8 Sep 2023

National's Erica Stanford tells school to fight plans to slash roll, but won't commit to keeping it as is

9:55 am on 8 September 2023
Chisnallwood Intermediate meeting

National Party education spokesperson Erica Stanford. Photo: RNZ / Anna Sargent

National's education spokesperson Erica Stanford has urged a Christchurch community to lobby the education minister over cuts to a school roll, but stopped short of promising to overturn the controversial plan if she is the new minister.

Stanford was at a meeting at Chisnallwood Intermediate on Thursday night. The school is fighting a Ministry of Education plan to slash its roll of 600 by 40 percent.

The ministry has said Chisnallwood's roll needed to reduce to encourage students from outside the area to go to their local school.

It said out-of-zone enrolments made up 75 percent of the intermediate's roll in 2021 and that meant other schools were losing out.

It wanted no more than 400 students at the school.

At the community meeting, Stanford urged the community to contact Education Minister Jan Tinetti to pressure the government to reverse the decision.

"I can't see any reason why you would reduce the role of a successful school ... there hasn't been any really good reason given that I've been able to read as to why we need to drop the roll," she said.

But she fell short of promising that if she became minister she would keep the current roll.

Instead, she said she would stick to a commitment she claimed Labour leader Chris Hipkins had made when he was education minister - to allow the school a roll of 500 people.

The school hall was packed with parents, teachers and students, who shared stories about what the intermediate school meant to them, and why they did not want to see numbers cut.

Chisnallwood Intermediate meeting

Some of those who attended the meeting. Photo: RNZ / Anna Sargent

Chisnallwood Intermediate principal Justin Fields said it would be a massive blow to the East Christchurch community, and families living out-of-zone might miss out on the chance to send their children there.

"Not everyone wants to send their child to a Year 7-13 school, a Year 1-13 school, or continue in a full primary," he said.

"Intermediates are about choice, so why reduce the choice in this community for our kids in the future?"

Chisnallwood Intermediate meeting

Chisnallwood Intermediate principal Justin Fields. Photo: RNZ / Anna Sargent

One parent said she thought it would be a huge mistake to reduce the roll.

"It's about choice. We chose to come here over other schools," she said.

"I think there's a real benefit to having intermediates. [My daughter] was frightened about the idea of high school before attending Chisnallwood, and now she feels confident, it's opened her perception of what a high school is."

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