Planning a renewed schooling system
There will need to be significant change across the education network to realise the vision for education set out in the Education Renewal Recovery Programme. There is no simple fix.
While we have put as much as we can back together to ensure continuity of learning, the network cannot be returned to its previous state.
This is because the earthquakes have so disrupted communities that schools and early childhood centres are no longer necessarily where they are needed.
We need to accept that in areas that have been depopulated we will have to do things differently.
Inevitably there will have to be some rationalisation of facilities. This may mean, for example, two schools sharing one site or a larger education campus that encompasses early childhood education, primary and secondary schools, and tertiary education facilities.
Conversely, other areas in the city and surrounding districts are seeing significant, even dramatic growth. Prior to the earthquakes, none of these areas would have expected to grow so fast or so soon. We need to determine how best to provide for their educational needs.
We also need to ensure decisions are cost-effective, take account of the needs of all learners, and will contribute to the development of thriving, vibrant communities. In the interests of this generation and generations to come, we are committed to spending wisely and well.
With existing capacity already underutilised pre-earthquake and on-going changing demographics as families re-settle in new locations there could be up to 10,000 more learner places in schools than is required.
We will need to consider the viability of individual schools and whether some should be closed or amalgamated.
Migration within the region is also expected to result in a requirement for new schools in the west of Christchurch.
Given the extent of change required, planning will necessarily focus on the network of provision not on individual schools. Broadly speaking, there are two options for the renewal of the Christchurch school network.
Return to the status quo
Under this option:
- schools will only be closed in the most extreme cases
- learners will have the opportunity to return to or continue at their current schools
- there will be minimal renewal of assets, so learners will be in older (but repaired) buildings
- demographic shifts will see some schools with spare capacity while others have too little.
Renew the network and change how we deliver education
Under this option:
- some schools will have to close
- new schools will be built to match demand
- it is likely more schools will be needed in the west and fewer in the east
- a significant proportion of learners will be in new buildings.
In practice, the approach that will be taken is likely to lie somewhere between these two options.
The cost of renewal will be significant whichever option, or mix of the two, we choose.