15 Sep 2012

Fear for small communities over school closures

3:16 pm on 15 September 2012

Closing rural schools in Canterbury will damage the life of small communities, an education academic says.

The Ministry of Education is proposing to close as many as 30 schools in a $1 billion overhaul of Christchurch's education system in the wake of recent earthquakes in the region.

Among them are Banks Peninsula schools Duvauchelle, Okains Bay and Le Bon's Bay which are likely to merge with Akaroa Area School.

Associate professor at Auckland University's Faculty of Education, Peter O'Connor, says schools have played a vital part in the make-up of small communities since the earthquakes.

"The one thing that remains, often, is the school. You close that down and there's nothing to hold it together."

"It impacts on the life of a community, and there's plenty of research to support that."

Okains Bay School principal Marie-Claire Kavanagh says the important role schools play in small communities seems to have been overlooked.

"In any little community, you take the kids out of the school and put them somewhere else and the community just is flat, isn't it."

Ms Kavanagh says many people who attended the school are still living in the area.