Principals won't take legal action over closure plan

9:45 pm on 17 October 2012

Christchurch primary school principals have decided not to take legal action over the Ministry of Education's proposal to shut or merge 31 schools.

However, a meeting of about 100 principals on Tuesday resolved to ask Prime Minister John Key for an extension to the deadline to make submissions on the plan.

It has been a month since the ministry announced its $1 billion overhaul of Canterbury's education system as a result of devastating earthquakes in the region.

Lawyers told the principals they can only look at a review of the process used by the ministry, not a review of the fairness of its decisions.

Principals' Federation vice-president Phil Harding says that means there is little the schools can do from a legal point of view.

Instead, the principals voted unanimously to write to the Prime Minister and Education Minister Hekia Parata on Thursday asking for more time.

Many schools are just this week receiving detailed information about how the ministry decided to shut or merge them and say the deadline of 7 December falls in the busiest term of the school year.

Principals fighting to save their schools say they should have been given key information by the ministry much sooner.

The ministry says the detail about why the schools might be closed or merged was not given to them immediately because it was too complex. It contacted the schools on Friday asking for individual meetings to explain its plans and provide specific demographic and geo-technical information.

Chisnallwood Intermediate principal Richard Paton says the delay in information has taken up almost a third of the consultation period, and schools should have had the information when the proposal was announced.

Ouruhia School head Mark Ashmore-Smith says it's been frustrating waiting for the data and his school is now under pressure to get its submission in.

"I think what everybody wants is the right decisions to be made, and for people to have a fair timeframe in which to work."