Editorials on Chch schools

February 19th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

editorial:

The big reduction in the number of being forced to close or merge, announced by Education Minister Hekia Parata yesterday, is more than welcome. It ends the anxiety of the many people who faced their most cherished community asset being torn from them or drastically altered, reduces pupil and parent fears and gives teachers more certainty about their jobs.

The Government should be congratulated for at last properly consulting people about the plan and for taking heed of concerns. Even greater congratulations should go to the schools, parents and supporters for gathering the facts and ensuring that the Government took them aboard. This was a demonstration of people power at its constructive best.

There is nothing as good as winning an argument by having the facts on your side.

Now it emerges that much of that outpouring was avoidable had the Ministry of Education built its plans on sure facts and consulted more effectively before the wholesale announcement. Had it done so, the first plan would have been something like that now proposed and would not have hit the city like a load of lead. People would have been much more accepting of change because they would have been informed about its need and contributed to its detail.

It is clear the original proposals were not just communicated badly, but were in some cases based on faulty info. The Herald touches on this also:

The outcry that greeted the announcement of the plan in September made its revision inevitable. The revised version appeared yesterday. Instead of closures and mergers of schools across the city the closures now appear to be confined to areas worst hit by the earthquakes or where rolls had been in steepest decline.

While there is anguish in any school that has to close – and the date has been set sooner for them under the revised plan – some of them had to go. The city’s schools had a combined capacity for about 5000 more pupils than attended them before the earthquakes and its school-age population had dropped by a further 4300 by July last year.

It is hard to argue that nothing should change at all, based on the surplus of 9,300 places.

If the original plan had been confined to those sorts of areas it would probably not have incurred the wrath and derision it received. But somewhere in the higher echelons of education, the earthquake was seen as an opportunity to redesign schooling as we have known it in this country. The whole of Christchurch was to be a template for “something different and innovative to support improved outcomes in education”.

The ministry’s document talked of “shared campuses” for everything from early childhood to tertiary education, and educational institutions that would comprise not just schools but “dental clinics, doctors’ surgeries, mental health and other support services such as counsellors, social workers and therapists”.

To this end, the planners hoped to knock down and rebuild much more public property than had suffered serious damage.

The original plan was based on the “ideal” but failed to take account of how disruptive change can be. The revised plan appears to be based on necessity where change is minimised unless there is little alternative.

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21 Responses to “Editorials on Chch schools”

  1. In Vino Veritas (138 comments) says:

    What makes me laugh about this whole thing is that kids are amazingly adaptable and in a year or so won’t care about their old school. It’s the parents that can’t get over it.

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  2. peterwn (3,215 comments) says:

    Seems to me that the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Economic Development (as it then was – re Sky City) are incapable of competently serving their Ministers. Possibly some staff would be anxious not to upset Heather Simpson but could not care a hoot about National Ministers. The Ministry of Education has had previous recent experience with school closures (eg Wainuiomata) but has failed to develop best practice from that experience.

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  3. SPC (5,473 comments) says:

    This all began with the programme to close primary schools and sell off land for residential housing. Raising money for new projects/building by selling existing land assets.

    Because of opposition from the left, there was an attempt to get them on board by developing super schools or large centres with all the sorts of extras the left might want to have provided for schools. As if their buying in to closure of many schools to build one super school was the price of affording these nice to haves.

    The desire to raise money (sell land) for new project funding drove the expansion of the rationale for the sales pitch.

    Given the earthquake required a lot of new funding for building it was inevitible that there would be proposals for lots of closures and super sites. And here one major objection – the super site would lack land for sports fields – is overcome by a city having plenty of land spare for new fields because so much land is designated not suitable for building on. Elsewhere communites would lose land for community use as former school land was sold for housing.

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  4. BeaB (2,084 comments) says:

    In vino
    Quite correct. I am appalled at the unprofessional behaviour of principals and teachers sobbing in front of kids, making a ludicrous drama and stirring up emotions and fears. I thought they were there to look after the kids and help them through the changes with the least possible stress. As for enlisting them to protest with placards and slogans – it beggars belief.

    Surely this kind of exploitative behaviour falls far below professional standards and codes of conduct..

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  5. SPC (5,473 comments) says:

    The fears were sparked by the Ministry and Minister proposing a plan based on flawed inteligence/lack of consultation – poor operational management.

    Parents and the facts forced the backdown.

    The idea that teachers should work to facilitate government plans, where they are not in accord with the peoples will, is what one would expect in a one party state, not in a democracy.

    Teachers like other workers have an interest in protecting their jobs and as citizens their acting in support of their schools and the pupils parents in the democratic process is probably quite educational for pupils.

