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Deborah Coddington's Liberty Belle

Liberty Belle
Deborah Coddington's Liberty Belle

Welcome to Spring, and welcome to more rounds of school closures after the election. In 2003 and 2004 Labour's education minister Trevor Mallard closed a record 96 schools. A further 300 were threatened with "review" but after ACT campaigned hard against this, set up a website "Saveourschools", organised a petition and a march on Parliament, Mallard backed down and announced a "moratorium".

The school closures ripped the hearts out of New Zealand communities. Trevor Mallard was swept along by a Ministry/Treasury obsessed with forcing a bureaucratic model on to every school in the country. If parents did not go along with this Soviet-style plan and refused to send their children to the new school designated by the Minister, then the threat of zoning was used to make them comply.

Rural schools were the badly affected - for some twisted reason these smaller schools were deemed to be injurious to children's education. People like me, who were lucky enough to enjoy a wonderful primary education at a small, safe, friendly, and parent-focused rural school, were incensed. Who says our education was poor? Tell that to other fabulous New Zealanders who went to small rural schools - Sir Ernest Rutherford, Dame Malvina Major, Gordon Coates, Jack Lovelock to name but four.

Karl Popper, a famous philosopher who spent some time in New Zealand, once said: "The principle that those who are entrusted to us must, before anything else, not be harmed, should be recognised to be just as fundamental for education as it is for medicine. 'Do no harm' (and give the young what they most urgently need to become independent of us, and to be able to choose for themselves) would be a very worthy aim for the education system." Popper might well have been predicting nightmares like the NCEA when he wrote this.

So why am I raising the spectre of school closures again? Because they're coming to a school near you after the election. One of my readers spotted an ad in the Dominion Post last Saturday - Job Finder page 10 - for a "Network Facilitator" for the Nelson region.

Be very afraid - and watch carefully over the situations vacant ads in your local paper.

Yours in liberty,

Deborah Coddington.


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