Phillipstown principal 'optimistic' school won't close

  • 17/02/2013

The principal of a Christchurch primary school slated to merge with another says he's "optimistic" the Ministry of Education will change its mind – and if it hasn't, he will be appealing the decision.

Ministry staff this morning will be informing 31 of the 38 schools involved of what's in store, before Education Minister Hekia Parata makes the plans public at midday.

The Government announced it would be closing 13 schools and merging 18 others last September due to population changes and damage caused by the February 2011 earthquake. An angry backlash from staff and parents over numerous flaws in the ministry's data forced Ms Parata to take another look.

Phillipstown School was planned to merge with Woolston School, but principal Tony Simpson hopes the merger has been axed.

"I have tried so hard with the team at Phillipstown and the wider community to present the best possible submission, to get the truth and I'm hopeful that the decision is the right one today," he told Firstline this morning.

"Before the submission, we sought very hard to get the truth, to get the facts, and to eliminate any of the errors put in front of us, to fill any of the gaps that were missing. And then we presented a very good submission that had a wraparound concept with it, and it involved preschool, and involved wider agencies associated with the school such as the kohanga reo, as I said the preschool, the city council, all sorts of agencies that contribute to what is special at Phillipstown school."

Mr Simpson says there are "many reasons" a merger with Woolston on a new site, doesn't make sense, citing Phillipstown's technology centre – which is used by students from other schools – and healthy roll figures.

The ministry says there are 4300 fewer children attending primary school in Christchurch now than before the quakes, but Phillipstown hasn't been adversely affected.

"Twelve-hundred-plus students come to our technology centre," says Mr Simpson. "We recovered back to our pre-earthquake roll before October, and then subsequently our roll has risen… by 30 percent.

"That is actually the case with several other schools, so I'm sorry, that figure doesn't relate to our situation."

The new site isn't even new says Mr Simpson, with a college already there – and it too took damage in the February quake.

"Remember this is an interim decision only today – the process does continue," he says.

"We have 28 more days I believe, to submit an appeal and review. A final decision we expect after that 28-day period, so that gives us one very clear option."

Of the remaining seven schools, two have already closed, and the other five are undergoing an extended consultation period before any decisions are made.

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