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Teachers, Community And Union Fight School Closure

Teachers, Community And Union Fight School Closures

Wellington – School staff, school boards and the education union, NZEI Te Riu Roa, are working together to fight a plan by the Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard, to close five schools on the south coast of Taranaki.

They are all angry that the Minister appears to have abandoned the policy of merging schools, following network reviews by the Ministry of Education, in favour of a disruptive policy of shutting them down.

Mr Mallard has written to the boards of five schools: Opunake Primary, Oaonui School, Te Kiri School, Pihama School, and Riverlea School - and said he believes they should be closed.

The Minister’s plan is that Opunake and Oaonui schools should close and be replaced by a new full primary school at Opunake. And that Te Kiri, Pihama, and Riverlea should close and be replaced by a new full primary school at Te Kiri.

In response several staff from NZEI Te Riu Roa, led by National President, Bruce Adin, met in Opunake on Tuesday with principals, teachers and board members from the schools affected by the Minister’s plans.

The union, the staff and the boards have been working with the Ministry of Education for two years on the Ministry’s efforts to reorganise schools in the Opunake area.

“There is a lot of anger as we all feel betrayed by the Minister. We were all following an agreed protocol of merging schools but Mr Mallard has ridden roughshod over that by stating he wants to close schools,” Bruce Adin says.

“We all want some answers from the Minister. I have written to him asking that he explain his reasons for shifting from the agreed process of merging schools to closing them,” Mr Adin says.

“Everyone wants a process that will provide the least disruption to the children’s education and mergers provide that as there is a continuity of staff and school boards. Under closure all the staff lose their jobs and the boards are disestablished. The staff, the boards and NZEI all want to know why the Minister is taking such a heavy handed and disruptive approach,” Mr Adin says

Mr Mallard’s approach will affect the whole country. More than 50 schools are currently undergoing network reviews by the Ministry of Education and the Minister has signalled two more reviews for Taranaki.

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