1 Nov 2012

Special needs school board considers legal fight

10:46 pm on 1 November 2012

A special needs school earmarked for closure is considering legal action against the Government.

Education Minister Hekia Parata has confirmed the girls-only Salisbury School in Nelson and McKenzie Residential School in Christchurch will be closed by the end of the year.

That will leave two residential special schools in the country - Westbridge School in Auckland and Halswell College in Christchurch, which is to become co-ed so it can take in girls from Salisbury.

The chair of Salisbury's board of trustees, Helen McDonnell, says legal action to attempt to keep the school open is likely.

"The parents that we've heard from and the community feel so strongly about getting it right ... so I have no doubt that everybody will be wanting us to pursue those options."

Hekia Parata says she is confident the schools will do everything they can to protect the girls and keep them safe.

Ms Parata says the Ministry of Education will work with the families of students affected as they decide whether to enrol them in a local school or transfer them to another special school.

Canterbury University education professor Garry Hornby says children in residential schools need specialised care, and the closures are likely to result in greater costs to the criminal justice and social welfare systems in the future.

He says if the mainstream education system fails special needs children, they may not be able to get jobs and could struggle to find their feet in the community.