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Mallard Misleads - Parents Must Continue Fight

Mallard Misleads With Promises Of Mediation And Moratorium - Parents Must Continue Fight

Wednesday 10 Mar 2004 Deborah Coddington Press Releases -- Education -- Save Our Schools

Beleaguered Education Minister Trevor Mallard is misleading schools with his poll-driven U-turn on school closures, ACT New Zealand Education Spokesman Deborah Coddington said today.

"The moratorium is a Clayton's moratorium. The Minister is reserving the right to review schools if they have unfavourable ERO reports, change their make-up in any way, or 'request' a review. Schools are now being pressured into 'requesting' a review.

"Mr Mallard is still hanging network reviews above schools' heads like the Sword of Damocles," Miss Coddington said.

"NZEI, the primary teachers' union, has finally decided to highlight these matters and oppose the reviews - not, however, to protect children's education, but because the NZEI is losing members.

"Also, parents of schools where mediation is offered have contacted me worried about what this mediation actually means.

"I share their concerns - mediation appears to be facilitation in disguise. Facilitation got schools nowhere, in terms of decision-making and consultation. There's nothing to indicate that mediation will be any different.

"Is the Minister just being cute? Offering mediation as a way to cover the Crown's back and put a halt to any prospective legal action, as threatened by Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt.

"I asked constitutional law expert Mai Chen this very question. She said parents should go into mediation 'without prejudice'. This means if mediation ends up going nowhere, schools have not relinquished their legal rights.

"Mr Mallard is not the ultimate power. There is such a thing as natural justice. If some schools have been spared closure and merger, because of the moratorium, then other schools could argue they deserve the same treatment.

"I urge parents and schools to keep fighting.

"I have further evidence that there is no need for these massive reviews. Mr Mallard has repeatedly based them on falling numbers of school students - 60,000 to 70,000 fewer by 2020.

"However, I have Education Ministry figures that record the total number of students and schools since 1970.

"In 1990, the lowest year for students with 650,582 (compared with 761,755 in 2003) we had 2,864 schools - 171 more than in 2003. So in 1990, there were on average 227 pupils per school, and in 2003 there were 282 pupils per school.

"If it wasn't a problem in 1990, with the lowest ratio, why is it a problem now?

"I'm urging parents not to give up. Accept mediation, but make it clear you are not giving up your legal rights to challenge the Government's decision," Miss Coddington said.

ENDS

For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.


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