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New School Will Empty Classrooms

New School Will Empty Classrooms

“The decision to go ahead with the school Kerikeri is not being driven by what is good for students, it is purely political,” says Mike Shaw chairman of the Kerikeri Christian Campus Board of Trustees. The Education Act requires the Minister of Education to consult with the boards of schools likely to be affected before establishing a new school, however the Government seems determined to push ahead with the new state school in Kerikeri regardless of whether it is needed or not. It appears to be a fait accompli. The outcomes of any forthcoming consultation with Boards of Schools that will be affected by the new school are likely to be disregarded.

After the Prime Minister John Key announced in February this year that the Government would spend 10.8 million dollars in Kerikeri by fast tracking its plans to open a 520 pupil new primary school in 2012, the Ministry of Education’s medium growth projection show that even if the school was halved in size to 260 pupils it would still create 300 surplus teaching spaces on opening day, reducing to 200 by the year 2019. Unless the Government intends to have a brand new empty school, these students must be drawn from the existing schools, creating a drop in their student rolls, resulting in loss of funding and teachers.

According to Ministry of Education’s figures and up to date Statistics New Zealand data, the present capacity in Kerikeri is sufficient to accommodate 1380 Year 1-8 students and the medium 10 year growth projection requires accommodation for 1440 students. The Ministry’s own figures show that accommodation for 60 students is what is actually required to meet the demand. It would appear that rather than the Government facing the embarrassment of acknowledging that they have made a mistake with their numbers and engaging the community on constructive alternatives, they are steamrolling ahead and ignoring Ministry of Education policy. “When the Government plans to spend 10.8 million on a new school and nothing on our existing school that is one thing, but when we see how this action will affect our state school colleagues and their students, we can’t sit back and keep quiet.” says Mr Shaw.

A solution could be for the Ministry of Education to work with the Kerikeri community on an area strategy and a forward plan to determine a more realistic timing of the new school. In the immediate future, this may result in the Government increasing the capacity in existing schools to meet the requirements to support school age population growth. Community consultation and collaboration amongst the existing schools would determine how to best cater for the demand for additional accommodation capacity in both the state and state integrated (Christian School) sectors and what the Ministry of Education should fund instead of the Government dictating what it will fund from Wellington due to an ill conceived reaction to the economic recession. In this respect, if the Ministry adopted an even handed approach across the state and state integrated sectors the Government could save taxpayers money, while enhancing and strengthening the existing state school provision and investing into the state integrated sector. A better outcome than poorly planned edicts from Wellington would be a transparent ten year rolling plan showing areas where new integrated or non-integrated accommodation is required. This would confirm when a new state school is required and the type of school to be provided and could include the relocation of the integrated Christian campus onto its new site and proposed the planned opening date, to meet the overall network requirements. The most likely results of this approach would be better educational outcomes for all Kerikeri students which is what the Government should base its decision on.

ENDS

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