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Tolley Decision Sets Precedent Says School Reviewer

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Anne Tolley
Anne Tolley

By Maggie Tait of NZPA

Wellington, Aug 19 NZPA - Education Minister Anne Tolley set a concerning precedent by ruling out closing rural Tararua schools, says an educator who was on a group reviewing the schools.

Eight Tararua rural schools -- from Wairarapa to Hawke's Bay -- were recommended for closure, as part of a review initiated by the Education Ministry and local community.

The schools were Ballance, Hillcrest, Kumeroa-Hopelands, Makuri, Papatawa, Mangamaire, Mangatainoka and Woodville.

The review involving community-elected members and a ministry-appointed facilitator, suggested the closures, which affected about 340 pupils.

Mrs Tolley ruled out the closures, after community protests.

Education consultant Annette Castles -- a former principle of Kumeroa-Hopelands -- said the review panel had disbanded.

"We decided to no longer go ahead with the proposal, the working group," she told NZPA.

"We've had no contact from the minister, the only thing we've seen happening with the minister was when she featured on Close Up."

It was on the TV One programme that Mrs Tolley ruled out the closures.

Ms Castles questioned the precedent that had been set.

"What does this say? If there's a school out there with maybe two children left but the community doesn't want it to close?

"I just think she's made a statement for every school in New Zealand."

Ms Castles said she was frustrated and the panel's efforts and time had been wasted.

"Until the ministry and the minister know what each other is doing community members like ourselves shouldn't be drawn in," she said.

It appeared Mrs Tolley had caved to public pressure, she said.

"We're still in the dark. Is this National policy or is this Mrs Tolley's opinion?

"It looked to me on the Close Up programme that it was just something you would say to keep the multitudes happy, really."

Two members of the panel had gone to see Mrs Tolley so the recommendations should not have been a surprise, she said.

"If she was not prepared to let the proposal include recommendations for any school closures she should have told the working group people there and then.

"There was a window of opportunity to make adjustments to the proposal."

Ms Castles said she would be concentrating on her work as a principal mentor and doing private appraisals but would not be involved in review work in future.

"The answer has two letters NO. Definitely not, why would you?"

She hoped other elements of the review would get proper attention.

Mrs Tolley has not responded to a request for comment.

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