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  6. thor42 (971 comments) says:

    One of the commenters here nailed it yesterday when he said that the changes could have been conveyed to the students as “hey, you’ll get to go to a nice new school with new gear and playgrounds!”

    Instead, we had the abysmal scenes of principals wiping away tears and so on. For *goodness sake*…..

    I originally come from Hawke’s Bay, and I can tell you what REAL painful change is like. Whakatu freezing works closing. **Two thousand** jobs gone – just like that. Tomoana too – over another thousand jobs gone there.

    Compared to the Whakatu closure, the Chch school changes barely merit a mention. It’s a huge cry and moan over nothing.

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  7. Peter (1,673 comments) says:

    Surely this kind of exploitative behaviour falls far below professional standards and codes of conduct..

    I’ve long since given up expecting anything close to professional standards from teachers.

    All the professionalism and grace of a 1970′s wharfie.

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  8. kiwigunner (225 comments) says:

    When you say BeaB ‘I am appalled at the unprofessional behaviour of principals and teachers sobbing in front of kids’ I wonder what you wanted from folk whom are committed to their schools and their children. A shrug of the shoulders? A so what? A who cares it’s only work?

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  9. SPC (5,473 comments) says:

    thor 42

    “hey, you’ll get to go to a nice new school with new gear and playgrounds!”

    Not really, most are going to merged schools – they are just increasing the roll at a school being merged with their own. This will result in less playground area per pupil.

    Some intermediate children will be kept at primacy schools without specialist teachers and subjects. Others going to existing secondary schools early.

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  10. Peter (1,673 comments) says:

    what you wanted from folk whom are committed to their schools

    Not using kids as political pawns would be a start.

    Look, since the day of the earthquake, it was clear that to most that there were going to big changes. People would leave, demographics would shift, and schools would be relocated and closed.

    Shouldn’t they have been preparing themselves, and the kids, of the likelihood it might well happen, and if it does happen, then it’s not the end of the world and the kids are going to be okay? Perhaps some did, although a few of those on the news appeared to be milking it.

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  11. Left Right and Centre (2,883 comments) says:

    Beab at 5:45pm Agree with you 100%

    And the same goes for Peter and thor42′s comments.

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  12. BeaB (2,084 comments) says:

    Kiwigunner
    They should show some dignity and leadership and then go and have a private blub if they must. Their job is to put the kids first.
    It’s not easy but they shouldn’t ever make it harder for the kids, especially little ones.

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  13. Mark (1,434 comments) says:

    @DPF
    It is clear the original proposals were not just communicated badly, but were in some cases based on faulty info.

    Consultation is not one of Hekia’s strengths, nor is checking her facts but the Ministry needed a good kicking over the original handling of this,

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  14. bc (1,355 comments) says:

    Mark: “Consultation is not one of Hekia’s strengths”

    That’s not right, according to Key she is a “top communicator”

    Ha ha ha ha

    BeaB: Spare the faux outrage. You don’t give a crap about children. It’s just an excuse for you to have another teacher bash.

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  15. joana (1,983 comments) says:

    This whole circus has nothing to with ”kuds”and everything to do with a serious land grab..Why all the dishonesty? And as for Parata , anyone who could promote her as a good comunicator has himself very few communication skills but then we all know that..He would have been caned senseless in any good Catholic school of yesteryear..They were all about preparing pupils for the professions hence the endless elocution lessons. Parata is not helping National’s cause in CHCH one iota. In fact she is a terrific advertisement for the opposition.

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  16. rouppe (945 comments) says:

    Something else that doesn’t seem to be well presented is that at least some of the schools being closed are in and around the red zone. So there won’t be any people near those schools very soon, and then pupils will have to be bussed to a school sitting in the middle of nowhere.

    This was brought home to me when one of the principals said “we are surrounded by red zone houses, and we are an oasis for the area”. Well an oasis has nothing around it, so closing schools with no catchment and opening new schools in the newly expanding suburbs seems sensible to me.

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  17. BeaB (2,084 comments) says:

    bc
    It’s the end of a rather sinister wedge when a group of public servants is singled out to be above criticism. Surely you do not believe teachers are beyond reproach. I know I never claimed that status for myself as feedback from colleagues, kids and parents was a way we all learned to do a better job.

    I still maintain a good principal should behave like a good parent: “I am sorry you are unhappy now but you are going to a great new school with your friends and there is lots to look forward to.”

    Exploiting children the way these schools are doing is manipulative and unethical and reflects badly on teachers (and parents) who say they are putting children first.

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  18. kiwi in america (2,477 comments) says:

    Parata became a lightening rod for the anguish over the inevitable upheaval that was necessary after such a cataclysmic event as the earthquakes. Because the government botched the consultation process first time around, she became the scapegoat. Her lack of experience made it worse but the vast bulk of HOW of the announcement was done was an internal Min Ed bureaucracy decision. So much of what has happened in Christchurch is so huge and so outside the everyone’s normal frame of reference that it came as no surprise that their was a big backlash over the announcements.

