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Residential school closures a kick in the guts

31 October 2012

Residential school closures a kick in the guts
The decision to close down two residential special schools is a kick in the guts for staff, students and families according to the Public Service Association.

The Ministry of Education has today told Salisbury School in Nelson and McKenzie School in Christchurch that they will be closed at the end of the year as part of an overhaul of special education services.

There has been strong opposition to the closure of the schools since the review was first announced earlier this year.

PSA National Secretary Brenda Pilott says that opposition has come not only from the schools themselves but from parents, communities and educationalists.

“They have repeatedly said that some children do not fit the inclusive model which the Ministry is trying to adopt and residential special schools are an integral part of the mix in special education.”

“What will happen now is that many of the children affected will be returning to their homes and local schools to receive an untested wrap-around service to support them.”

“The large majority of these children have already been through the mainstream system or received additional services. Schools like Salisbury and McKenzie have been positive last stops for them and their families. That option is now being removed,” she says.

There are around 90 staff at the two schools and most have been told they will no longer have a job when the doors close.

“It’s a devastating blow for them. These are workers who are passionate about what they do and have valuable specialist skills. Their chances for finding similar work in Nelson or Christchurch are minimal and once that capacity is lost it cannot be replaced,” Brenda Pilott says.

“The feeling is that this decision is risky because there has been no trial to establish whether a new national wrap around service is fit for purpose. It’s another example of educational policy being imposed without any real consideration of the practicalities or consequences.”

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