School leaders frustrated building projects on hold as Government conducts inquiry

School leaders across Aotearoa are frustrated and concerned about what the three-month inquiry into school buildings will mean for their 'on hold' projects.  

The Secondary Principals' Association has welcomed Monday's quick response from Education Minister Erica Stanford, who announced a short and sharp inquiry into school properties.  

However, the sector says solutions are still needed in the short term.  

Pauline Simpson, the principal of Andersons Bay School in Dunedin, told Newshub "we are not asking for a Rolls-Royce".  

"We are simply asking for classrooms that are fit for purpose," she said.  

She said the school wants facilities to match the education her staff are providing students.   

"We know that these buildings are tired, we're making them work because we're resilient, but our children deserve better."   

Pāpāmoa College outside Tauranga is among the schools that have half-completed building projects paused.   

Principal Iva Ropati said their build has been well within its agreed budget and being pulled into a three-month-long inquiry is a frustrating delay.   

"We've got a roll growth happening of about 50 to 100 every year," she said.

"We just want to know whether or not we will get our two new buildings."   

The school building problem is a layered one.   

Some schools have post-Christchurch earthquake requirements, others were affected by more recent weather events, and all the while increased immigration is driving up already bursting school rolls.   

Secondary Principals' Association president Vaughan Couillault welcomed the rapid announcement of an inquiry but warned capacity issues need to be addressed now.   

He suggested prefabs could be an option.   

"What we've got is a system that isn't working, but you can't turn everything off, you can't put everything on hold for three months, actually we've got to be trying to think on our feet and keep things rolling."  

For now, the Government is looking at the wider picture.   

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said: "We have a range of thoughts and a range of discussions and ideas, but ultimately we want to take advice on that, and that's going to be part of the inquiry that comes back in May."   

All the while, schools wait for answers about what it all means for them.