worth noting there are 216 schools in total in the Christchurch area.

However these closures are not happening because the Government just wants to save some money. To the contrary the Government has committed $1 billion of capital spending on schools and educational facilities in Christchurch. The closures and mergers are because there are 3,000 fewer students, and some existing schools are too damaged. These school closures are basically an after-shock of the earthquake.

Shirley Boys’ High School principal John Laurenson has dismissed a proposal to merge the school with Christchurch Boys’ High School as “absurd nonsense”.

Education Minister Hekia Parata yesterday announced a major overhaul of education in Christchurch. One idea was the proposed merger of the two schools. However, the ministry has since backtracked and now says it is waiting on geotechnical reports, which were unlikely to be ready until next year.

Laurenson said Christchurch Boys’ High School was simply not equipped to cope with the influx of students.

“We are not going to merge for the most practical reason. I have 1300 students in the school, I think Trevor McIntyre at Christchurch Boys’ will have something similar.”

“To simply say that Shirley closes and suddenly Christchurch Boys’ High School is equipped to double in size is absurd. They don’t have the land, they don’t have the infrastructure. It’s nonsense.”

Laurenson attended a meeting yesterday held by the ministry and said a summary sheet released by them was “grossly misleading”.

“It appeared to tell the community that Shirley Boys’ High School was going to close and be merged with Christchurch Boys’ High School.”

Laurenson said he was “very cross” with yesterday’s events. The announcement had only managed to “deeply hurt my community and my people”.

“That simple misinformation that came out has been quite devastating.

“What has happened is an example of NCEA Level One not achieved – the information that went out is misleading and it’s been picked up by media people and suddenly it’s viral. We’re now telling the community ‘relax all is well and the ministry is busy retracting a vague statement’.”

Laurenson said the ministry’s media person had spoken with him and other principals and accepted it had been misleading.

There really is no excuse for a mistake of this magnitude.  The communications material which went should should have been double and triple checked to ensure it was crystal clear. What was always going to be a difficult and upsetting announcement became a mini-fiasco. The document that went out should not just have had a sentence on each school. There should have been a detailed report on each school documenting exactly what was planned for that school and why. And the summary document should have been checked to make sure it was consistent with that.

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38 Responses to “Christchurch Schools”

  1. greenjacket (346 comments) says:

    Hekia Parata really needs to improve her Comms. She seems to be a walking political disaster.

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  2. alex Masterley (1,438 comments) says:

    I think it is the MOE which is the disaster.
    What better way of making a Minister look like a tool by completely cocking something up.

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  3. loonybonkersmad (25 comments) says:

    Yep, a clusterf*ck of magnificent proportions. Surely there should be comms or senior managers’ heads rolling at the education department?

    Or perhaps on a spike outside of Parata’s office …

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  4. greg207 (7 comments) says:

    It’s not just poor comms material, it was also the fact they didn’t give Principals and BOT Chairs enough of a heads-up. How could they be so naive and hamfisted about this – I’m just a Christchurch yokel but I would have thought a big, well-funded Ministry could do a better job of this? Or is it the Minister’s and her office’s fault? Be interested in the Wellington view.

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  5. Nigel (503 comments) says:

    As sloppy a government announcement as I have ever seen, to do it to a city under such pressure from the quakes just cruel.

    But her performance on Campbell live was a shocker, talking points & no displayed empathy for what she was inflicting.

    It’s all most likely realistic, just incredibly poorly presented.

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  6. chrisw76 (82 comments) says:

    There were heaps of errors in the document, not least of which was this pearler:
    “Secondary Yr 9 – 13 schools are for learners aged 5 – 10 years of age”

    Once again, WTF does the MoE actually do???

    Cheers, Chris W.

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  7. Mark (1,301 comments) says:

    What is it about the Ministry of Education and Hekia Parata that makes it such a communication nightmare for the government. What happened to the consultation process here? Shirley Boys High School principal John Laurenson clearly had no idea what the ministry was proposing which is unbeleivable mismanagement.

    One wonders how many of these PR fuckups Parata can survive.

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  8. flipper (3,268 comments) says:

    The talk of tears over mergers and size is just plain bullshit…..or worse.

    My daughterr spent two terms at a state high school in Indianapolis, Indiana, US.

    Just a “small” high school – a roll of 7250 . That is seven thousand, two hundred and fifty pupils , plus staff.

    I visited her there and had the priviledge of going through the school. The quality of facilities was so superior to anything we provide in NZ. We exist on planet NZEI/PPTA – to our cost.

    Time to stop the, play acting, the hand wringing, the false tears (what an example !), and face up to the fact that the earthquakes changed the face of ChCh. Its educational institutions cannot be exempt.

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  9. KH (686 comments) says:

    Typical Kiwi irrelevant reaction.
    it’s like talking to hormonal teenagers. “it’s not what you said, it’s how you say it” Tears up. Runs from room.
    Instead lets get on with a discussion of what school where. Thats whats important.

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  10. greg207 (7 comments) says:

    I think most Cantabrians, particularly in the east where I live, understand the need to rationalise schools. Plenty in my area are only partially full with plenty of serious damage. Proposals like the Aranui cluster are innovative and interesting concepts. Some of the others seemed ludicrous like the Boys-Shirley merger.

