24 Oct 2012

Christchurch not alone in likely school closures

1:06 pm on 24 October 2012

Principals groups say school mergers and closures like those proposed for Christchurch are inevitable in other parts of the country too.

About 30 Christchurch schools face closure under a plan to reorganise the area's schools in the wake of the earthquakes in the Canterbury region.

The three groups representing primary and secondary principals say other parts of the country, especially rural areas, will also need school closures and mergers.

Statistics New Zealand has forecast that 50 out of 67 territorial authorities will be home to fewer children within 20 years.

In addition, the Government faces a big bill for earthquake strengthening at many schools, as well as dealing with leaky building problems.

The Post Primary Teachers Association, Secondary Principals Association and the Principals Federation say the falling number of children and cost of classroom repairs will lead to more schools being reorganised.

The groups say school communities nearly always fight such changes, but they can be good for children, ensuring schools are large enough to provide a broad education and have good facilities.

They say the Government needs to find agreement about issues such as the size of schools and reasonable travelling distances to school.

Secondary Principals Association president Patrick Walsh says a debate must take place on what numbers make an efficient school, and other issues must be considered, such as the pivotal role of schools in small communities.

Meanwhile, Education Minister Hekia Parata is meeting Canterbury principals' associations on Wednesday to discuss the region's proposed education overhaul.

The minister has also offered to visit all the schools facing closure or merger in Christchurch, over the next three weeks.

She says the Government has committed $1 billion to rebuilding schools in Christchurch during the next decade, but the extent of damage, and population movement before and after the quakes, means the sector cannot return to what it was.