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Upper Hutt School Review ‘money driven’

Media Statement

For immediate release

Tuesday, 7 October 2003

Upper Hutt School Review ‘money driven’ says Hutt Valley MP

United Future Hutt Valley MP Murray Smith says that, despite the Minister of Education’s rhetoric, the move to merge Upper Hutt schools is entirely money driven and there is a real danger that ‘non-financial’ considerations would be totally ignored in the review process.

Mr Smith, who has become involved in the issue at the request of some of the affected parents, says that the stated ‘Purpose of the Review’ itself makes it clear that this is the case. It states that the primary purpose is to “reduce the spare capacity in the network”.

Mr Smith, who, as the only non-Labour MP in the Hutt Valley, seems to be the only MP willing to get involved on behalf of the parents and families in the area, says that it has been reported to him that Trevor Mallard has advised people that a school’s culture is irrelevant to the consideration of school mergers because cultures can always be recreated.

However, Mr Smith says, cultures provide a depth of identity within a school that takes decades to develop and provides a foundation upon which the school’s educational standards can be built.

While a culture is not measurable in dollar terms, it is a key ingredient for a successful school and it is no surprise that the need to rebuild culture is one of the key needs that ERO has identified in Wainuiomata’s merged schools, Mr Smith said. Abandoning longstanding, positive school identities and cultures is not something that should occur lightly or simply to save money. The social cost can heavily outweigh the economic savings, he added.

Different cultures in a school also provide a diversity that enables parents to choose the environment within which their children are most likely to succeed. This was very evident in the contrast of Hutt Valley High School and Petone College (prior to its closure) and, although Hutt Valley High tried to replicate part of the culture when it was using the Petone College site, the problems inherent in dual campuses proved too difficult to maintain.

Mr Smith said that he had already met with the Mayor, Wayne Guppy, who welcomed his involvement, and one of the local principals and had several other meetings planned.

Ends

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