    My brother in law is on the BOT of a primary school in the west – close to schools that were formally proposed to close and near one that is still slated to close and he only just resigned from the BOT of a nearby intermediate school. He says that there is NIMBYism on a grand scale in Chch. Everyone concedes that the earthquakes have irrevocably altered the education environment and that changes were necessary but they want to make sure that those changes happen to any other school except OUR local school. He agrees with me that there is no nice way to anounce news this large. Assume that Labour was in power and that a more comprehensive pre-announcement consultation process was undertaken and that Labour’s most articulate and experienced front bencher (lets pick Annette King) was the face of this. Whilst the media firestorm would’ve pulled some punches compared to an inexperienced National Min Ed and the teacher’s unions would’ve been more muted in their criticism of their mates, do people like joana honestly believe that teachers and kids wouldn’t still be traumatised enough to cry in front of the media, that upset parents wouldn’t form protest marches and that John Campbell wouldn’t milk this for ratings?

    Question Time in Parliament in the aftermath of the announcement was most instructive. It reveals the latest lines of attack from the Opposition on this issue and the responses from the embattled Minister Parata. The takeaways:
    * Parata is getting better – she is less flustered, better briefed and a little less aloof
    * The backdown in closures has taken the Opposition by surprise – there is less outrage because the numbers of affected students, teachers and parents have been halved and media reporting of affected people has been balanced a little more from those expecting the axe and being pleasantly surprised (against expectations)
    * The usual suspects’ who oppose are becoming so over the top as to be out of all proportion to what is actually happening – Meturia Turei was pushing to the outer limits of left wing hyperbole and she’s losing middle NZ because most people get that something needs to be done
    * The Opposition’s talking points have lost some their traction in the wake of the revisions in closures and they quickly keep circling back to their main central theme which is essentially that the government should never have done this because people are too traumatized – that is a position that even most people in Christchurch agrees is unrealistic due to the damage and numbers who’ve left the city
    * The government’s talking points are about expressing regret about the trauma but contextualising the scale of the changes (less than 5% of students in Chch, about 1/4 of the annual closures Labour presided over) and pushing the “new brighter more modern city” line – a sentiment that is increasingly mentioned by Chch residents as they absorb the reality that the old Chch is gone for ever
    * As the CBD decontructions nears completion, as the building activity there picks up pace, as more TC3 land reviews are concluded, as more residential red zoners accept their settlements and move on and as more repair and rebuild work goes on (even if the pace is slower than everyone wants) there is a growing confidence in the future of Chch and less wallowing in pity.

    Labour for over a year was able to ride the wave of anger, discontent, trauma and frustration that is everyday life in Chch. But people are moving on and looking forward and National’s messaging and tactics on this issue is relentlessly forward looking. Come the middle of 2014, opposition to the school closures will have been largely absorbed as part of the unpleasant readjustment that is now the new normal as this great city slowly rebuilds from the terrible disaster that its long sufferig residents have had to endure.

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  19. mpledger (429 comments) says:

    @BeaB
    I still maintain a good principal should behave like a good parent: “I am sorry you are unhappy now but you are going to a great new school with your friends and there is lots to look forward to.
    ~~~~~~~~

    Yea, ’cause good parents are robots and should willingly suck up injustice (And no “good” parent should lie so outrageously – there is no guarantee they’ll go with their friends – that just breeds distrust when it fails to happen).

    One of the reasons that schools in South Auckland perform so badly is the transience of students. The Min of Ed spent a lot of money putting programs into schools there to reduce transience and keeps kids in the same school. Every school change impacts on children’s learning as they have to put their focus on learning the new school rules, new teacher rules, new
    social rules and finding friends to play with.

    Some of the kids entering year 7 this year will have changed their school 4 times in 4 years by the time they reach year 9. How can anyone think that is a good outcome?

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  20. mpledger (429 comments) says:

    It’s insane that govt could didn’t wait for the census results. It happens on the 4 March and interim population results can be out in 6-12 weeks. This time-frame happened before with a previous census when StatNZ needed to do a survey of young Maori adults that was run off the back of the census reults and they had to get it in to the field before the youngsters moved.

    But I guess the Min of Ed has such screwy data about school capacities that having accurate data about the population was probably not going to improve their decision making.

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  21. BeaB (2,084 comments) says:

    Mpledger
    Don’t be silly. Adults should do what adults should do. They can protest and kick up as much as they like.
    But leave the kids out of the sobfest.

    I just love the backstabbing that has gone on in Christchurch. Hey bc, your sainted teachers are human after all!

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