    What I object to is yet another typical Wellington bureaucracy with a ‘we know best’ approach which was revealed as incompetence yesterday. Why don’t they actually get out and talk to people properly before making grand announcements.

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  11. Pongo (356 comments) says:

    Looks like Hekia was stitched up once again by her ministry. Some of the schools have got less than 50 students left so it’s dopey to keep them going but if as is often claimed teachers and unions only have the kids interests at heart they really should wind in the over emotions, hard enough for the kids without seeing their teachers wailing and crying like its the end of the world.

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  12. alex Masterley (1,438 comments) says:

    I like the spike idea…

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  13. tepopo (6 comments) says:

    Despite the problems that may lie with the MOE, I thought there was a long tradition of Ministerial Responsibility that is one of the backbones of our parliamentary democracy. On the basis of the numbers of such communications disasters and back downs that we saw yesterday, Hekia Parata really has to go.

    As greg207 says, there are good ideas here, but Christchurch deserves much better.

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  14. Nigel (503 comments) says:

    I don’t quite get how MOE is copping the blame here, surely as minister Parata should have gone through the presentation material before the announcement. As a first pass I could accept that document, but public release come on, it’s not acceptable.

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  15. tvb (3,938 comments) says:

    There is no excuse for poor staff work especially on a decision that is likely to be controversial. I imagine Ms Parata will be seeking scalps certainly I would.

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  16. barry (1,317 comments) says:

    Well – now the Prinsipals and teachers have REALLY got something to worry about. After fighting with the government over charter schools and National Standards and performance pay and class sizes – theyve really got something to concentrate their minds now.

    I do feel a bit sorry for them – but really I find it hard to get too excited on their behalf. After telling the Govt for years that they dont know anything as about education and that paents are too stupid to understand what was going – what can they expect.

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  17. barry (1,317 comments) says:

    (Ill get this keyboard to spell properly one day…….)

    Shirley Boys’ High School principal John Laurenson was on the radio only a few weeks ago saying that there were many things that have come out of the earthquake and that schools could make a lot of progress from taking onboard some of the things the school down there have had to cope with. Things like sharing facilities (gyms and assembly halls and different shifts etc) etc.

    Now that it looks like the Department has taken his ideas onboard – hes wailing and squeeling. Amazing.

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  18. Reid (15,513 comments) says:

    Or perhaps on a spike outside of Parata’s office …

    Or perhaps Parata herself since it’s her job to assess political impact prior to the release and adjust accordingly and the bureaucrats are not responsible for that, she is. Indeed the bureaucrats are required to eschew that consideration so they cannot be held responsible. If Parata doesn’t publicly take full responsibility for this debacle then she’s not quite as bad as McCully with John Allen but if she goes further and by omission or commission actually does blame her officials then she’s no better than McCully and she, like McCully, should resign.

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  19. 3-coil (1,184 comments) says:

    Which of the media clowns broke the 4pm embargo on the release of the info?

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  20. Mark (1,301 comments) says:

    Pongo (305) Says:
    September 14th, 2012 at 10:34 am
    Looks like Hekia was stitched up once again by her ministry. Some of the schools have got less than 50 students left so it’s dopey to keep them going but if as is often claimed teachers and unions only have the kids interests at heart they really should wind in the over emotions, hard enough for the kids without seeing their teachers wailing and crying like its the end of the world.

    Pongo Parata is the minister and the buck stops there. She is responsible for making sure that the information that she delivers in speaches and presentations is correct and properly scrutinised. She is developing a habit of failing to consult properly and then getting horribly found out.

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  21. ross69 (3,637 comments) says:

    > no displayed empathy for what she was inflicting.

    As opposed to Gerry Brownlee who has shown great empathy for those affected by the quakes. What a tosser.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/christchurch-earthquake-2011/7656654/Brownlee-fed-up-with-moaning-residents

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  22. ross69 (3,637 comments) says:

    “In the end you could end up making bad decisions and it will still be our fault.” ~ Gerry Brownlee

    WTF? Yes, if you make bad decisions, it is your fault!!

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  23. voice of reason (491 comments) says:

    Barry – I don’t hear Mr Laurenson wailing and squeeling (sic). He is however pointing out the bleeding obvious, how do you combine 2 schools of 1200+ pupils? He has pointed out that the release is misleading and has caused concern for his school, staff and the local community, and he is right the media relase was a complete foul up.

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  24. ross69 (3,637 comments) says:

    > Which of the media clowns broke the 4pm embargo on the release of the info?

    Oh right, so it’s the media’s fault that Parata is incompetent…should’ve seen that coming.

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  25. 3-coil (1,184 comments) says:

    Fuck ross69, you could start a fight in an empty room!

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  26. barry (1,317 comments) says:

    voice of reason @11.58

    You combine two large schools by using some of the ONE BILLION DOLLARS that the minister said would be spent in completing this programme.

