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Putting the public back into public education

Putting the public back into public education

“The High Court decision on the proposed merger of Phillipstown School is a victory for common sense and the little guys”, says Quality Public Education Coalition Chairperson, Bill Courtney.

“Surely it is time for this government to stop and listen to public concern about the Christchurch Renewal Plan and how poorly it has been developed. But above all, it is time to put the public back into public education.”

Concerns were raised some time back that the Christchurch Renewal Plan was hastily put together and lacking credibility.

Often the figures and calculations given to justify a closure or merger were not convincing, and in fact caused confusion. The effect was to give the impression that the decision regarding a particular school or schools has been made first, and the evidence assembled afterwards.

Justice Fogarty has, quite rightly, found that the Ministry’s consultation process failed to meet the requirements of the Education Act.

In particular, Justice Fogarty found that the financial information that Minister Parata relied upon for her decision was not reasonably broken down and explained in a manner that would have enabled a critique.

In many cases in Christchurch, the figures for rebuilding or repairing schools were often markedly worse than independent assessments obtained by schools. There were also exaggerations in the amount of damage stated.

The Ministry documents make the Ministry’s consideration of school mergers or closures appear superficially logical and thoughtful, but this is not the case when the documents are examined carefully.

It has been a frustrating business for affected schools to try and counter these pseudo arguments.

QPEC has made a submission to the on-going inquiry being undertaken by the Chief Ombudsman, Dame Beverley Wakem, into the Christchurch school “consultation” process.

QPEC feels strongly that consultation must be a reality, not a charade; sufficiently precise information must be given; reasonable opportunity must be given to form a view and respond; and the government MUST be prepared to listen to the views of those who are being consulted.

But above all, it must be recognised that public schools are public assets and the broader public must also be given an opportunity to submit views, not just the parents of those who are currently involved with the school.

It is time to put the public back into public education.”


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