FAQs for secondary school network decisions – 16 October 2013

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What is the network decision relating to Christchurch secondary schools?

No closures or mergers of secondary schools are proposed.  The existing secondary schools are well located within the network to provide good access for students across greater Christchurch and will be retained.

Two secondary schools, Avonside Girls High School and Shirley Boys High School will be relocated, potentially on a shared site.

What are the other decisions?

As well as the existing network being retained, there is a new vision for the future of secondary schooling in greater Christchurch developed by secondary principals which will see schools working more collaboratively to raise student achievement.

The Government will invest more than $400 million to renew the secondary network and provide modern facilities to all secondary schools in greater Christchurch over the next ten years.

Why announce decisions now?

It is important that families and schools have certainty as they look towards 2014 enrolments.

What is the scale of the Christchurch secondary education network?

  • 39 schools across Greater Christchurch provide year 9-13 education to almost 27,000 students.
  • This includes four private secondary schools in the Christchurch City area.
  • There are three state and one state-integrated secondary school in the Waimakariri District, and three state secondary schools in Selwyn.

How much is the Government spending on Christchurch secondary schools?

It is proposed to invest more than $400 million to renew the infrastructure of the secondary schools in the Christchurch territorial local authority area, as well as providing new provision in Rolleston.

What about capacity issues?

There are around 1700 fewer students in the Christchurch City state secondary network than in March 2010, and a total spare capacity of 2400 places. The network is now operating at about 89% capacity, but this is not evenly spread. Some schools have ongoing pressure to enrol more students than they have physical capacity for.

Even with the extensive population changes following the earthquakes, utilisation of the secondary network in Christchurch remains at a similar level to Wellington, which is the only comparable urban area.

What’s behind the decision not to close or merge any secondary schools?

A central part of the Ministry’s education renewal programme is to provide local provision and choice for communities. All of the existing schools are essential in maintaining that network. This provides good access for families to secondary education options and minimises student travel times. It also provides families across Christchurch a choice of co-educational or single sex provision.

Why relocate Avonside Girls High and Shirley Boys High?

Both schools experienced land damage and will need to be relocated. Most of the area around Avonside Girls High School is in the residential red zone.

For a broadly similar amount of money as a staged redevelopment on their existing sites, both schools could be new builds. We would ideally like to locate both schools on the same site. The two schools would continue to operate independently, maintaining their individual character and focus, but would have the opportunity to develop closer collaborative arrangements, including shared specialist facilities; an arrangement that already works successfully elsewhere in New Zealand.

Where will these schools relocate to?

It’s too early to say where these schools may relocate to, but they will remain in the east of Christchurch.

It may be challenging to find a sufficiently large site without similar or worse geotechnical issues as the current sites. The Ministry has begun informal discussions about possible sites with a range of agencies hoping to find a site to co-locate both schools.

What is the vision for secondary schools?

The greater Christchurch secondary school principals have agreed a vision for their work:

Every secondary aged learner in Otautahi/Christchurch will be engaged in a purposeful, individualised pathway. The Otautahi/Christchurch education network will be a professional learning community that recognises its collective responsibility to ensure all students learn to their potential based on choice, equity and social justice.

This vision arose through the work of greater Christchurch’s secondary school principals over the last 10 months, who have been working together to help me determine the best future approach for secondary education in greater Christchurch. Their dedication, knowledge and input has been immensely valuable.

120 students discussed the future shape of secondary education in greater Christchurch at a two day forum in March 2013. This group challenged the sector to give them greater choice, more access to technology, and more and varied opportunities for independent learning.

Are there any other changes to secondary education?

In order to substantially increase achievement across greater Christchurch, secondary schools need to work more closely with their local community and increase collaborative work with each other, and other education institutions. This work has already started.

The secondary principals favour an approach to secondary education where schools would take a collective responsibility for raising the achievement of all students. They would share knowledge and expertise. Each school would build on its current area of curriculum expertise to develop a leading-edge specialist provision which would be offered to other schools, supported by a shared understanding of data around students’ progress and goals. There would be collective professional development for teachers.

What will this mean for students?

Instead of students moving from primary to secondary school, perhaps via an intermediate school in a very linear manner, as they do now, future learning pathways will be more flexible, and transition points not as fixed.  Students will be able to:

  • Take courses or have lessons at a range of different institutions in any one year
  • Access specialist provision while still at school. This could include university courses, or training leading to an apprenticeship or other vocational training
  • Have work experience at a range of different employers
  • Benefit from expert advice to develop a personalised learning pathway, and support to achieve these goals.

Two of the most important differences students will experience is access to a wider range of pathways leading to further study or employment, and access to education in a range of different ways which better suit their learning style and preferences.

Students will be able to take advantage of a city-wide digital learning network that extends curriculum choice and allows them to study in ways which better suit their preferred learning style. The network will also allow students to become globally connected, accessing the best learning from around the world and co-operating with students in other countries.

Do these decisions impact on primary schools in any way?

Decisions for primary schools in greater Christchurch have already been made and announced.

At an operational level, this initiative might also mean that a primary student is taught science, supported by a secondary teacher, or attends Te Reo Maori lessons at the local secondary school.

Doesn’t a collaborative approach challenge school identities and traditions?

This is not about losing a school’s sense of identity or traditions.  Rather, this is about innovation, and challenging traditional approaches to learning. The earthquakes have created an opportunity to renew and modernise the education network, adopt best-practice educational techniques and to develop more collaborative approaches to raising student achievement.

How is this learning approach different?

We are not talking about unsupervised learning. We are talking about a more individual and tailored approach to learning, allowing students to learn in ways that best suit them, and to provide a broader range of learning opportunities. Students will be appropriately supported and mentored.

Are you talking about secondary students attending lessons virtually via the digital network, or moving between schools? Won’t that impact on their learning time?

It could be a mixture of both, and would be influenced by what is being learnt at the other school – obviously the more hands-on subjects will require attendance in person, but lessons could be taught virtually, and made available for later use or reference as well.

If Avonside Girls High School and Shirley Boys High School require relocation, what is being done to keep them running in the meantime?

In the immediate response to the earthquakes, the Ministry has completed repair works or provided temporary accommodation to ensure that all Schools remain operational and provide a safe and secure environment for students.

The Ministry will continue to support schools, including Avonside Girls High School and Shirley Boys High School, in maintaining their facilities until the proposed programme of works is complete. The Ministry recognises that for those schools in the later programme waves it will be necessary to continue to maintain these schools through minor capital works. The Ministry has developed a minor capital process to allow for this to happen. The Ministry will assess each schools request on an individual basis.

When will schools be fixed?

Detail of individual property works will be confirmed when the Business Case has been considered by Cabinet. The Business Case outlines the programme of work for the $1 billion the Government is spending on schooling infrastructure in the greater Christchurch area over the next ten years. There will be a further announcement on the property works programme before Christmas.

It has had to take into account the $1 billion schools network investment will occur in a similar timeframe to other major infrastructure development that is ongoing in Christchurch. The timeframe is appropriate for the scale of the work, and the associated recovery, resource and labour issues that must be considered.

The Business Case announcement will bring to a close over 12 months of consultation and decisions for the Greater Christchurch schooling network and the Ministry’s focus will move from planning to effective implementation as it continues to work with schools to develop a leading innovative and modern education network.


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