23 Sep 2012

Large crowd rallies against school closure plan

9:58 am on 23 September 2012

Up to 2000 people have protested at Hagley Park in Christchurch against proposed education changes.

Speakers called on the Government not to implement plans which will see 31 schools closed or merged with other schools in the city.

The Education Ministry announced on 13 September a shake-up that could include the closure of 13 schools and the merging of 18.

Teachers, principals and students at the demonstration on Saturday held placards and chanted slogans such as "save our schools". Christchurch City councillor Yani Johansen told the crowd the government is using local schools like guinea pigs for a social experiment.

A teacher from Manning Intermediate, Laurie Pledge, says the information presented to schools contains some glaring errors.

"The information pack given to our principals says there were 14 buildings and a swimming pool (at his school) but there are five buildings and no swimming pool. So if they're basing their information on some of these basic facts then some of these decisions are based on completely wrong information. It's just shocking."

The protest was organised by Wayne Hawker, former chair of the board of trustees at the Phillipstown School, who says he wants to send a message to the Government that its proposals are wrong. He says the size of the crowd shows Cantabrians aren't going to let their schools be shut down.

Local community board members and principals of affected schools spoke to the crowd.

Education Minister Hekia Parata said on Saturday the damage caused to the city by the earthquakes means change is necessary and she believes people accept that.

Ms Parata said that in a democracy people have the right to protest, but she hopes people will review the information the Government has put out and then have their say.