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Phillipstown School a good case for judicial review

Phillipstown School a good case for judicial review, says UC law expert

March 22, 2013

Christchurch’s Phillipstown School has a good case for a judicial review of the decision to merge with Woolston School, the Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Canterbury (UC), Associate Professor Chris Gallavin, said today.

Despite the process of consultation still continuing the school has been presented with a plan that is materially different to the one it was asked to submit on, Associate Professor Chris Gallavin said.

"The Ministry of Education asked the school for submissions on a proposal for a merger with Woolston on the Linwood College site in 2018 yet the interim decision released last month by the ministry proposes a merger with Woolston school on the current Woolston site in 2014.

"With material changes like that it will be almost impossible for the Ministry of Education to remedy the process with its call for final submissions come 28 March.

"Any mechanism by which pressure can be placed upon Minister Hekia Parata to change her mind on this ought to be examined very carefully indeed.

"We are talking about the education of primary school children from one of the poorest communities in Christchurch. Phillipstown’s roll is up this year and they are integral to the survival of their community to a far greater extent than schools in some other communities.

"With an average wage of just $20,000 and 20 percent of the Phillipstown community without a car, the closure of the school would be catastrophic for the area.

"The process of judicial review is effectively an auditing procedure by which a Judge reviews the decision making process of a government official. In this case it appears the school has clear opportunities open to pursue," Professor Gallavin said.

With a roll of over 50 percent Maori and Pacific island children and achievement statistics that are outstanding for any school let alone a decile one school, Phillipstown is just the type of school the ministry should be showcasing not closing, he said.

The proposal to merge Phillipstown School with Woolston has seen heated opposition from the Phillipstown community, who have rallied to the aid of the school.

"It is not just about one school it’s about the community. Christchurch is not going to stand by and let Wellington dictate what is best for this community. With little idea of the future demographic spread of the population in Christchurch, particularly in the eastern suburbs, the Ministry of Education is effectively gambling with our communities with no thought of the wider consequences," Professor Gallavin said.

ENDS

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