Watching and listening to reports on the announcements of school closures and mergers in Christchurch I have been concerned about the way teachers and parents have reacted.
The news a school is to close would be difficult to take but the adults appear to be putting their own emotions ahead of the best interests of the children.
The prospect of job losses would be devastating for the staff but major changes whether it is a school closure or merger, doesn’t have to be a tragedy for the pupils.
Children take their lead from adults.
Teachers and parents could make the process much less upsetting for the pupils by putting their interests first.
A couple of schools in Oamaru were told they had to merge by the then-Labour government. Neither was particularly happy about it but they accepted that falling rolls couldn’t justify two schools, got on with the necessary work and took the children with them.
They included pupils in the plans and treated the changes an adventure rather than a disaster.
Education Minister Hekia Parata made it clear why change is necessary:
“The face and make-up of greater Christchurch has, and will continue to change dramatically due to the earthquakes, and the education sector must respond to those changes.
“There were already around 5,000 places available in schools in greater Christchurch before the earthquakes, and 4,300 students have not re-enrolled, meaning there are now 9,300 places available – that’s roughly equivalent to the entire student population of Gisborne.
“The aftermath of the earthquakes has required us to have a look at all the schools across greater Christchurch and see what we could do better.
“We have looked at not only earthquake damage, but also roll size, population movement and projected growth, building issues, and what opportunities existed to create better, more modern schools,” Ms Parata says.
These modern schools are designed to reflect the latest education research and the advice of education experts, to ensure children are being taught using the latest techniques and technology.
“We have a chance to build brighter, more modern schools in better locations, with great new facilities, and to ensure all children are getting access to good, quality education within a close distance of where they live.”
The new schools will be better than the old ones.
The government is making a $1 billion investment building or rebuilding 15 schools over the next 10 years.
The initial announcement of possible closures and mergers wasn’t done well but yesterday’s was handled much better.
It also had far fewer changes than originally mooted but more than 9000 extra places in schools means there does have to be change.
Given that, it is better to accept the proposals and look to the future, for the children’s sake if not their own.