    Come on – if you are going to combine schools without making building changes then there will be hardly any cost – but 0NE BILLION DOLLARS builds a few class rooms. I understand the two new schools at Hobsonville point will cost some 50 million – so for ONE BILLION DOLLARS one could expect to get about —-mmmmmm—– 40 new schools schools.

    I think I know how theyll combine two large schools.

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  27. Viking2 (10,703 comments) says:

    Given that plenty among them will be retiring or close to and that losing a bunch of pupils and buildings to an earthquake what the hell did these educated (not( turkeys in the schools expect. FFS

    Beginning to think that we should have a SIR Gerry for calling it right. Pack of whingers and moaners.

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  28. lilman (659 comments) says:

    Our schools were decimated in the labour round of school closures and our communites have followed their children to the wider detriment off our district.
    Never once did I here from Christchurch or Urban New Zealand about our struggle.
    Taxes pay for education ,not teacher salaries.
    I hope they close as many as they deem necessary,as it my money they are spending .

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  29. Tom Barker (92 comments) says:

    This incident will do wonders for Ms Parata’s previously somewhat fraught relationship with the education sector unions. An outstanding example of bridge-building from this exceptionally able minister.

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  30. Alan Wilkinson (1,798 comments) says:

    Monumental cock-up is correct. Key should have a head lined up for the chop already. There is no way the eastern suburbs can be served from the west other than temporarily by closing Shirley and Avonside High Schools. You can’t have several thousand kids biking 7-10 km across the city every day to school.

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  31. voice of reason (491 comments) says:

    Barry – if they have 1 BILLIONS DOLLARS – then they can rebuild Shirley Boys High where it is or on a new site if necessary.
    There is not room at CBHS to increase the size of the school as would be required by combining them.

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  32. Alan Wilkinson (1,798 comments) says:

    You could put tower blocks on CBHS and double its roll. However the logistics of getting the eastern suburb kids to and from that school are prohibitive. It won’t happen.

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  33. BeaB (1,945 comments) says:

    This is the standard response to school changes. I think some principals expect schools to stay open and them and their teachers to keep their jobs even when the kids have gone. Most of this opposition, remember, is from principals who know they will not be re-appointed to the new schools.
    Just about every school reorganisation has worked out to be much better – even Trevor Mallard’s, as much as I hate to admit it.

    Part of the problem with the Ministry of Ed is a new minister but, more significantly, a Pommie CEO who has very limted knowledge of NZ schools. We saw her ignorance with class sizes and I bet there will be many more gaffes as the old hands in the Ministry let her hang herself.

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  34. RandySavage (195 comments) says:

    this second term has been one shit sandwich after another

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  35. MT_Tinman (2,790 comments) says:

    One of my regular customers is a teacher at one of the closing schools.

    Shock was the main reaction because his school is not eq affected as far as the land, buildings and roll are concerned.

    Today the reaction was more union-line affected.

    More of this to come no doubt.

    From where I see it most of the teachers will simply be transferred because the number of pupils will not alter therefore the demand for teachers will not alter, the main group losing out will be the principles – could one or two be regretting refusing to comply with MoE directives recently? – and administration staff.

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  36. Reid (15,513 comments) says:

    This incident will do wonders for Ms Parata’s previously somewhat fraught relationship with the education sector unions. An outstanding example of bridge-building from this exceptionally able minister.

    LOL Tom.

    She has now made two serious PR blunders but education is a minefield and who knows where Wilkinson has been in this. I hypothesise Wilkinson hasn’t been anywhere let alone even close to Parata for if she had this particular thing wouldn’t have happened for Wilkinson has an instinct for this kind of trap just as English does. Granted Ministerial workload isn’t light but Parata needed coaching and she didn’t get it and the best person to give it was Wilkinson. It’s called a team.

    With Parata I think the first issue with the teacher reduction was just unforeseen inexperience and slightly unlucky. What happened as an upshot however IMO reflects less on Parata and more on Key, since he didn’t pick up on the need to give Parata some coaching not from him of course but the appropriate people to prevent what happened in future, for this thing is a repeat of the phenomena. But he obviously didn’t even bother assigning Parata a suitable mentor, which IMO reflects on Key’s management style and not in a good way.

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  37. Russf (1 comment) says:

    Barry, you really are being stupid trying to score points by suggesting SBHS HM John Laurenson’s previous and rather positive comments re shared facility are being used by MOE as a reason to try and merge SBHS with CBHS. John is highly respected and supported by his students, parents and old boys and he and they deserve far far greater respect and first hand communication by governing MOE management, Ministerial Department Advisors their Cabinet Minister and the PM John Key, who seems to be keeping a very low profile for a change. Not good enough John! I encourage you to personally phone John Laurenson and apologize on behalf of the country and your minister, for this massive embarrassment caused through the release of a hurtful and stupid plan to merge two extremely successful and well managed schools whose rolls are stable. Your appointed minister seems to be out of her depth and quite unable to humbly apologize for anything her ministry cocks up.

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  38. Jane (12 comments) says:

    I was the communications advisor for Melbourne’s largest school merger project (17 schools and $100 million budget). I would have been happy to help out. I did actually send over a copy of the project’s evaluation to the ministry. Guess it didn’t hit the right desk.

    Jane
    Melbourne

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